Arizona Anti-Union Bills Fueled By Americans For Prosperity, Koch Brothers Support

In Arizona, Republican efforts to dismantle public unions took another step forward this week.

On Tuesday, the state Senate passed a bill banning the practice of "release time," by which government employees are paid to do union work. The bill would affect a wide array of union workers, including firefighters, police officers, and construction workers, who may be called on by the government for assistance in the case of an emergency.

Passage of the measure, which is one of four anti-union bills proposed by Republican lawmakers, came as something of a surprise to union officials. Two weeks ago, the state Senate passed one of the measures, which would make it illegal for union dues to be automatically deducted from workers paychecks, making it more difficult for unions and other labor organizations to receive funding. The other three stalled in the Senate, however, and appeared to be dead.

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group backed by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, called on Arizona supporters to pressure lawmakers to pass the reforms, however, leading to Tuesday's quick vote on the release time ban.

“Please help us rein in government spending and put a leash on Arizona’s powerful government unions,” the organization’s Arizona director, Tom Jenney wrote to supporters on the Americans for Prosperity website.

The Koch brothers have also played a role in eroding union rights in another state, Wisconsin, where Americans for Prosperity supported Gov. Scott Walker (R) in his battle last year to cut pensions and health care benefits and eliminate collective bargaining.

Just a few weeks ago the Koch brothers dished out $700,000 on television ads in support of Walker, who is currently facing a recall effort in response to the laws he enacted last year. If successful the recall elections could force Walker out of office, making him only the third governor in U.S. history to lose his job to recalls.

In Arizona, the AFL-CIO is planning a large protest on Thursday at the Arizona Capital, according to Talking Points Memo. Rebekah Friend, head of the union’s Arizona office told TPM they are busing supporters in from around the country, with 700 people already confirmed for the event and more expected to attend.