AZ bill to silence workers fails in bipartisan defeat; other states move similar bills


by Félix Pérez

A bipartisan group of Arizona state senators, standing firm against an assault on the right of educators, firefighters, police officers and other public service workers to advocate on behalf of students and communities, defeated a bill last week that would have prohibited workers from voluntarily having their union dues deducted from their paychecks.

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The legislation is similar to a wave of “payroll deduction” bills in various stages currently in at least 12 state legislatures — Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

The bills have striking similarities to model legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a powerful and secretive organization of corporate leaders and state legislators that churns out legislative language to rewrite state laws so that they advance corporate interests.

High school English teacher Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, applauded the lawmakers’ decision to steer away from politically motivated distractions that have nothing to do with moving the state forward in educating students or creating jobs.

In a state facing challenges like rebuilding our economy and implementing the new common core standards, it is refreshing that there is bipartisan support for returning decisions to our local communities rather than pushing through ALEC’s divisive agenda, said Morrill.

Four Republican votes against the Arizona bill were critical to its defeat. Among those Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues in the 17-12 vote was Senate Majority Leader John McComish of Phoenix. “I don’t think this is the business of the state of Arizona. Rather, it’s an issue between local governments and their employee unions,” said McComish.

Andrew Morrill
           Andrew Morrill

Another key voice that joined in the bipartisan majority was that of Republican Senator Rich Crandall, who stated, “The people of Arizona have elected us to move forward with big ideas. There’s a lot of small, controversial stuff that doesn’t do anything. . . Let’s focus on things that really matter to the people of Arizona.”

House Speaker Andy Tobin, also a Republican, has said he will not bring any anti-union bill to the House floor for a vote unless it first passed the Senate. Tobin has held fast despite pressure from Arizona’s Republican congressional delegation and Tea Party .

Opponents of payroll deduction say the legislation, sponsored by right-wing politicians and their corporate funders, interferes in local control and does nothing to create jobs for the middle class. The intent, they say, is to undermine the organizations workers rely on to stand up for students and communities and to do away with collective bargaining altogether.

The legislature passed a bill barring the deductions in 2011, but the bill excluded police and fire fighters. The law was thrown out by a federal court. Last year, a measure that didn’t exempt public safety personnel passed the Senate but died in the House.

Reader Comments

  1. Even though the Arizona Education Association won the battle in court to allow payroll deduction of union dues, our membership was gutted by the year that it was not allowed. It is a hard, slow battle getting each person back on payroll deduction. After so many years of frozen salaries, teachers must budget every penny. Anti-education legislation here is so powerful and well funded, is is increasingly difficult to hold our heads up. Only the idealism and will of educators and support personnel who always “do the right thing” can help us survive the strangle hold of ALEC funded legislation.

    1. If you think that’s scary, take a long hard look at who is behind the Race To The Top initiative and all that is attached to it. In New York, in order to “win” RTTT funding, NY had to promise to increase the number of charter schools in order to promote “competition” in order “to improve outcomes” (e.g. standardized test results). The number of charter schools was promised to increase by 130% to qualify for the money.The measure of success would rest primarily upon standardized test results. The test is created by a publishing company,Pearson. That same company has created new textbooks that support the new Common Core Curriculum Standards adopted by most of the country due to political pressure. That very same company’s consultants are being hired to run these charter schools. Can you say conflict of interest? This all boils down to multi-million dollar corporate interests.

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