2011 may very well mark the year that many policymakers and citizens nationwide take action to curb the corrosive influence of unions. In the public sector, they create costs and inefficiencies, from inflated pension and health care costs to cumbersome work rules. In the private sector, they make companies uncompetitive and promote unemployment due to artificially high wages and benefits.
While President Obama has made union-building a top priority, Arizona has quite a different approach.
Already we enjoy a competitive advantage as a right-to-work state, so that compulsory membership in a union is illegal. Last year Arizonans overwhelmingly adopted Save Our Secret Ballot, which prohibits union formation without secret-ballot elections by the affected workers.
This year, the Legislature is considering H.B. 2644, sponsored by new lawmaker Rep. Michelle Ugenti, which would prohibit local governments and state agencies from accepting federal funds if doing so requires preferences for union contractors. If adopted, the bill will keep contract costs low, and increase job opportunities---and send a message to Washington, D.C. that in Arizona, unions must compete on a level playing field without the hand of the federal government tipping the scale in their favor.
Senator Frank Antenori and Representative Judy Burges have introduced an amendment to the state constitution (which the Goldwater Institute helped draft) that would be placed on the 2012 ballot that would establish the right of workers not to have union dues taken out of their paychecks for political purposes. Unions are a juggernaut in American politics not because their members willingly support them, but rather because in most instances they have no choice. If Arizonans pass this measure, workers who belong to a union will finally have a say about whether or not their dues can be used to play politics.
Eliminating the government-conferred advantages that unions enjoy—advantages that too often turn into a taxpayer-supported gravy train—will strengthen Arizona’s economy in the long run.
Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
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