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COLUMN

Happytown

The state descends into a puddle of tears as unions are busted, the minimum wage is challenged, homeless rolls skyrocket and everybody looks for a free bus. Sad town!

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At first it came on like an abstract notion. Sure, we could smell the urine and exhaust just starting to emanate from the cracking societal tarmac and faintly hear the distant rattle of pennies in empty pork-and-beans cans, but - thanks to our innate ability to point and laugh while never feeling - we left the signs of Florida's coming poor-pocalypse hanging in a burlap sack at the end of a stick in the closet. "Fuck Rick Scott!" we laughed while swigging from our moderately priced box of downsized wine, numbing our brains into not considering how bad it might get. This is Happytown™, after all. There's no crying in Happytown™.

But just a few short weeks into Tallahassee's legislative bully dance and it's become gravely 
apparent that there are definite causes for worry, causes it won't be easy to undo should the state ever snap out of its Scott-holm syndrome and return to, well, relative bearability. The war on the working class presently being waged in the name of creating jobs - while simultaneously killing jobs - came into full view last week as a couple of concerns specifically attached to people who are just squeaking by came into full view. And that view is ugly.

On March 25, Florida's House of Representatives voted 73-40 in favor of removing automatic deductions for union dues from the paychecks of state workers. Republicans were characteristically magnanimous about their decision to further squelch the power of unions in a right-to-work state, with bloated foreclosure fiasco State Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, telling The Palm Beach Post that, hey, it's really just about keeping the government out of private matters (cough). "There is arrogance but the arrogance is on those who clearly don't believe that [the] membership of labor unions can make the decisions about membership," he added.

And then there's the arrogance of Twitter. Just one day before Friday's House vote, Grover Norquist, the inexplicably influential president of fetid teabag Americans for Tax Reform, took to his computer to spell out a defining factoid: "FYI. Withheld union dues fund half of Dem campaigns in Florida." Well, our friends at politifact.com took issue with that statement and ran it through their trusty old "Truth-O-Meter." Guess what? Not true. Of the total $332 million that Floridian candidates received in last year's race, only $89 million went to Democrats, and of that only $10.2 million in labor dollars went to Democrats - half of one, 11 percent of 
the other?

Not content to merely muzzle whatever bargaining power those without yachts have left, Republicans are also hard at work to make your local barista a little less happy soft-shoeing the tightrope of minimum wage. You may be aware that Florida Legal Services and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) have already filed a lawsuit against the state for not raising the minimum wage in 2011; in 2004, voters overwhelmingly supported a state constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage annually to adapt to cost-of-living increases. According to NELP, the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation has been handshaking behind the scenes to readdress the minimum wage issue, even as the case remains in litigation. The fruits of their labor (cough, again) can be found in HB 1425, a quick-moving bill that aims to go against the state constitution and install a new minimum wage equation that could actually decrease minimum wage to reflect deflation. Had the federal government not raised the national minimum wage to $7.25 in 2009, Florida workers might have had to take a dip down to $7.16. Why should this concern you? Just ask attorney Bill Davis who is fighting the legal case against the state.

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