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Union foes prepare to take fight to ballot

Unable to get any traction at the state Capitol, union foes are preparing to bring the fight to the 2014 ballot and let Arizonans decide whether automatic paycheck deductions should be banned.

A group called Protect Employee Paychecks recently filed an initiative with the Secretary of State. Unlike the proposals that are stuck in the Legislature, the initiative would affect both public and private unions.

The measure seeks to preclude paycheck deductions for “political purposes” unless they’re expressly authorized by workers at least once every year.

“The idea is to prevent people from having to pay in to something that they don’t approve of,” said Roy Miller, who is chairing the campaign.

The initiative defines political purposes as using funds for contributions to a candidate, expenditures for or against a candidate, and contributions to political parties, referenda or initiatives, or to support or oppose legislation.

Miller said a national group has promised to provide money for the campaign.

“[We can raise] at least enough to get it on the ballot,” he told the Arizona Capitol Times.

In 2010, Miller chaired a successful campaign to amend the state Constitution to guarantee the fundamental right to vote by secret ballot during union organization. That campaign collected roughly $810,000, and more than $760,000 of which came from the Nevada-based Save Our Secret Ballot, Inc.

Miller said Save Our Secret Ballot has promised a “substantial commitment” to get the campaign going.

But the Goldwater Institute, which is pushing for similar legislation at the Capitol, appears to be distancing itself from the initiative.

“We are still working with state lawmakers to help pass paycheck protection this session through legislative means and it remains a priority issue. As an organization, we do not circulate initiative petitions,” said Starlee Rhoades, the Goldwater Institute’s executive vice president.

The campaign needs 259,213 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Initiatives are costly, since the proven way to get them on the ballot is to pay for signature collectors. That’s not to mention the cost of the actual campaign to pass it.

Already, some Republicans have privately voiced their wariness at the proposal, fearing its political ramifications in a gubernatorial election year.

One Republican lawmaker said it would give Democrats more motivation to show up at the polls, potentially endangering Republican candidates in competitive districts.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said the measure would be a boon to Democrats if it qualified for the ballot.

He surmised that funds from national labor groups would descend on Arizona to fight the initiative, and his party would stand gain from all that spending.

“If this ever got on the ballot, can you imagine the amount of money nationally that will be poured into the state of Arizona to defeat this?” he said. “I’m starting to like it.”

Gallardo also surmised that the measure would put Republican candidates in a tough spot by forcing them to either side with the anti-union crowd or with the unions, whose endorsement, especially those by fire and police groups, they sometime seek.

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