Government Union Bosses Challenged in Arizona

But Big Labor-Appeasing GOP Legislators May Block Reform Measures

(source: National Right to Work Committee April 2012 Newsletter)

Arizona has had a Right to Work law on the books for over six decades. And it has no statewide statute handing union officials monopoly-bargaining privileges over state and local government employees.

Nevertheless, today many government union bosses in Arizona enjoy special privileges you might expect to find only in notorious Big Labor stronghold states like neighboring California.

For example, in Phoenix, as columnist George Will pointed out last month, taxpayers fork over $900,000 annually to pay for the compensation of police union officials as they “work exclusively performing undefined union business, including lobbying . . . .”

Mr. Will, citing the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, added that all six of the top officers of the union “derive full pay and benefits from the city, although each is assigned full time to the union — and each is also entitled to 160 hours of annual extra-pay overtime.”

So-Called ‘Meet-and-Confer’ Schemes: Monopoly Bargaining in Disguise

Moreover, officers of Phoenix’s six other government unions “also have full-time [taxpayer-funded] city jobs.” All told, “the annual bill for 73,000 hours of release time is $3.7 million.”

How is it that government union bosses have been able to secure sweetheart deals with Phoenix and many other localities in Right to Work Arizona enabling them to conduct union business on taxpayers’ dime?

A key reason why municipal governance in Arizona is increasingly geared towards advancing Big Labor objectives rather than the public interest is so-called “meet-and-confer.” Since the 1970’s, dozens of localities have adopted ordinances requiring what amounts to union monopoly bargaining in disguise.

In the Grand Canyon State, “meet-and-confer” empowers union bosses who purport to speak for all non-supervisory employees at a local government agency, including members and nonmembers alike, to engage in quasi-negotiations with agency managers.

“Effectively, government union bosses in Arizona have the power not only to ‘represent’ employees who want nothing to do with a union, but also to cut deals determining their pay, benefits, and work rules,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee.

“And experience shows that public-sector union monopoly bargaining in all its forms, including ‘meet-and-confer,’ is detrimental to the interests of taxpayers.”

Arizona in Danger of Losing Its Competitive Edge

Early this year, pro-Right to Work Arizonans’ hopes were raised when the state Senate’s GOP leaders endorsed legislation (S.1485) that would prohibit “meet-and-confer” and all other forms of union monopoly bargaining in government agencies.

Since Republicans hold two-thirds of the seats in both the Senate and the House, many local political observers who underestimated well-heeled union lobbyists’ bi-partisan arm-twisting ability expected until recently that S.1485 would become law this year.

However, within a few short weeks after it was introduced, a number of union boss-intimidated senators began pressuring Majority Leader Steve Pierce (Phoenix) and other senior Republicans not to allow a floor debate and vote on S.1485.

With the 2012 legislative session winding down as this month’s Newsletter goes to press, it appears Mr. Pierce and his associates will acquiesce to this demand. It now seems the most the Legislature will do is modestly reduce the scope of government union bosses’ monopoly-bargaining powers.

And even that is far from a sure thing.

“‘Meet-and-confer’ tramples the freedom of employees who want no union, and promotes wasteful public spending and higher taxes. Arizona’s legislative leaders are right to want to abolish it,” Mr. Mix commented.

“But they went about it the wrong way. Passage of measures like S.1485 requires first getting all legislators in both parties on the record, and then mobilizing thousands and thousands of grass-roots Right to Work supporters to turn up the pressure on politicians who vote ‘No.’

“Such mobilization generally requires years of hard work. But it’s the only proven method of beating the union bosses.”


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