Social Media Explodes With Florida Teacher Protest Chat

Internet ablaze with plans for demonstrations at Capitol and around state
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: February 22, 2011 3:55 AM
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Credit: Shutterstock - ra2 studio

Inspired by large protests in Wisconsin, government workers are setting the social-media network aflame with plans for public demonstrations in Florida on March 8.

"Category 5 starting in Miami-Dade County and it will not stop!" Mike Medina, a member of the Miami police union, wrote on Facebook.

"March 8 Tallahassee -- greet the governor and legislators on opening day to let them know that you will not stand for changing our laws in favor of special interests," urged Paula House Eisenhart in another posting.

Teachers, government workers and a host of progressive-labor organizations are rallying under the banner of "Awake the State" in response to Gov. Rick Scott's proposed $5 billion in budget cuts and in advance of the Legislature convening next month.

State Rep. Mark Pafford, who posted on the "Awake the State" Facebook and Twitter pages, declared:

"This governor and the legislative majority want to use worker against worker to reduce their corporate labor costs. Now is the time for action -- as a member of Florida's Legislature, I need your help. I need to know the People are angry and are ready to make a very clear statement. We need to work together, now."

Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, advises users of the Facebook site to "make sure you change your profile picture to get more people aware of  'Awake The State' ... this page is the modern vehicle to ensure we maintain our constitutional right to gather -- and make change."

"Awake the State" is serving as a rallying site for Florida teachers, who are particularly concerned about the school budget.

A group called "Fund Education Now" announced it had collected 5,000 signatures against what it called "budget cuts."

The Scott administration responds that state funding for K-12 education remains intact, but that the expiration of federal stimulus dollars in June will lead to an overall reduction in funds.

Meantime, county affiliates of the Florida Education Association are calling on teachers to e-mail and phone their local state legislators to oppose proposed reforms to the state retirement system.

A Senate committee is scheduled on Tuesday to hear Senate Bills 1128 and 1139, which would require public-sector workers, including teachers, to contribute to their pension funds and extend the retirement age.

To turn up the heat on the Legislature, "Awake the State" is pushing for a series of demonstrations on March 8, the opening day of the 2011 session. A la Madison, a major worker protest is being organized at the Capitol.

Organizers reportedly are aiming to bring 8,000 demonstrators to Tallahassee on March 8. Other groups that cannot make it to the capital that day are planning to hold rallies in their local communities.

Announced one Facebook posting: "March 8th in Florida, pick up a sign, stand tall for teachers, police, firefighters."

Mary Ryals, an associate instructor of business communication at Florida State University, said, "You bet I'll participate in the 'Awake the State' rally in Tallahassee on March 8."

Ryals said that Florida's public-sector workers, like those in Wisconsin, are anxious about changes to their pension and health-care programs.

Additionally, teachers expressed alarm over reports of a legislative proposal to discontinue automatic dues-withholding from instructors' paychecks. They fear that move could be the leading edge of a broader assault on collective-bargaining rights.

The Florida Education Association did not respond to Sunshine State News' request for comment.

Rep. Pafford related that the "Awake the State" page on Facebook garnered more than 2,000 "likes" from readers in its four days online. "It's a great vehicle for people to get on the same page and organize," he said, noting that some 60,000 people logged on amid the heated controversy of the SB 6 teacher-tenure bill last session.

The second-term lawmaker said social-media networks facilitate activism and grass-roots organization across the sprawling state when Tallahassee "gets sideways" on issues. That organizing potential isn't lost on public-sector unions, which are brainstorming in advance of the Legislature's opening day on March 8.

Nearly 100 self-proclaimed Florida progressives gathered in Orlando on Sunday to strategize on ways to combat the Republican reform agenda at the 2011 Legislature. One of the "LegiCamp" sessions was a tutorial on using Twitter for political organization.

Pafford speculated that much of the activity on March 8 will be local, perhaps in deference to the fact that it's a workday and, for most students, a school day.

Any widespread absence by government workers and teachers has the potential to stir a backlash among the very public they hope to court. Indeed, raucous demonstrations by public-sector unions could well boomerang among taxpayers who feel that government spending is out of control.

"The unions are fine with redistribution of wealth as long as it is coming out of our pockets and going into theirs," said Punta Gorda tea party leader Robin Stublen, who testified last week in favor of pension-reform legislation.


