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AZ Senate president: union bills a priority

Senate President Andy Biggs (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Senate President Andy Biggs (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

An effort to limit the ability of unions to collect fees directly from the paychecks of employees is a priority for state and national Republicans, the president of the Arizona Senate said Monday.

President Andy Biggs, who backs anti-union legislation that would impact police and firefighters, told The Associated Press that he remains optimistic about the effort despite signs that some state Senate Republicans aren’t too keen about going to war with the unions that often help bankroll their campaigns.

“The Republicans nationally make it a priority, the state party, the Republicans, make it a priority,” said Biggs, R-Gilbert. “I mean, yeah, of course, it’s a priority.”

Legislation seeking to ban automatic union payments from paychecks issued by public employers without annual authorization failed in a 17-12 vote in the state Senate last Thursday, with four Republicans siding with Democrats against the effort. Public-safety unions oppose the measure.

Biggs said as long as the Legislature remains in session, the effort is up for debate.

“It’s not over until sine die,” he said, referring to the day the Legislative session ends. “I’ve seen bills come back that I would never thought had a chance, so I never count anything out.”

Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, is pushing a similar ban that has won Republican support in committee. He said he would prefer to go further and ban union payment deductions altogether because public employees use government time to set up the deductions.

“There is no reason taxpayers should have to pay for this,” he said.

The measures are among a series of anti-union bills introduced this session. Murphy is also pushing legislation that would prohibit a public employee from doing union activities during paid work time.

It’s unclear whether any of the measures will gain enough votes to pass the Senate, or to move forward in the House. Speaker Andy Tobin has said he was waiting for the Senate to take action on the paycheck deduction issue and isn’t inclined to support such measures.

“I’m a big supporter of public safety, always have been. My dad’s a retired New York City cop,” Tobin said last week. “To me, and a lot of members, it’s very personal, and they don’t consider public safety as a union, they see it as association.”

The Legislature passed a similar ban in 2011, but the bill exempted public safety workers from the prohibition. A federal court threw out the ban.

In 2012, a measure that didn’t exempt public safety workers passed the Senate but not the House.

Union leaders said lawmakers should devote their time to more worthwhile causes.

“They are anti-union bills. That is all it is,” said Levi Bolton, executive director of the Arizona Police Association. “It’s every year. They just keep coming back.”

Many of the bills are backed by the conservative Goldwater Institute, which filed a lawsuit last year over salaries paid to Phoenix police officers while performing union duties.

Taylor Earl, a lawyer for the Arizona think tank, said bans on automatic deductions force unions to do more for their members or risk declines in membership.

“What we have seen across the country, when these are required, union membership plummets,” Earl said. “Employees are evaluating, ‘do I really want to be part of this union or not?’”

Missouri, Indiana, Kansas and California have all considered bans on union deductions for public workers in recent years.

___

Associated Press Writer Bob Christie contributed to this report.

4 comments

  1. Where is the burning platform for this legislation? Is there a study that definitely says this is costing Arizona taxpayers? Arizona state law does not allow for collective bargaining. The issue here is philosophical, not material.

    Republicans again are shooting themselves in the foot. When one looks at membership in firefighter and police associations, the majority of their members are Republican, many are NRA members and support hunting, among other items and they and their families tend to vote regularly. Push them away with needless regulations does nothing for the Republican brand.

    I’d rather see the Legislature working overtime on jobs, job creation, fair taxation and how to better fund our public educations system that causes more jobs and industry to come to Arizona. We don’t need a state handgun, state tie or another state symbol. We need every waking hour of a Legislator spent on the critical economic issues at hand.

    Such bills may make some groups philosophically feel better, but in a state that is right to work, does not allow for public employee collective bargaining and its public safety employees, in particular, are largely Republican, where’s the issue?

  2. Paycheck deductions cost the taxpayers in what way? Why are things such as vehicle loans, IRA’s, etc. permissible for paycheck deduction yet union dues being deducted is some how magically a burden to the taxpayer while other similar things are not. What will cost the taxpayer more ($300k in Phoenix alone) is the cost of administering yearly written approvals by thousands of employees.

    When you read between the lines on all of the anti-labor bills it is very clear that none of them serve the taxpayer in any way as proponents contend. This is exactly the sort of petty, do nothing, hate-baiting nonsense we have grown to expect from Republicans in Arizona. This is also the primary reason former Republicans such as myself have distanced themselves from the party and registered independent.

    There are plenty more pressing issues in need of the legislatures attention than waging war for political purposes on the working men and women of Arizona.

  3. It appears respondents # 1 & # 2 are or were union members. I am anti-union for any public workers.

    For them to tell me how much I will pay in taxes to support their forced raises and benefits irritates me. And for them to tell the State that the State will do the unions accounting for them as well as pay members of that union to do union business on my tax dollar demonstrates the gall these union goons have.

    I support SB 1142 and it needs to pass.

  4. Frank, I am afraid your statements are severely inaccurate. Unions do not tell you how much you will pay in taxes nor do they procure “forced” raises. You may remember two years ago when unions led the way for City of Phoenix employees to break their own contracts and enact a series of voluntary pay cuts and furloughs (still in effect to this day) that played a large role in Phoenix being able to overcome its worst budget gap in history. Doesn’t sound very goonish to me.

    Moreover, taxpayers do not pay for union business the employees do. Release time is a negotiated portion of a labor contract that would have been part of a employees salary had they not elected to defer that money towards release time. I am also unsure as to how a simple paycheck deduction constitutes “doing the unions accounting for them” Car payments can be deducted from a paycheck but I certainly don’t hear anyone claiming that equates to doing a credit unions accounting for them.

    In answer to your question, yes I am a municipal union member and a proud one at that. This is likely the reason I am aware of how things really are as opposed to simply believing the large amount of rhetoric and misinformation that these bills are based upon. I urge you to do some research and learn the true facts. You might just find that the people who ensure you live in a safe and civilized society are anything but “goons”

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