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Collective bargaining debate

It may have passionate allies at the state Capitol, but the Goldwater Institute is so far failing to advance the centerpiece of its anti-union agenda: ending public employees’ ability to negotiate over salary and benefits.

The proposal to eliminate collective bargaining has stalled in the Senate. And as lawmakers start wrapping up their work this session, it’s unlikely the proposal will advance any further than getting the nod of a panel of lawmakers.

Instead, only the proposals to ban automatic salary deductions for union dues unless employees expressly authorize them each year and to prohibit compensation while they’re doing union activities that are advancing. And even then, it’s unclear whether they have sufficient support in the House.

The failure of the measure to end collective bargaining to even reach the floor for a debate reaffirms one truth about lawmaking in Arizona: The process encourages big ideas, but dissuades dramatic and sudden changes. It works best when advocates seek small victories, not monumental triumphs.

Indeed, Arizona’s legislative process often blunts the rough edges of a proposed legislation so a law, in theory, enters society not as a sharp sword that wounds. Former Senate President Bob Burns aptly described the process as like moving an airplane on the tarmac – it can’t be hurried, and it won’t move too fast.

The most successful advocates know this and that’s why they’re willing to wait. Lawmaking is a battle of wills — and the advocate who is willing to toil for years eventually wins. The Goldwater Institute made a big splash when it unveiled its anti-union agenda, but it looks it won’t achieve its grand goal of making unions irrelevant this year.

And it may have to aim smaller next time or risk getting rebuffed — again. Fortunately for the group, it has the luxury of time and can afford to play the long game, so don’t be surprised to see the organization take what it can get for the time being and continue to push for broader changes in the years to come.

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