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Anti-union bills being parceled out to gain success

People protest anti-union legislation moving through the Arizona Legislature at the state Capitol March 1. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Backers of anti-union bills are planning to parcel out the provisions of a measure that is advancing in the Senate, an apparent move to give each idea the best chance of passing.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved an amendment to prohibit pay to public employees who do union activities, a practice called “release time.”

The amendment to HB2848 still carves out an exemption for police officers, which means they could represent colleagues in disciplinary hearings but they won’t get paid for recruiting activities or for attending union-organized conventions.

Another measure, HB2103 contained the “release-time” provision, but Sen. Rick Murphy, a Peoria Republican who is championing the anti-union legislation, amended the bill so it would only deal with one major idea. As amended, it would prohibit automatic salary deductions for union dues unless an employer expressly allows it each year.

The Senate gave the measure preliminary approval on March 22. Its next stop will be a vote of the full Senate.

Separating the two issues — paycheck deduction and “release time” — means lawmakers will get the opportunity to vote on each bill.

This can help to avoid a situation where lawmakers who like one provision but not the other are ultimately compelled to vote against the bill that contains both ideas.

As amended, HB2848 also now prohibits unions that represent workers who have been contracted to provide a public service from going on strike or threatening to go on strike. This provision is an apparent reaction to the bus strike that crippled the Valley recently.

Critics maintained that the anti-union proposals interfere with local governments’ ability to best manage their work-labor relationships. That harmonious relationship, they added, ultimately leads to a better delivery of government services.

They also argued that the slew of anti-union measures — including those that have so far failed to advance — constitutes an attack on organized labor because some disagree with unions’ political message.

But supporters said “release time” means putting a union officer on the government’s payroll to do nothing but union work.

They added it shouldn’t be very complicated for employees to annually opt-in for an automatic salary deduction for union dues.

They also argued that there’s a conflict when unions negotiate over their salary and benefits with government officials that that they have helped to put into office.

The Senate passed earlier versions of the anti-union bills, but the Senate measures stalled in the House.

Supporters are hoping to rescue them by tacking their provisions onto House bills that are advancing in the Senate.

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