Bills to Change Public Unions

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Several bills that would make changes to public unions are making progress through the state legislature. Senator Rick Murphy, sponsor of the bills, and Senator Steve Gallardo will discuss the pros and cons of the bills.

Ted Simons: Also at the capitol, several bills that would make changes to public unions are moving through the legislature. The three bills would impact union paycheck deductions, compensation for union activities, and the prohibiting of government contract employees to participate in a work stoppage. Joining us now is state senator Rick Murphy, she sponsoring the bills. And speaking in opposition is senator Steve Gallardo. Good to see you both here. Thanks for joining us. Let's start with -- Let's go through these one, two, three. Prohibiting municipalities to pay for work outside the job. Why prohibit that?

Rick Murphy: Well, currently first of all, the Arizona constitution has a gift clause that prohibits gifts of public money without compensation and return or without consideration in return. So what is happening right now is union employees -- Union bosses negotiate into their contracts so-called release time. In other words they're released from their regular duties to do whatever for the unions. There's no tracking, there's no accountability, there's no documentation of what work they're doing. Some of it might be legitimate, who knows what the rest of it is. They're performing whatever they're doing on behalf of a private organization, not the state taxpayers who are paying the bill. The courts have already ruled that's unconstitutional, and that is continuing to move through that process.

Ted Simons: Why should public employees be paid to do work outside of the job?

Steve Gallardo: First of all, what we felt so far this legislative session and in previous sessions is an attack on workers. Instead of focusing on the priorities of the state of Arizona, we continue to push legislation that goes after hard working employees. Right now many of these organizations, these employee organization does have the ability to allow people to be on release time. Their single purpose is to make sure they settle any dispute between employees and supervisors, if anything, they're a big benefit to local government. There's a need for release time, without these types of employees, what you'll see are problems within offices and departments that will not be resolved. Their number one priority, resolving problems before they escalate to something even worse. What we need to do is focus on the priorities of Arizona, stop pushing these legislation that continues to die at the Arizona state senate. The senators have already spoken out on some of these labor bills. They do not want them, bipartisan Republicans and democrats have stood up and said no.

Rick Murphy: The other thing that's happening too, and this is in testimony from the people who are the ones negotiating the contracts. They're saying, well, it's not really costing any money, because the money that pays for the release time is just part of the pot of salary money and we're just using it for that instead of salary increases. Problem with that is, this is a right to work state. And what they're doing is, they're negotiating a way pay increases that could go to nonunion workers in the same category in order to segregate that as release time for the people who are in the union. There are exemptions in the bill for, say, police officers who are representing other officers when there's, you know, disciplinary or an investigation or something like that. But most things are not truly work related that they're doing.

Steve Gallardo: First of all, what we're dealing with are red herrings. The fact is we have members of the legislature that do not like the associations these employees are belonging to. They don't like them. They don't like where they stand, they don't like the issues, the candidates they support. What do they do? They're passing legislation that's going after them at every direction. We need to focus on the priorities. Let's stop playing fights with these local associations that are representing employees. Let's focus on the priorities. They continue to try to find reasons to go after them. These particular employees that are on release time serve a valuable effort. They resolve problems before they become bigger problems.

Ted Simons: Have there been -- Critics will say unions have been abusing this release time. I've heard everything from naps to playing golf to everything in between. Is that a valid argument?

Steve Gallardo: No. What are these cases? I have not seen any of these reported cases. They play a valid part. They're there working to resolve problems. You talk to any governmental agency, you talk to any employee on release time, they will tell you what they do. They tell you they serve a valid purpose, they resolve these problems. Let's focus on the priorities of Arizona, let's stop picking fights with organized employee unions.

Ted Simons: a solution in search of the problem?

Rick Murphy: No, absolutely not. The fact of the matter is, we don't know what they're doing. Yeah, some of what they're dog may be legitimate, but there's no requirement for logs, there's no requirement for record keeping, and I suspect if we put that on the floor that would probably fail too. Because the same people who say that everything they're doing is great would probably vote against --

Steve Gallardo: again, no proof there's ever any wrongdoing. The fact is --

Rick Murphy: You would be in fair of a log?

Steve Gallardo: The fact is, the fact is they're not happy with the association. They don't like the employees -- They don't like the candidates and the issues --

Rick Murphy: I can't speak to other --

Steve Gallardo: they haven't -- They have no evidence of any abuse. He gist told you. There's no evidence of abuse. So why are we doing it? Why are we focusing on the priority of Arizona? Why are we continuing to go after an association without any proof?

Ted Simons: Last point on this. If release time is negotiated by the municipalities, if the municipalities don't like it, they don't have to put it into the contract, do they?

Rick Murphy: The fact of the matter is, a lot of these times people on these councils are recruited and elected with a lot of help from the very unions they negotiate with. The fact of the matter is, in many of these cases, nobody is standing up for the taxpayer. So I'm wondering, would you be in favor of a log of a requirement to keep a log of what they do on release time? If there's nothing bad going on, there should be no problem with keeping a log.

