The year 2011 was huge for many causes across the state of Florida. Students and workers united to fight back, rise up, occupy, and march for their rights. With the likes of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, and the enormously unpopular Governor Rick Scott in power, Floridians had a lot to contest with.
With the spread of the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide, many cities - and even universities -across the state saw their own Occupations take root. From Occupy Miami to Occupy Orlando and Occupy UCF, to Occupy Tallahassee in the state capital and Occupy Tampa; people from all corners of the state mobilized to show their solidarity as part of the 99 Percent.
Florida joined National Nurses United’s campaign to “heal” the American working-class by taxing Wall Street financial speculation, targeting Tea Party favorite Senator Rubio. In his first year, Senator Rubio championed anti-worker policies in the name of “fiscal responsibility.” We organized unemployed and under-employed Floridians and confronted Senator Rubio and his staff repeatedly over the course of the year for his job-killing agenda.
At a time when the cost of education is higher than ever, we need to invest in our schools and our students. SLAP at UCF will be visiting Senator Rubio’s office once again on January 18th to present him with a pledge asking the politician to stand with Florida’s working families and students.
The Central Florida Leadership Delegation, consisting of 33 State Legislators, met on UCF’s campus on December 1st. Students protested their presence and their policies at Rise Up UCF, a protest organized by students for students, hosted in solidarity by several student organizations. Among those present were Senate President Mike Haridopolos, House Speaker Dean Cannon, and Representative Chris Dorworth, all of whom pushed policies in 2011 that attacked public universities, hiked tuition rates, and cut Bright Futures. Most egregiously, they lead the Legislature to pass HB 1355, a Voter Suppression Law that makes voting needlessly more difficult for students.
With working families, public employees, and students in Florida under attack, another citizen group decided it was time to fight back against these budget cuts. The message of Fight Back Florida is simple: They demand a Florida government that works for the people, not against them. Student and labor activists from all over Florida convened in Orlando one weekend in November for Fight Back Florida’s first biannual conference. Attendants participated in a day long convention combining education, activism, and planning. Beginning with a quick introduction to the current attacks on students and working families in Florida, the conference then discussed how Fight Back Florida would play a role in Florida politics. Those attending the conference also joined Occupy Orlando in solidarity for a march on city hall.
With 2011 behind us, and the legislative session starting soon, workers in Florida will be working harder than ever in our fight for rights in 2012.