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Trio of bills target unions

A major push is underway in Arizona to strike at the very heart of public unions by eliminating their ability to negotiate collective bargaining agreements.

The prohibition would apply to public unions at the state and local levels.

As envisioned, it would also extend to all public-safety unions, including firefighter and police associations.

This change, which is being sought by a conservative coalition of advocates and lawmakers, is among the most significant public union legislation in years.

Subsequently, it’s also the most threatening to public unions.

But the changes critics of unions are seeking don’t stop with eliminating collective bargaining agreements.

They also want to ban compensation for public employees while doing union work.
And finally, they want to prohibit automatic deductions for union dues unless employees expressly authorize those deductions each year.

The bills will be heard by a Senate panel today.

And given the committee’s conservative makeup, the proposals are expected to pass.

The proposals are an extension of efforts to chip away at public sectors’ perceived clout.

Critics often argue that unions drive up the cost of operating government.

Those who believe that employees should have the right to collective bargaining view the measure as “union busting.”

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, speculated that his Republican colleagues are pushing for the measures now because they anticipate that the Legislature’s makeup will change next year and they won’t have the same numbers to pass any of these bills then.

“If they want to pass out any bill that will bust unions, this is the year to do it,” he said.

But Gallardo said the question for Republican lawmakers is whether they want to pick a fight with the fire, teacher and police unions — professions that he said are very well respected by the public — in an election year.

“Do they want these three very powerful organizations coming after them in an election year?” he said, adding, “I don’t think they want that.”

But the bill’s supporters said if enacted, they would save governments hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The problem is that local and state government is increasingly unaffordable,” said Nick Dranias, a lawyer with the Goldwater Institute, which is actively pushing for the measures.

“Our cities and towns and counties are always seemingly on the verge of some sort of fiscal catastrophe and the root cause of this, as our research has shown, is the fact that Arizona counties, cities, and special districts and school districts recognize government sector unions for purposes of mandatory bargaining,” he said.

Dranias and the bills’ supporters are expected to testify tomorrow about discrepancies in the income between public and private employees.

They are expected to argue that public sector employees receive bigger compensation than their private sector counterparts.

Public sector unions are expected to fight the proposals.

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