At a Florida Senate committee hearing March 27, the Florida AFL-CIO came out in support of the bill, which is sponsored by the National Rifle Association.
The issue of firearms in workplace is likely to become a hot issue nationwide in light of the recent shootings at Virginia Tech. Among the 33 dead were at least seven university employees.
For the union, “guns are not the issue,” AFL-CIO spokesman Rich Templin says.
“This is about protecting workers’ rights. When you drive to work, your car still belongs to you. Your privacy doesn’t end when you get to work.”
SB 2356, which was introduced earlier this year, would let employees keep “any legal personal property” locked in their cars, even on company property. Employers or other entities could not prohibit them from having such items in their vehicles.
Similar bills are pending in
And if the unions choose to support these measures in other parts of the country, employers will have to address the issue, says Mark Neuberger, a labor lawyer at Buchanan Ingersoll in
“Employers are already fighting this to protect the security of their workplaces,” he says. “But now this could become a bargaining issue with the union.”
So far there hasn’t been any indication that the AFL-CIO will support bills in other states, but it’s not out of the question, says Al McKenna, a partner in the
“It’s a way to cozy up to potential new members,” he says. However, he notes that the unions are busy right now with more pressing matters. “It could create pressure if the AFL-CIO decides to invest resources into the support of this law,” McKenna says, “but this isn’t like the Employee Free Choice Act,” the bill that would authorize a union when a majority of employees sign cards approving collective bargaining. The bill is a top priority of organized labor.
“Our principal concern is that this bill is somewhere between an attack on the employer/employee contract and on property rights overall,” says Mark Wilson, executive director of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Many were shocked to learn of the AFL-CIO’s support for the bill.
“As the first people in line to be shot in a workplace incident, it seems pretty ludicrous that a union organization would support arming workers,” says Brian Siebel, a senior attorney at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
But Templin emphasizes that for the AFL-CIO, this is an issue of protecting workers’ rights.
“As soon as someone takes the gun out of their vehicle or makes a threat, the law addresses that,” he says. “This is about protecting workers’ rights to keep things in their cars.”
Templin notes that there have been incidents where members have been fired for having union materials in their cars, and this law would prevent such incidents.
To support the bill, the AFL-CIO in
On April 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 to approve the bill, which is now pending vote on the chamber floor. The House is also considering a similar bill.
Tools and Resources for Dealing with Workplace Violence
In light of Monday’s shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, Workforce Management has assembled the following list of resources related to workplace violence. The shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and