Friday, March 15, 2013

A message to GOP PCs from your firefighters

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Dear Republican PC:

As a precinct committeeman for the Arizona Republican Party, you're in a unique position to pass along accurate and relevant information to voters and your fellow party leaders. That's why I'm writing to you. Our organization, which represents more than 6,500 fire fighters in the State of Arizona, is deeply concerned about the misinformation being circulated about a number of bills before the Arizona Legislature. My goal is to give you the facts, in hopes you will pass along this information to your fellow Republicans.

The bills in question all will impose severe restrictions on organizations like the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona. One bill seems to assume that employees can be compelled to join a union. That is absolutely not the case.
Because Arizona is a "right to work" state, membership in a union is completely voluntary. The Arizona Constitution is very clear on this point:

Right to work or employment without membership in labor organization
No person shall be denied the opportunity to obtain or retain employment because of non-membership in a labor organization, nor shall the State or any subdivision thereof, or any corporation, individual or association of any kind enter into any agreement, written or oral, which excludes any person from employment or continuation of employment because of non-membership in a labor organization.

The same voluntary status goes for a member's political activity and political donations. Union members elect their leadership. In turn, those leaders may ask members to join a PAC fund or be politically active.
Everything a union member does is voluntary. Every member joins the association individually and voluntarily. Any member can quit and stop paying dues at any time. They don't even have to tell the union when they quit; they can simply have their payroll deduction stopped at any time with a word to a clerk. If union members do not like what leadership does, politically or otherwise, members can vote their leaders out of office, just like Arizona voters do with elected officials.

In a nutshell, union members can join at any time and quit at any time. The Arizona Revised Statutes are clear on the voluntary nature of political activities:
16-921.Unlawful contributions by corporations and labor organizations from a fund; procedures; definitions
A. It is unlawful under any fund established by a corporation or labor organization pursuant to section 16-920, subsection A, paragraph 3:
1. For such a fund to make a contribution or expenditure by utilizing money or anything of value secured by physical force, job discrimination, financial reprisals or the threat of force, job discrimination or financial reprisal or by dues, fees or other monies required as a condition of membership in a labor organization or as a condition of employment or by monies obtained in any commercial transaction.
2. For any person soliciting an employee for a contribution to such a fund to fail to inform such employee of the political purposes of such fund at the time of such solicitation.
3. For any person soliciting an employee for a contribution to such a fund to fail to inform such employee, at the time of such solicitation, of his right to refuse to so contribute without any reprisal.

We hope the above information is helpful and shows exactly why the bills in front of the Legislature are unnecessary and represent an illegitimate government overreach into the Constitutional rights enjoyed by members of our organization.

Again, every dollar given by a member of our organization is given voluntarily.

So-called "release time" is another item under attack by various legislators. While this "release time" has been described as a government giveaway, that's simply untrue. Our organization's members pay for this "release time," as negotiated by the Memorandum of Understanding approved by membership and each city's Council.

In laymen's terms, every dollar used to compensate public safety members sits in a single pot. When dollars are used to pay for "release time," those dollars are subtracted from the pot and not used for salaries and health benefits. Thus, release time is paid for by our membership directly and approved by a direct vote of our membership. It is not a giveaway.
Finally, the Legislature is considering an "open meeting bargaining" bill that would severely hamper the negotiations between our organization and city officials. If passed, this bill would require the negotiation of each municipal contract with the presence of the public and the press at every step of the way. A good labor-management relationship is much like a marriage – with give and take, the occasional disagreement and the need for trust. Just as a marriage would fall apart if every conversation were picked apart by the public, so would this complex relationship.

Besides, every labor-management negotiation is ultimately made public at the time of the Council vote to ratify the ensuing contract. These meetings – which allow for public input – function as a safeguard in the system. We continue to welcome them and we continue to welcome your input – just as we welcome the truth, as opposed to fictions and lies.
Thank you.

Tim Hill
President, Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona
Representing Over 6,000 Professional Fire Fighters and E.M.S. Providers Throughout Arizona

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