NRA Finds Unlikely Partner With Union Support of Florida Gun Bill

By Staff Report

Apr. 5, 2007

The National Rifle Association has found a surprising partner in its support for a Florida bill that would allow employees to keep guns locked in their cars on company grounds.

At a Florida Senate committee hearing March 27, the Florida AFL-CIO came out in support of the bill.

For the union, “guns are not the issue,” says spokesman Rich Templin. “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, prohibits employers or any entities from banning employees from keeping “any legal personal property” locked in their cars.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 7-1 in support of the bill, which next will go to the Senate Judiciary Committee. But a similar bill  was proposed last year in Florida and never passed into legislation.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and others have strongly opposed the measure, arguing that it violates their property rights.

“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.

And 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 Florida is sending out e-mails to its 500,000 members encouraging them to call their senators in support of the bill, Templin says.

The alliance could make it particularly difficult for employers, many of whom are already trying to fight this bill, says Mark Neuberger, a labor lawyer at Buchanan Ingersoll in Miami.

“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.”

—Jessica Marquez

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