Contact: Charles Siler
MEDIA ADVISORY: UNION, CITY ALLIES ASKS JUDGE TO APPROVE EXTRA 16,000 HOURS OF VACATION TIME FOR UNION BUSINESS
Goldwater Institute attorneys will fight new proposal in court Friday
Following a January court ruling declaring taxpayer-funded union activism in public labor contracts unconstitutional, a police union in Phoenix is asking a judge to bless a scheme that would dole out an additional 1,000 hours per week of vacation to use on whatever union members want--chiefly, union business.
Attorneys for the Goldwater Institute will appear in court Friday to argue that this proposed arrangement directly violates a court order banning this practice, known as "release time."
Under release time, which is found in government union contracts throughout the country, union officials are "released" from their government jobs to perform full-time union work, all while collecting taxpayer-funded salary and benefits. Unions use release time not only to recruit new members, but also to lobby, electioneer, and even solicit grievances against their government employer. The Goldwater Institute successfully argued last fall that release time violates constitutional gift clause language in Arizona's constitution, because it is a monetary expenditure by the government without any corresponding public benefit.
The Phoenix police union and allies in city government now wish to evade the court ruling through an amended contract establishing a bank of "vacation hours" for all police officers, which will in turn by donated back to the union. The roughly 16,000 hours granted to the union in a contract through June 30th would be enough for roughly 20 full-time union release time employees. City officials would have zero oversight over what employees are doing while they're using these hours.
“This is a shell game and a blatant violation of the court’s direction,” declared Clint Bolick, Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation, who represents taxpayers. “It will mean back to business as usual, with the City diverting resources to union activities and the taxpayers continuing to pick up the tab.”
Although the police union is the exclusive bargaining representative for the 2,400 Phoenix police officers, nearly 20% of city officers are not unionized. It is not yet clear how non-unionized members will be solicited by the union for their donated hours, but since the agreement does not expressly prohibit the union from collecting the vacation hours directly, there is a potential these non-unionized officers will be exposed to coercion and intimidation.
In the past, union officials working on the City payroll have urged officers to disobey certain orders if they disagreed with them, solicited officers to file grievances against other rules, and warned during contract negotiations that their members would “torch this place” if demands were not met.
When news of the "vacation hours" workaround broke, the Goldwater Institute sought and was granted a temporary restraining order against the new scheme, pending Friday's hearing. More than forty states have constitutional gift clauses on the books, meaning that the continued success of the Institute's lawsuit is critical to the future eradication of release time throughout the country.
“With a scheme like this getting the stamp of approval by City officials, you have to ask ‘Whose interests are these politicians serving?’" said Bolick. "In this case, it's clearly not the taxpayers.”
To schedule an interview with Clint Bolick, please contact Charles Siler with the Goldwater Institute at (602) 633-8960 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Goldwater Institute has an in-house VideoLink studio for rapid cable hook-up if needed.