When I first heard about the proposed anti-union laws moving through the Arizona legislature, I was fairly resigned to their passage. Arizona has huge Republican majorities in its legislature, and they already passed a major anti-immigration bill, though they obviously weren’t shy about courting controversy.
But then a funny thing happened. The Republicans couldn’t find the votes.
A proposed law that would devastate public unions in Arizona appears to be stalled in the state Senate after Republicans said they failed to come up with enough votes to pass it.
The measure, which would strip collective bargaining rights from government workers throughout the state, sailed through two Senate committees earlier this month and seemed likely to become law because Republicans control two-thirds of both houses of the legislature. Unions scrambled to find a way to defeat it but none expressed much hope of success.
On Tuesday, however, two Republican leaders in the Senate told the Arizona Guardian (sub. req.) they don’t have enough votes to keep the bill alive.
“Senate President Steve Pierce and Senate Whip Frank Antenori expressed serious doubt that there were enough Republicans in the upper chamber willing to pass a bill ending collective bargaining,” the Guardian reported. Antenori described the bill’s chances as “questionable.”
These are Republican leaders downplaying the vote, not Democrats. It really looks like Arizona overreached here.
Anti-union laws in the states have been generally successful since the 2010 election, some more than others. States like Tennessee and Idaho passed anti-union bills without much fanfare. Wisconsin had trouble, but eventually got its bill over the line, though Republicans continue to deal with the backlash. Ohio passed its bill but saw it stripped by a referendum. And Indiana became the 23rd state in the union to pass right-to-work legislation.
So the record is mixed. And that’s true in Arizona as well. There were four anti-union bills, and two of them look poised to pass, according to Republican leaders. One would ban “dues check-off,” the practices where public employees have union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. The other would ban paid “release time,” where workers get paid while they do work for the union.
But the collective bargaining ban looks like it won’t happen. And that’s the one that would undermine support for the unions entirely. Furthermore, Governor Jan Brewer seems more interested in a proposal to allow state government to more easily fire public employees than anything else. So it’s at least possible that nothing will pass except for perhaps that.
Considering the expectations, Arizona public employee unions may have dodged a major bullet here.