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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Floridians plan to gather for protests at Awake the State rallies March 8th

Photo Credit-Awake The State Website
Floridians plan rallies on March 8th, to protest
against cuts unemployment benefits,
middle class costing jobs, while maintaining
tax breaks for corporations and wealthy citizens
Florida Democrats, Unemployed Job Seekers and Unions will hold an organized Awake the State rallies in 31 cities in the state. Up to Friday, 1,300 Floridians had pre-registered to attend the rallies from Key West to Pensacola, 3 PM and 6 PM EST, Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

The goal of these groups are opposing what they consider “draconian budget cuts to every walk of life,’’ said Damien Filer of Progress Florida, one of the rally organizers to the Miami Herald. Instead, groups like Fliers believe that the state legislator should be focused on closing corporate loopholes and tax breaks handed out at the expense of the middle/lower classes and unemployed.

Florida's unemployment rate according to January 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, is in the double digits at 12.0 percent, third highest in the U.S.  

Still, if the GOP-controlled legislative bodies and Gov. Rick Scott (R) have their way, jobless workers would see a huge cut to unemployment benefit programs in the state. Specifically, Florida state bill HB 7005 would reduce the maximum duration of state benefits from 26 to 20 weeks or lower. Other cuts to jobless benefits include:

-Tying length of benefits to the state unemployment rate. Benefits would last 20 weeks if the unemployment rate is 9 percent or higher, but would fall as low as 12 weeks as the economy improves.

-Make it easier for employers to deny benefits based on worker misconduct by expanding the definition to include chronic tardiness and absenteeism.

-Shift the burden of proof away from workers in appeals of benefit rejections, by striking changes placed in the law in 2003 that require conflicting or uncertain assertions to be ruled in claimant’s favor.

-Roll back employer contributions by 10 percent.
“The overarching message is Florida simply cannot afford the drastic cuts in this budget that are going to hurt everybody from teachers to firefighters to hospitals to all those people they serve,’’ Filer stated.
Florida's state shortfall is nearly $3.6 billion and, another $1.2 billion in reserves is needed to protect the state’s bond rating. The state’s Republican-dominated Legislature has put dozens of state programs, state worker pay and teacher benefits on the chopping block.

Filer said Awake the State rallies sprung up locality by connecting on Facebook, rounding up support for rallies in dozens of cities.

Unlike in Wisconsin, Florida’s Democratic legislators stop debate on the anti-union legislation by leaving town. The state legislative rules allow for a majority of members to issue quorum and Democrats are in the minority.

Florida is also a right-to-work state that requires that union membership be voluntary, not mandatory. Gov. Rick Scott has echoed the call for an end to collective bargaining in Florida, although this would be tall task since the ‘right to bargain collectively for benefits’ is written into the Florida Constitution.

One of the rallies, in the city of Miami, is planned for 3PM to 7PM at Miami-Dade's Government Center, 111 Northwest 1st Street.

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