Many observers would look at the Wisconsin uprising and think that the Republicans made a catastrophic mistake. They re-energized the opposition in the state, created a powerful grassroots machine, lost two state Senators through recall, and now their Governor faces a recall election. But that’s short-term thinking.
After fits and starts, and backed by a compliant Supreme Court, Republicans got the changes to public employee collective bargaining they wanted. Over time, this will decimate the public unions in Wisconsin unless Democrats can somehow change the law. And that saps away the funding strategy of Democrats, which makes it harder for them to regain power. In the long-term, picking that fight was a smart play, just as it was in Indiana and other states (Ohio excepted, because you have to know your rules, and the referendum that cancelled SB 5 really hurt Governor John Kasich’s career with no residual benefit).
So that’s the context for why Arizona wants to wade into this kind of an effort.
With a sweeping series of bills introduced Monday night in the state Senate, Republicans in Arizona hoped to make Wisconsin’s battle against public unions last year look like a lightweight sparring match.
The bills include a total ban on collective bargaining for Arizona’s public employees, including at the city and county levels. The move would outpace even the tough bargaining restrictions enacted in Wisconsin in 2011 that led to massive union protests and a Democratic effort to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
“At first glance, it looks like an all out assault on the right of workers to organize,” Senate Minority Leader David Schapira (D) told TPM on Tuesday. “And to me, that’s a serious problem.”
The Arizona set of laws would ban collective bargaining among all public employees, including police and firefighters (unlike Wisconsin, which exempted them). It would prohibit “dues check-off,” which allows unions to collect dues through a deduction from public worker paychecks. And it would stop the practice of “release time,” where unions can allow their members to do union work on paid government time.
Arizona is already a right-to-work state, so this would actually have less of an impact than in a strong union state like Ohio. But basically, this would stop public employees from being able to collectively bargain over pay and benefits. And there are no quorum rules or other measures to really stop determined Republicans, who control the legislature and the Governor’s mansion.
Arizona 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.
But if they cut off that key organized labor funding source for Democrats and basically disband public unions in the state (the stated goal of the author of the measure), perhaps they believe it will be worth it.