Arizona Republicans this week released a bill that would essentially abolish public sector unions in their state, taking the high-profile union-busting bills of Wisconsin and Ohio one step further. A state Senate committee plans to vote on the measure today. As Arizona Channel 12 News’ Brahm Resnik explained, the bill would:
— Make it illegal for government bodies to collectively bargain with employee groups. Public safety unions would be included in the ban.
— End the practice of automatic payroll deductions for union dues.
— Ban compensation of public employees for union work.
Arizona’s state government already doesn’t bargain with unions, but local governments and school districts do, so the ban would ripple through every school, local police station, and firehouse. “The Republican majority has established themselves to be very much anti-employee,” said state Sen. David Lujan (D). “It’s just another strike at those who choose to be public service employees. Their voice is not valued.”
The legislation originated with the libertarian think tank the Goldwater Institute, which counts the Walton Foundation (the Waltons of the Walmart fortune) and the Charles Koch Foundation amongst its top donors.
The Arizona GOP, predictably, is blaming public sector unions for the state’s budget woes, with the bill’s Republican sponsor claiming that “taxpayers’ costs from public employee contracts negotiated by unions for pay and benefits burden taxpayers.” However, the facts don’t support that theory. In fact, North Carolina (a state without collective bargaining) is projected to have a 10 percent budget deficit for the 2013 fiscal year, compared to 3.5 percent for New York (more densely unionized than any other).
And, of course, unions have the added benefits of alleviating income inequality and pushing for important worker protections. Arizona Republicans, in fact, might want to learn a lesson from Ohio, as the Ohio GOP saw its union-busting law repealed via referendum following a strong public outcry.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund’s David Madland and Nick Bunker have also blown a hole in the theory that public sector unions are responsible for state budget woes: “According to our analysis of state government expenditures, total state employee compensation, including wages and benefits, has not increased as a share of total state budget expenditures over the past 20 years. In fact, it has slightly decreased.”