The country’s anti-union forces have set their sights on Arizona this month, where state legislators are considering four anti-union bills that target the collective bargaining rights of public workers. The bills, backed by the Koch brothers, are modeled in the spirit of Wisconsin’s attack on public workers last March. The state senate passed the first of the four measures in mid-February, and a second measure was approved by the senate just last week. The first bill would make it impossible for unions to deduct dues automatically from members’ paychecks, and the second would prohibit government employees from performing union work while they’re on the clock. Both of these practices are important tools for the labor movement, facilitating dues payments and ensuring that employees have time at work to address labor concerns.
In late February, public hearings were held on the bills in Phoenix, and members of the community gathered to express their indignation. Joe Diggs, a Phoenix labor representative, described the bills this way:
“These bills are not an accident. They are delivered by people on marching orders from people we did not elect. This is an overarching strategy by a political movement trying to drive unions out of existence.”
On March 1st, more than 1,000 activists converged on the state capitol to oppose the legislation. Local union leaders addressed the crowds from unions including the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, United Auto Workers, Communications Workers of America (CWA), and UNITEHERE. A video of this rally can be viewed here.
Even before this proposal, Arizona was in no danger of resembling a union-friendly state. An anti-union environment has long existed in this “right to work” state which ranks 13th from the bottom in terms of union membership and representation. The level of worker exploitation is intensified by infamous Sherriff Arpaio’s persistent raids on the low-wage work force. Whether or not these raids target union jobs, they contribute to a climate of fear that leaves corporations squarely in control of labor relations.
Similar to Ohio’s attack on public employees last year, Arizona’s proposed legislation goes farther than the Wisconsin bill by targeting all public employees including police and firefighters. Luckily for union supporters, Ohio voters repealed the offensive legislation by a margin of 61% to 39%, and Governor Walker’s recall election is scheduled for early June of this year.