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By: Paul Atkinson on 03/01/2012
Four bills introduced at the state legislature target public employee unions. Supporters say the measures will save taxpayer’s money. But union members disagree. They showed up in force at the state capitol Thursday.
Hundreds of union members from around the state came to make their voices heard on four bills they consider anti-union. But as KJZZ’s Paul Atkinson reports from Phoenix, much of their effort took place behind-the-scenes.
JASON BATES: So can we speak to Debbie McCune Davis or Chad Campbell today?
PAUL ATKINSON: Jason Bates is at the security desk on the third floor of the House of Representatives. He and two other members of United Here, a local hospitality sector union, are making the rounds of the state capitol.
Jason Bates, left, and union colleagues Michael Angulo and Mel Shape at the state capitol.(Photo by Paul Atkinson - KJZZ)
JASON BATES: And we’re private sector union members and these bills are targeting public sector union members and these bills are targeting public sector union workers, but we’re all standing together because we know an injury to one is an injury to all. So we have to come all together when our brothers and sisters are under attack.
ATKINSON: Two of the bills target union dues deducted from public employee paychecks. One prohibits unions from representing public workers in salary negotiations with local governments. Another forbids union leaders from drawing a government salary to do union related work. Bates fears these bills are only the beginning.
JASON BATES: They’re not going to stop at the public sector. If they succeed there, they’re going to come after us. So, we’re here we’re hear to talk to some of our elected officials and see if we can’t get the votes we need to stop this in its tracks.
ATKINSON: The two house members that represent Bates in west Phoenix are unavailable. But a lawmaker of another union member is, so the three dressed in red union T-shirts head back to meet with Lela Alston.
MICHAEL ANGULO: Representative Alston, Hi how are you?
LELA ALSTON: Come in, please.
MICHAEL ANGULO: Hi, how are you. I’m Michael Angulo. Nice to meet you.
LELA ALSTON: Hi, Michael. How are you?
JASON BATES: Jason Bates, nice to meet you.
LELA ALSTON: Nice meeting you.
MEL SHARP: My name is Mel Sharpe. Nice to meet you.
LELA ALSTON: Nice meeting you.
ATKINSON: The three sit down for a chat with Representative Alston who represents central Phoenix. They explain their concerns about the anti-union bills and the effect they could have on driving down wages for all. But, Jason Bates asks for more than just Alston’s support.
JASON BATES: We don’t just need the votes, we need leadership in putting a stop to this.
ATKINSON: That may not be easy, says Alston, because Republicans -— who support the bills -- have a supermajority in both legislative chambers.
ALSTON: An attack on teachers, firefighters, state employees, police officers, those folks making our families safe, secure and educated every day, I think is very, very wrong. But with the supermajority, I’ve been surprised that they’ve been able to hold.
ATKINSON: One Republican lawmaker who met with union members from her district is Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix. Brophy McGee says lawmakers have been so busy many haven’t had a chance to get up to speed on the union bills in question. Then, there’s the matter of who to believe.
KATE BROPHY MCGEE: It’s very hard to separate fact from fiction. So that lends itself to maybe inflammatory statements on either side. But its not an accurate depiction of the reality of either the bills or their issues with the bills. It’s more theatre.
ATKINSON: The two bills passed by the Senate have yet to be scheduled for votes in the House. In the meantime, Jason Bates and his union colleagues hope their trip to the capitol will help make a difference in the outcome.