It was just last February that the nation was fixated on Madison, Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker’s budget and public employee union reforms made the Midwestern city ground zero for progressive and union activists. At the height of the demonstrations, there were approximately 100,000 protesters gathered in Madison. The massive protests were followed by recalls, faulty constitutional lawsuits and expensive judicial elections. Wisconsin was and continues to be a political zoo of epic proportions.
Now, Arizona Republicans are planning to drop the public employee reform hammer in a big way with help from the Goldwater Institute. On Wednesday the Arizona Senate Government Reform Committee discussed a package of bills that are intended to curb public employee union corruption. In addition to ending collective bargaining for public employee unions, the bills go even farther in limiting union power.
SB 1485 would prohibit government bodies from collectively bargaining with public employee unions.
SB 1487 would end the practice of automatic payroll deductions for union dues.
SB 1486 would ban the practice of compensating public employees for union work.
Coupled with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s plan to equalize the rights of private and public employees, these reforms represent the most far-reaching efforts to end union corruption in America.
As you can imagine, the union monopoly is extremely unhappy. Their supporters have wasted little time in raising the alarm. The Arizona Republic’s E.J. Montini was quick to draw his political hyperbole gun:
In order to be more precise and journalistically complete, I would have to point out that in addition to regular working people, Arizona lawmakers are waging war on children, on sick people, on poor people, on teachers and on unions.
The AFL-CIO blog is also quick to blow the “workers of the world unite” dog whistle:
These measures go even further than the union-stripping bills that enraged Wisconsinites last year and, unlike in Wisconsin, Arizona police and fire unions would not be exempted.
Conservatives and business groups in Arizona have been longing to dismantle public-sector unions for decades and are using the downturn in the state’s economy as an excuse to implement their anti-labor and anti-government agenda. Arizona has been a so-called right to work state since its inception and has one of the lowest percentages of unionized workers in the country already.
Arizona Republicans are expecting a fight — national labor will spend money, bring litigation and fight tooth and nail. But Arizona is not Wisconsin. Arizona is not the birthplace of modern progressive thought; it is the birthplace of conservative legend Barry Goldwater. Arizona Republicans not only control every branch of state government but also enjoy a super-majority in the state legislature and a voter registration advantage.
Right-to-work Arizona is, in short, very red. Arizona Republicans will get a fight all right, but a fight where Republicans are Manny Pacquiao and big labor is a slightly overweight teamster.
Thomas Grier is a third-year law student at The Ohio State University. A graduate of Arizona State University, Grier writes on constitutional law, politics and pro-growth policy.