(The Center Square) – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a first-in-the-nation law banning public entities from paying workers to conduct union politicking.
Ducey signed the Release Time Reform Act. The new law bans any unit of government in the state from entering into a contract that allows “paid release time” or union workers advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate. It also bans them from lobbying or advocating for or against any legislation, ordinance or ballot initiative.
The new law does not affect any existing labor contracts.
In the Goldwater Institute’s 2020 report Money for Nothing, the nonprofit found government workers across the country conducting union work while drawing pay from a taxpayer-funded entity. Some employees would devote all of their time to union work while paid via their government employer, the report found.
“Public funds should advance the public’s interest, not the political and lobbying activities of private labor unions,” Goldwater Institute President and CEO Victor Riches said. “This law will ensure that tax dollars cannot be used to pay government workers to lobby and engage in political activities for labor unions instead of working for the public.”
The City of Phoenix paid 67,511 hours of paid union release time in 2020, resulting in $3.7 million in wages. The report noted release time pay attributed to a worker’s pension, meaning the wages add to annual retirement costs for the city. The city contracts with seven different unions allowed for up to six full-time release positions, including other part-time work positions funded by taxpayers.
A city representative stated the government’s opposition to Senate Bill 1166 but did not speak against it in committee hearings.
The city did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The Goldwater report found the federal government allows up to 3.6 million hours of release time annually. The nonprofit tallied the taxpayer cost at $177 million.