Contact Kenric Ward at or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (29)

8:49PM MAR 6TH 2012
"angles all around you" I know one person who won't be qualified to step up and fill the shoes of a teacher if Scott pink slips them all.
would you take my job?
9:01PM FEB 23RD 2011
8 years teaching in a Florida public elementary school. I have 2 kids and after their healthcare is taken out, and after I've paid daycare so I can go to work, I take home about $500 a MONTH. You still want to complain my pay is too high?
States are broke because rich people robbed them.
If we don't have money for pensions and health, how can we afford to give tax cuts to the rich?
Republicans want to break down unions so they can win elections.
Want to try a different argument?
4:15PM FEB 23RD 2011
I just read that the Providence School District is sending out pink slips to ALL teachers effective the last day of school. Needless to say not all teachers will be sitting out come August, but I would bet that the best will be back to work. The tenure is one of your achilles tendon the teachers need to fix. In private practice there is no such thing as a job guarantee only the best productive get to stay. I think if I was ahead of this teacher thing I would be bringing this up and change your program. Why should the best teachers and there are many have to be insulted by the lazy, incompetent teachers who make it bad for the rest. Even the younger teachers who give all are penalized,because they are the most junior. Well I can say, the best and the young need to stand your ground and stop having the union leaders treat you like sheep and the lazy, nonqualified should be dismissed. Then when the scores of these young people are really improving, I think you will be surprised by the support of the public with or without children in schools.
Ken Albin
11:31PM FEB 23RD 2011
I am a retired teacher. The last year I taught, 2 years ago, we had 14 teachers at my school lose their jobs because of low state funding. I guess those "lazy" teachers must have not gotten the memo that they had a guaranteed job.
10:55PM FEB 22ND 2011
An ALL Republican ticket was unanimously elected in Florida for a reason....the Democrats are taxing and spending us to death!! The unions are afraid to lose money....they don't care about their members!
10:18PM FEB 22ND 2011
If there are no teachers at school, will the little Mexican kids still get their free lunch?
6:32AM FEB 23RD 2011
First of all, the majority of free lunch kids are not Mexican, AND, this is about children, all children, seems you are quite selective in your approach, to that end, all children are equal in the eyes of teachers and in the eyes of God.
2:26PM FEB 23RD 2011
Whenever I hear the phrase "Its for the children..." I realize the scam is afoot. Awake the State allright - but I dont think you are going to like what happens when all these taxpayers realize the scam that the public sector unions have gotten away with. Time to end it.
Florida is screwed
5:27PM FEB 22ND 2011
So far the only thing this "jobs" governor has done is cut jobs. Opps, I almost forgot, he also wants to increase his executive expense account by another $135,000,000 with no oversight. This guy is a real winner....NOT!
Where the jobs, Scott?
6:06PM FEB 22ND 2011
Actually, he wants to increase his expense account by $300,000,000. Hey, it costs money to downsize government. HA!
Budget FL
2:06PM FEB 22ND 2011
A balanced budget amendment is a constitutional rule requiring that the state must not spend more than its income. It requires a balance between the projected revenues and expenditures of the government. NOW THAT'S CLEARED UP... Where do you see the shortfall for this year's budget to come from if not in part from the expenditure of pensions? And, please real facts, real answers not emotional spewing from your latest myth laden e-mails.
10:52PM FEB 22ND 2011
I can, with fact, comment on your statement/question. In NO WAY is it coming from paying pensions or paying into pensions as your governor would have you believe. The majority of our pension is paid by monies made through already invested money. In fact, since 1999 over $12 billion dollars (surplus monies made off of the investment of our retirement money) has been used to offset the cost of pensions. Meaning the taxpayers did not have to pay it. As it stands, they have yet to pay more than 3% EVER into our pensions. Even this last year, they only paid just over 2%. Yet he wants us to pay 5%. Just so you know, after those who receive pensions were paid, there was STILL $9.8 million dollars left in FRS. The governor wants to take that money and use it for other things instead of letting the FRS system continue to gain money. This is FACT and it has been shown through actuarial studies done for the legislature.
3:09PM FEB 23RD 2011
Wow, actual facts. That's a first. Imagine facts instead of misinformation. Thank you, Lori.
Linda Edson
3:19PM FEB 22ND 2011
Currently participants of the Florida Retirement System have the option of joining the Defined Pension Plan or the Defined Contribution Plan. FRS is one of the top pension plans in the country, it is self supporting and places no burdens on the budget of the state. If everyone is required to join the Defined Contribution plan, as is stated in SB 1130, the amount of money going into the pension plan will decrease as participants retire. On the other hand the pension payout will increase. Thus money money will be leaving the trust fund than is entering. This is exactly what brought down some other states. This change will cost the state dearly and the pension fund will become a problem for the state. Now you have the facts concerning FRS.
fiscal conservative
12:36PM FEB 22ND 2011
as the november election results CLEARLY show, the citizens of florida ARE rejecting the agenda of the left wing teachers union. it's time for state and government workers to quit thinking of hard working taxpayers as suckers that they can bleed dry.
10:18PM FEB 22ND 2011
It is so sad that some citizens of this country generalize and make comments about teacher and other government workers "sucking them dry". I work 70 hours at least for a salary that most people would laugh at. I spend hours of my free time trying to better childrens' lives. The union protects me from heartless soul-suckers who only think about themselves. PERIOD.
9:03AM FEB 22ND 2011
".... social-media networks facilitate activism and grass-roots organization..."

