Anti-Union Bills Sail Out of Arizona Senate Government Reform Committee

Anti-union sentiments among Arizona's conservative politicos aren't letting up.

Four anti-union bills aimed at thwarting unions' existence in the public sector sailed out of the Senate's Government Reform committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1484 states public employers "shall not deduct" any third party (unions) payments unless they have express permission from the employee.

Senate Bill 1485 aims to kill collective bargaining altogether: "No state agency or political subdivision of this state is vested or possesses any authority to ... (2) collectively bargain or enter into any employment bargain with any union or its agents."

Senate Bill 1486 prohibits cities and towns from building into union contracts any "release time," that is releasing city employees from their city jobs to work on behalf of the unions while still collecting salaries and benefits.

Senate Bill 1487 would make it unlawful for the public sector employer to diverted employee pay for "labor organization dues."

The Goldwater Institute, an ideologically-driven, conservative think-tank, is touting the righteousness of the bills, namely SB 1486, after it released a report condemning the $3.7 million a year that Phoenix spent on release time for city employees to conduct union work. In December, the think-tank filed a constitutional challenge against the City of Phoenix over that release time for members of the police union.

Pete Gorraiz, president of the Phoenix fire fighters' union, tells New Times that release time is used to work on training issues, spend time representing employees at grievance hearings and on community outreach such as drowning prevention and food drives.

He dismisses the Goldwater Institute's involvement as nothing more than the organization's effort to promote its own agenda. And "reducing the influence of unions" is at the top of the organization's to-do list.

From Goldwater's 2012 Freedom Agenda.

Ban Public-Sector Collective Bargaining Public-sector collective bargaining costs state and local taxpayers around the country tens of billions of dollars in excessive public employee compensation every year. Arizona should enact and expand upon reforms already in place in Virginia, which ban collective bargaining and collectively bargained contracts in the public sector. This could save Arizona taxpayers more than $550 million per year in compensation costs to government workers.

Read more of the Freedom Agenda.

Greg Brooks, a spokesman for the Goldwater Institute, tells New Times that such savings comes from lower employee wages and other cost-cutting city officials are able to do when they aren't tied to a union contract.

Gorraiz says that "bills will take the decision-making ability and local control away from the cities and towns across the entire state of Arizona."

"The State Legislature is trying to play parent to every political subdivision of the state and take away their ability to decide for themselves," Gorraiz says.

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