The ‘Kochtopus’ and Arizona GOP declare war on public employees

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The Goldwater Institute, a charter member of the billionaire bastard Koch brother's web of corporate funded far-right think tanks and political action committees known as the "Kochtopus," has its Tea-Publican stooges in the Arizona legislature pursuing its anti-union, anti-public employee bills in committee this week.

Union-fightThe Goldwater Institute authored HB2330, a proposal to open up collective bargaining between a representative of a public body and a representative of an employee organization about salaries and benefits subject to the open meeting laws. It would also prevent local government bodies from going into executive session to discuss these issues and would require all discussions to be recorded.

In other words, the Goldwater Institute and other secretly funded corporate lobbyists of the "Kochtopus" want to insert themselves into contract negotiations between public bodies and employee organizations through open meeting laws (employee contracts are done in executive session and are exempt from open meeting laws).

And why should these self-styled government watchdogs secretly funded corporate lobbyists have a seat at the negotiation table you ask? Good question. They shouldn't. This is over-reaching by anti-union, anti-public employee corporate lobbyists.

I have to agree with Roman Ulman from AFSCME. “If you’re going to have open meeting laws, then I want open meeting laws for any time the Goldwater Institute even has a discussion with any of our representatives. I want that to be pre-posted.”

The Goldwater Institute is also behind a renewed attempt to eliminate automatic payroll deductions for union dues, which these wingnuts like to call "paycheck protection" (as if they give a damn about your paycheck). The Senate version is SB1142 and the House version is HB2438.

The Senate bill, like last year’s bill, gets rid of an exemption for public safety employees, i.e., police, fire and other public safety unions. The reason for this is an Arizona Supreme Court case which held a previous statute unconstitutionally "carved out" public safety employees for special treatment from all other government emmployees. Now the Goldwater Institute is ready to screw everybody equally.

A third measure drafted by the Goldwater Institute, HB2343, attacks union "release time." The bill would prohibit a public employer from compensating employees for union activities and would prevent employees from utilizing vacation pay for union activities, including salary negotiations and collective bargaining. It would also keep union members from being able to use paid vacation time to participate in political rallies and other activities at the Legislature.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti (R-Scottsdale) sponsored her own bill, HB2026, which would require local governments to vote to authorize payroll deductions for union dues by Dec. 31, 2013. If local governments do not vote by the deadline, they lose the ability to automatically deduct dues.

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reported on the results of the committee hearing held on Tuesday. Anti-union bills meet mixed fate in House committee:

A trio of union-busting bills considered by a House committee on Tuesday met a varied fate: One passed, one was tabled to stave off a likely failure, and another was killed but later resurrected and approved when two Republican lawmakers changed their minds.

Republican Reps. Doug Coleman of Apache Junction and Sonny Borrelli of Lake Havasu City changed their votes in the final moments of the more than four-hour House Government Committee meeting.

The switch came in the second round of voting on House Bill 2330, when Democratic Rep. Martin Quezada of Phoenix made a motion for an immediate reconsideration of the bill, which Democrats had joined forces with the two Republicans to defeat earlier.

[House Bill 2330] would require labor negotiations between a public employee union and a public body to be subject to the open meetings and open records laws. Public safety union leaders showed up in large numbers to oppose the bill, saying negotiations are done behind closed doors for a reason, and the product of those negotiations are adopted in full compliance of the open meetings and open records laws.

Though the bipartisan coalition voted the bill down, it had been kept on a kind of life support by the committee chair, Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti of Scottsdale. Ugenti supports the measure, but voted against it to invoke reconsideration, a procedural move that allows her to bring the measure back for a vote later.

But when Quezada moved at the end of the meeting to reconsider the bill immediately, thinking he could kill it once and for all, Ugenti called the committee into recess and the Republicans huddled behind closed doors.

When Ugenti gaveled the committee back in and took a second vote, Borrelli and Coleman changed their minds, and the measure passed on a party line vote.

