Polk County, FL teachers march to protect their union
Bartow, FL – About 40 teachers and supporters protested in downtown Bartow on Saturday, April 1 demanding funding for public schools and protection of collective bargaining rights. The Polk Education Association hosted a picnic at their union hall followed by a march to State Senator Ben Albritton’s office. The PEA protest as part of a statewide day of action against Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida legislature’s attacks on teachers’ unions.
Ben Albritton is the senate majority leader who will vote on two important bills in Florida’s legislative session this year. SB 202 allows private schools to get state funding that is currently for public schools alone. SB 256 removes automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks and raises union membership requirements from 50% to 60%. If these bills pass, Florida teachers will lose funding and risk having their unions decertified.
Stephanie Yocum, president of Polk Education Association said DeSantis is “scared of our collective action and our collective voice. He is more worried about trying to destroy our voice as regular working people to score political points to become president. And he is making leaders like Senator Albritton, who have not stood up to him, become part of the problem.”
At the picnic, teachers made signs and wrote postcards explaining how these bills would affect their jobs. During the march, protesters chanted, “Union busting? That’s disgusting!” and “Public funds belong in public schools!”
“As a constituent of Senator Albritton, I need him to listen to regular Floridians like me and you,” said Yocum to the crowd during her speech.
PEA left the postcards and signs at Albritton’s doorstep. The march circled downtown with drivers honking and waving in support.