Arizona Lawmakers to Consider Sweeping Union Reforms

| January 29 2013

On the heels of Michigan legislators passing right-to-work reforms last month, lawmakers in Arizona will go several steps further this week to curb the abuses of Big Labor.

On Tuesday, members of the Arizona State House of Representatives will consider two measures drafted by the Goldwater Institute to restore the balance of power between government and public-sector unions.

The first measure would require that all collective bargaining negotiations occur in public.

Secret negotiations over employment contracts between union representatives and government officials are the norm in nearly every state in the union.

This keeps taxpayers in the dark about how inflated compensation packages are awarded and even stops journalists from knowing what goes on behind closed doors.

When secrecy in negotiations is combined with state laws requiring governments to engage in collective bargaining, unions can exert tremendous political pressure on government officials; and both unions and government officials are able to hide from any meaningful oversight.

Lack of transparency in negotiations leads to routine awarding of inflated compensation and benefits packages that far exceed typical private-sector employment terms. In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that state and local government employees make nearly 43 percent more per hour on average in total compensation than private-sector workers.

The legislation (HB2330) would make all collective bargaining negotiations subject to open meetings law. Lawmakers in other states, including neighboring Utah, are also considering this reform in 2013.

“It’s hard to argue that there is good reason for allowing unions to use closed-door negotiations to increase the tab that taxpayers pay for government workers’ salaries and benefits,” said Nick Dranias, the Institute’s director of policy development. “It’s time to disinfect collective bargaining with the sunlight of transparency.”

The second reform, a ban on the practice of “release time,” would prevent government employees from being “released” from their jobs to do union work while collecting government salary and benefits.

Uncovered by a 2011 Goldwater Institute investigative report, “release time” is a common practice in labor contracts across America, costing taxpayers millions annually. Unions can use “release time” hours to lobby statehouses, engage in political activism, and a slew of other activities not related to employees’ core job functions.

Big Labor uses “release time” to evade right-to-work laws, because it forces non-union members to subsidize union activities in employment contracts.
Lawmakers in other states, including Indiana are also considering enacting this ban on release time in 2013.

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