The fight over union rights may be headed to a new battleground in Arizona, as the state's Republican legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer (R) are gearing up to push a full slate of anti-union legislation targeting public workers.
Brahm Resnik of the Arizona Republic writes that the package of legislation is more extensive than similar efforts in Wisconsin, which last year ground the Badger State's legislature to a halt and eventually spurred a highly popular recall election drive against its Republican governor, Scott Walker, and other state lawmakers.
Resnik provides the details on what the Arizona proposals are intended to do:
--Make it illegal for government bodies to collectively bargain with employee groups. Public safety unions would be included in the ban.
--End the practice of automatic payroll deductions for union dues.
--Ban compensation of public employees for union work.
Brewer has also announced plans to strip civil-service protections for state employees, making it easier to fire public workers.
"Our current system would not be tolerated by any business in this country," she told the American Legislative Exchange Council at a policy conference in December. "It's much better if we have an employment process and policies that works more like the private sector so that you get rewarded if you're a good worker. The way that it is today, you don't get rewarded. There's no incentive."
Brewer has reportedly been pursuing the measure since mid-2011, when she asked legislators to take up her proposal, but submitted her request too close to the end of the legislative session.
The package of bills is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Government Reform Committee, Resnik reports.
Arizona is no stranger to legislative conflict. In 2010, the state pioneered a controversial immigration enforcement law, Senate Bill 1070, which has sparked countless legal challenges and civil disputes. The legislation, which has since been followed by similar measures in a number of other states, will be heard by the Supreme Court later this year.
Russell Pearce, who, as Arizona State Senate president helped draw up the blueprints for SB 1070, was ousted by a Republican challenger last year in a recall election. The group behind that successful effort has since announced that it is looking into potentially mounting a similar campaign against Brewer.
With the potential culmination of conflicts over both union rights and immigration enforcement -- two of the most controversial issues at play on the state level -- Arizona could well become ground zero for the conservative agenda, as well as the focus for the inevitable pushback from those who oppose the measures.