They're also becoming somewhat of a barometer of society. Political, the spread of flus, predicting the stock market with fairly good accuracy, among other things. There are a lot of ways people are thinking of to put "social media" to good use- like tracking the side effects of new prescription drugs faster than the FDA can...
8:57AM FEB 22ND 2011
Our new Governor is on the right track. We need to cut 20% of state employees starting at the top with management. Their pay and benefits are rediculous and I'm really tired of paying for it.
9:39AM FEB 22ND 2011
You'll be disappointed to hear that the Gov. has increased the number of employees "at the top". He has greatly increased the number of employees in his office. Cuts are only being made for the ones "at the bottom" sad to say. The top will also get increased tax cuts- to be zero taxes after a couple of years in fact. The bottom will get laid off and I guess get a tax cut too since they will have no income. We'll be seeing about 20,000 jobs lost (accding to local newspapers) which will mean many more will need medicaid/medicare/food stamps/unemployment benefits/etc. Watch for a deeper recession in FL thanks to our Gov.
Richard Riker
12:50PM FEB 22ND 2011
I didn't see any comment from you when the CBO, a little bit more credible source than the newspapers, came out last week with the figure that Obamacare will cost us 800,000 jobs. Now there's real job loss . What happened you just missed that one?
7:50AM FEB 22ND 2011
I think that Rick Scott should have a Ronald Reagan Moment with pink slips. When the employees tell the employer how to run the business, it is time for new employees.
11:37AM FEB 23RD 2011
Good luck finding qualified teachers to step in if Scott sends out pink slips. There is already a shortage and no wonder. Who would want to deal with disrespect from students, parents and now their own neighbors.
11:14AM FEB 22ND 2011
It isn't a business, it is our state know, that 'by the people; for the people' thing? Those who are placed into positions within government by the citizens, work for THEM, not the other way around. Capisca?
Richard Riker
11:33AM FEB 22ND 2011
So true, the Governor knows that and he's acting in accordance. He is doing the exact right thing in his approach to the union and pension problem and they are a big PROBLEM. He is looking out for all the people not just a few spoiled union progressives.
12:57PM FEB 22ND 2011
This governor was elected by 48.87% of the people of Florida. He is one of only two governors in Florida’s history to be elected by a minority of the electorate. In reality he has no "mandate" to effect any change whatsoever. Although he is supposed to be the governor of "all" the people, it is, thus far, abundantly clear that his agenda is to serve the wealthy, corporation interests, and right wing radical extremists such as the Tea Party. He doesn't give a good dad-gum about the average person who is striving every day just to make ends meet - including you, if you happen to fall into that category. And he openly despises any group that is represented by a collective bargaining agency including “overpaid” government workers, teachers, firemen, and police officers – basically all public-service workers. And if you really want to talk about government service workers who are truly overpaid, consider your Florida legislators. They meet for 60 days and they get paid $29,000 to, basically, muck things up for the rest of us!
1:48PM FEB 22ND 2011
Well said! I would only, um, question exactly what kind of government "service" our legislators have been providing.

Bring voter registration forms to Awake the State rallies...
10:29PM FEB 22ND 2011
And up date your resume' too :)
5:52AM FEB 25TH 2011
vanessa kerr
8:24PM FEB 22ND 2011
this is how i see the big picture.the unions are the biggest legal maffia runned organiztion in the world.obama is the boss/and for sure running the show.and we havent seen nothing yet.glenn beck you are the mordern day john the baptist.and god is working thru you to open the eyes of a p.kid i have been hearing about the end days and brother we are here.and my prayers are with you and yours.god always protects his own so sleep sound you have angles all around you.god bless.peace will come and the meek shall inherit the earth.:)

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