Borrelli had strongly opposed the measure on the first vote, saying he didn’t think the process lacked transparency and he didn’t want to pass on mandates to cities and counties about how they must negotiate their labor contracts.

“If (citizens) don’t like the way city councils are doing things, they need to take it up with that city council,” he said. “I think us micromanaging and painting (rules) with a big wide brush for every city and county in Arizona is, I’m sorry, against my (small) government principals,” he said.

After the meeting, Borrelli said he switched his vote because he didn’t like the political maneuvering Quezada used to force a new vote, and said he plans to oppose the bill when it reaches the floor.

“I don’t think it’s going to pass anyway. I don’t think it will have the support of the House,” he said.

Coleman opposed the bill on the initial vote because, as a former Apache Junction mayor and councilmember, he said he realized the importance of one-on-one communication between the elected officials and the labor unions to get anything done. He said those negotiations didn’t impair transparency because in the end, the council had to take an open vote on any proposal.

He was also concerned that it would be an unfunded mandate on small local governments, which would have to buy new equipment to record the open meetings.

After the second vote, Coleman said he still had issues with the bill, but he changed his mind because the sponsor, Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro of Avondale, convinced him that his concerns would be addressed in later amendments.

* * *

From the first of the three union bills the committee heard, there were signs Borrelli and Coleman weren’t as staunch in their opposition to public employee unions as the other four Republicans on the nine-member panel.

The first bill the committee considered, House Bill 2026, would require municipal councils, county boards and fire district boards to hold a vote by the end of this year on whether to authorize automatic paycheck deductions for public employee union dues. If those political entities failed to vote, they would be prohibited from withholding a portion of their workers’ salary for union dues. If they voted to ban the practice, councils could revisit their decision at any time.

* * *

But union representatives who packed the room said that local governments can vote on the issue anytime they want, and forcing them to vote on the matter isn’t the proper role of the state. They pointed out that organizations like United Way take out automatic paycheck deductions, and asked why the Legislature wasn’t trying to stop that.

Mike Gardner executive director of the Professional Firefighters Association of Arizona and a former Arizona lawmaker, argued against the bill, saying that the government has no role telling people what they can spend their hard-earned money on, even if it’s union dues.

“As a former member of this body, as a Republican, and I consider myself a Ronald Reagan Republican, I view this as a real affront to the proper role of government,” he said.

Borrelli, a former city council member, said they didn’t like the state mandating that cities vote on the issue, and he was especially concerned that the bill targeted police and firemen. He voted for the bill, but said he reserved the right to vote no on the floor.

* * *

The final measure the House Government Committee heard was House Bill 2343, which would prohibit compensating government workers while they performed union activities, known as union release time.

* * *

Jim Mann, executive director of the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, said that lawmakers are mistaken about what union members are doing on their release time. He said that union representatives assist officers through critical processes like use of force investigations.

In the end, that bill didn’t receive a vote. After Borrelli and Coleman appeared likely to vote against the measure, Petersen decided to table the bill and bring it back for a vote another day.

So, the final tally is: HB2343 was tabled by the committee; HB2330 was killed but later resurrected and passed the committee when two Republican lawmakers changed their minds; and HB2026 passed the committee.

These bills appear to have weak support. it is going to take your active lobbying of your state legislators to defeat these Goldwater Institute anti-union, anti-public employee bills, as you did successfully last year in defeating a package of four similar bills from the Goldwater Institute. You know what to do.

It is also time that the Arizona legislature take up Secretary of State Ken Bennett's recommendation that the Goldwater Institute be required to register its employees as registered lobbyists and to file financial disclosure statements detailing their lobbyist activities. It should also enact new disclosure laws requiring these secretly funded corporate front groups of the "Kochtopus" to disclose how they are funded and who is paying for them.

h/t graphic Arizona Capitol Times

Comments are closed.