Under Florida Administrative Code Rule 60CC-4.002, ratification of a collective bargaining agreement must be conducted either at a ratification meeting or by mail, and ballots must be publicly counted. Recently, the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission (“PERC”) approved a variance from these procedures permitting electronic ratification due to the ongoing threat posed by Covid-19. In re Emergency Petition for Variance of Justin Katz and the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, Inc., 46 FPER ¶ 280 (April 6, 2020) and In re Emergency Petition for Variance of Kari Ann Kinkey and the Walton County Education Association, 46 FPER ¶ 281 (April 6, 2020) (reported on June 2, 2020 Issue of the Florida Public Employee Reporter).
In each case, the union sought to conduct all bargaining unit communications, balloting, tallying and announcement of the ratification results by electronic means. The petitioner cited compelling health and safety concerns over holding public meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic and assured that the electronic ratification vote could be conducted fairly and with safeguards (though unspecified). PERC noted the lack of details for the electronic voting but nevertheless granted the variance based on the current state of emergency. PERC warned of its concerns with the electronic voting process used in Beightol v. United Teachers of Dade, 38 FPER ¶ 293 (2012) (rejecting electronic voting due to lack of safeguards) and that the union was not insulated from voters’ complaints about the fairness of the electronic process used. PERC urged the unions to use their best judgment. PERC cautioned that the union may wish to consider delaying the ratification vote as an alternative (PERC granted an additional variance from the “prompt” submission requirement).
For more information about these cases or conducting a ratification vote during the Covid-19 pandemic, contact the attorneys at Donnelly + Gross. For answers to your specific questions and for the newest developments, please visit our website at www.donnellygross.com/covid-19-resources/ and contact us at Donnelly + Gross at 352-374-4001 or directly by email:
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