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6 Things You Should Know About Arizona's Worse-Than-Wisconsin's Attack on Public Workers

Jan Brewer has decided to get in on the union-busting action, introducing a bill that makes Ohio's and Wisconsin's attacks on public workers look mild.
 
 
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Not content to let Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich get all the fame (and recall elections, and ballot referenda) for their attempts to curtail union workers' rights, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators have jumped into the fray and proposed their own anti-union bills in recent weeks.

Along with South Carolina's Nikki Haley and Indiana's Mitch Daniels, Arizona's Jan Brewer, not content with making her state the least friendly to immigrants and people of color, has decided to get in on the union-busting action as well, introducing a bill that makes Walker's and Kasich's attacks on public workers look mild.

Brewer, the Republican left in charge of the state after President Obama tapped Janet Napolitano to be his Secretary of Homeland Security, has been planning anti-union moves since last spring with the backing of the Goldwater Institute. (Named for Barry Goldwater, the think tank pushes for “freedom” and “prosperity”--as long as it's not the freedom or prosperity of state workers.)

It's not just Arizona's right-wingers who are pushing Brewer to beat up on unions-- John Nichols at the Nation notes that Walker may have had a hand in helping push an anti-labor agenda, and  the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is involved. In a speech to the right-wing policy shop behind many of these anti-union bills last year, Brewer complained about her inability to fire government employees and supervisors' difficulty “disciplining” workers.

This week, the Republicans in the state legislature introduced moves that would make collective bargaining for public workers completely illegal. Here, we break down what you need to know about Brewer and the GOP's anti-worker agenda.

1. The bill would go further than Wisconsin's, making collective bargaining completely illegal for government workers.

SB 1485, the first of the bills to take on union rights, declares that no state agency can recognize any union as a bargaining agent for any public officer or worker, collectively bargain with any union, or meet and confer with any union for the purpose of discussing bargaining.

While Wisconsin's law bans public employees from bargaining over everything but very small wage increases, Arizona's bill bans collective bargaining outright and refuses to recognize any union as a bargaining unit. Existing contracts with unions will be honored, but not be renewed if this bill passes.

2. Arizona includes police and firefighters in its ban.

Scott Walker famously exempted public safety workers—police officers and firefighters—from his attacks on union workers, but many of them joined the protests anyway. In Ohio, John Kasich's bill, overturned by his constituents this past November, included the police and firefighters in its elimination of bargaining rights. Now Brewer and her legislative compatriots have decided that police and firefighters should lose their bargaining rights as well.

Arizona, as Dave Dayen at FireDogLake noted, “is changing to a purple state because of an extreme legislature which first demonized immigrants, in what could start a backlash among the Hispanic community. Now, flush with that success, the legislature will demonize police and firefighters. It’s not exactly a textbook strategy for a lasting majority.”

Walker's attempt to divide and conquer public sector unions by attacking some and not others didn't work; perhaps that's why later attempts at similar bills didn't bother giving special treatment to public safety workers. But as we saw in Ohio, the support of the traditionally conservative police and firefighters' unions helped unite the state's voters and bring out record numbers to vote down the bill. Arizona seems to be asking for trouble by targeting police and firefighters with this bill.