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Unions planning big rally at state Capitol

Roman Ulman, an Arizona chapter president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, railed against bills aimed at diminishing public union bargaining rights in front of the state Capitol Feb. 9. Ulman spoke before a small group of union supporters. Union leaders are planning a much larger protest at the state Capitol March 1. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Unions from across Arizona are planning to bring hundreds of workers to the state Capitol on Thursday, two days after the Senate advanced a second bill that targets public unions.

They also want to send a clear message that they’re opposing Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to overhaul the state personnel system and make it easier to hire and fire workers.

Public unions are under fire this session from Republican legislators, who have introduced a slew of proposals that many consider to be even more stringent than the anti-union legislation in Wisconsin.

Two of the measures already received approval in the Senate. One would prohibit automatic paycheck deductions for union dues unless employers expressly authorize it each year.

The other proposal, which senators approved Tuesday, would ban compensation for employees while they’re doing union activities.

Two other measures appear to have stalled in the Senate, including one aimed at eliminating the bargaining rights of union workers – by far the toughest anti-union bill introduced.

Rebekah Friend, executive director of AFL-CIO, said the rally on Thursday is part on an annual event, when union members are trained to lobby and get the chance to talk to their representatives.

But this year is bigger, she said, adding they’re anticipating between 500 and 600 people to show up.

In any case, the size of the crowd will provide a glimpse about how galvanized unions have become.

Union leaders said their members are fired up.

“We’re seeing more enrollment,” Friend said, adding they also notice a significant jump in the number of people who have signed up to be notified about developments.

“If you look historically at unions, anytime you start to see this downward pressure on workers, you see an increase in unionism,” Friend said.

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