Steve Gallardo: The fact of the matter is, this is a local control issue that's negotiated by elected officials that are elected by the people in their particular jurisdiction. The fact of the matter is, there's no proof of any abuse. The fact of the matter is, that we have legislator who's continue to want to target these employee organizations because they don't like them. We have to focus on the priorities in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Let's focus on paycheck deductions. Why should that be allowed?

Steve Gallardo: Payroll deduction? Again, it is the right for an employee within the particular jurisdiction to belong to an association. Right now what they're doing -- They're selecting it. It isn't something that's mandatory. We're a right to work state. These employees are not tied down and forced to belong to an association. I'm a dues paying member to a state employee. It's a right that I have. I can select and I want to be part of that organization. What's wrong with that? Why are we telling employees they cannot belong to an association?

Ted Simons: What are you telling employees?

Rick Murphy: That's not what the bill says. Personally I don't think the government, the taxpayer funded payroll structure should be taking out union dues for a private organization. But setting that aside, that's not even what the bill does. The bill doesn't even go that far. All the bill says is, you have to reup your authorization once a year. That's all it says. And the fact of the matter is, I'm a state senator. I have to reup my authorization for my benefits, for my health insurance, for my (k), not (k), the flexible spending account, for the medical. I have to reup that every year or it stops. So why should union dues be any different?

Ted Simons: Why not check the box every year?

Steve Gallardo: First of all, I have that right, I have the right to check that box, I have the right to withdraw from an employees union. If he doesn't want to belong he doesn't have to. The fact is, there is a process already in place that allows me to withdraw, if I decide I don't want to be part of the association. The only thing we're attempting to do here unfortunately is to make it harder for employees to be part of an association. That's all we're doing.

Ted Simons: Are workers demanding this?

Steve Gallardo: No. No.

Rick Murphy: There are --

Steve Gallardo: who's asking for it?

Rick Murphy: There's a lot of people --

Steve Gallardo: this isn't the employees. Who's asking --

Rick Murphy: it's not that onerous after thing to do if we require it for people's health benefits, if we require it for things like flexible spending accounts, just to reaffirm, yes, this is what I remember that my deductions are and I want it to continue and my circumstances haven't changed or maybe they have and I make a change, just to reauthorize and reaffirm that once a year is not that onerous. I don't see what the problem is.

Ted Simons: Too much to ask?

Steve Gallardo: Again, who's asking for this change? Are our doors being beaten down by employees who are sake we want this option? No. It's a small group of legislator who's are not happy with the association. So they're pushing legislation to make it harder for them to operate. The cities and towns are not asking for it, local governments are not asking for it, employees are not asking for it. The only ones asking for it are a small group of legislators who are not happy with the associations.

Ted Simons: One more thing you're asking for is prohibiting a work stoppage, a strike by public contract workers. Correct?

Rick Murphy: Right. There's a third bill, senate bill that would prohibit work stoppages by contracted employees contracted with a municipality or state. The predominant area where I've seen that is bus drivers, light rail operators, things of that nature. The fact is, we keep hearing about how this is terrible for the poor and for the working class. The working class are the ones who primarily use that public transportation, and they're held hostage every time there's a strike or threatened strike, and what is it for? They want more money from the people they're serving and they're going to hold them hostage until they get it. These people can't even get to work when that happens.

Steve Gallardo: Local control. Again. We have jurisdictions that are elected by the people of the particular cities and towns and counties, they're elected to oversee and run their agencies and their cities. Why are we as legislators going into a city telling them how to run their cities? If there's a work stoppage, that's between the association and that elected body to resolve that. Again, why are we interfering into a local control issue? This should be dealt with on the local level, not the state legislature.

Ted Simons: Bottom line argument I'm trying -- Basically public employee unions don't seem to be good for much of anything from a certain vantage point. Is that legitimate criticism?

Rick Murphy: I think it is, none of Monday Night Football bills have ever and I don't expect they will ever have anything to do with private sector unions. Because that's not the focus here. I believe in right to association, and if people want to associate that way, that's fine. If the private sector and the free market will take care of that. But the public sector is different. There are no profits, there is no sharing going on here. It's just taxpayer dollars and Frankly, there seems like there's always more to kidnap into and when you're electing the people you negotiate with, there's just not enough accountability.

Ted Simons: Public employees, a different beast.

Steve Gallardo: Again, our first responders, our firefighters, our law enforcement officers, are hard working individuals. There is no problem right now with how they are running their organizations, there's no problem right now with their work -- Network with the local government. Again, we're not happy with the associations, we're not happy with the candidates they're endorsing or the issues they stand for so we're going after them.

Ted Simons: We got to stop it right there.

Rick Murphy: Not even time for a quick quote.

Ted Simons: How quick can you make it?

Rick Murphy: It is impossible to collectively bargain with the government. President of the AFL/CIO in said that. Government unions are different. Even the founders of unions knew that.

Ted Simons: Quick response.

Steve Gallardo: Again, there's no problem right now with our associations, our hard working firefighters and law enforcement officers are doing a great job. Let's keep commending them.

Ted Simons: We will stop it right there. Gentlemen, good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Rick Murphy:Senator, Bills Sponsor; Steve Gallardo:Senator;

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