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Leaders of the Citrus County Education Association are confident they will have enough members in the local teachers' union for recertification before 2021.

Victoria Smith, president of the association (CCEA), said Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, the organization had 21 members in its ranks.

It has to reach a roster of 25 — 50% of its membership — in order for the Teacher Evaluation Review Committee, or TERC, to qualify the CCEA as a bargaining unit, giving it the ability to negotiate employment terms and conditions for union and non-union instructors.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand we bargain for everybody,” said Smith, who's also a Citrus High School teacher. “We make sure your working conditions are good, and your salary is increased the best we can.”

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If the CCEA fails to meet its enrollee threshold by the TERC’s Dec. 20 deadline, it will lose its ability to fight for employee rights, like: duty-free lunches, guaranteed planning time, class size limits, more duty pay, prioritizing transfers of senior teachers and leave pay.

“We’re not there to advocate for you anymore,” Smith said. 

Florida is a right-to-work state, meaning it doesn’t require people with jobs to also have a union membership and pay its dues.

Smith said the CCEA traditionally sees attrition during the fall and winter, when it loses members to either retirement or other school districts, but she’s optimistic the organization can regain bargaining certification by 2021.

“We’re like this every single year ... we’re always borderline of our 50%,” she said. “We always want to shoot for 50 in case something happens.”

Smith said the CCEA provides its members with a variety of benefits besides negotiating work contracts. It can also help, she said, with obtaining life insurance and a mortgage.

Interested in becoming a CCEA member? Visit myccea.net/join-union.

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Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916,  bthompson@chronicleonline.com or visit tinyurl.com/yxn2ahso to see more of his stories.