KNAU and Arizona News
8:39 am
Tue August 10, 2010

Republican Lawmakers Pushing Ahead for Changes in how Unions can be Organized

Phoenix, AZ – The measure given preliminary approval Monday by House and Senate
committees would amend the Arizona Constitution to say that
unions can be organized only after a secret vote. That is in
response to the possibility that Congress might approve what's
called card check legislation which would let employees organize
by getting the signatures of at least half the affected workers.
The push is coming over the objections of Democrats. But it's not
just the merits of the plan that are at issue. House Minority
Whip Chad Campbell said if lawmakers are here in special session
they ought to be addressing more pressing matters. One is why the
Department of Corrections put two convicted murderers and one
serving time for attempted murder into a medium security private
prison in Kingman. They escaped last week. Two have been
captured, though not before they were linked to the murder of a
couple in New Mexico. Campbell said Corrections chief Charles
Ryan has some explaining to do.

(I want to get Chuck Ryan down here in front of us and I want to
grill him. I want to find out why our system let these guys out.
They walked out of prison with a couple of wire cutters, jumped
in a car and took off. That's unacceptable. They have a berm next
to the fence so you can climb up and make it easier to throw
something over. That makes no sense. No sense.)

But Gov. Jan Brewer, who would have to alter the call of the
special session to allow lawmakers to debate the laws involving
how prisoners and classified and where they can be housed, is not
interested in such a discussion now. Gubernatorial press aide
Paul Sensensan said Brewer believes it is premature.

(She is open minded about what ultimately in the future those
policies will be. But we must first keep our focus on capturing
the fugitives, the remaining fugitives, and subsequently to
determining later what, if any improvements policy-wise need to
be made.)

Senseman said, though, Brewer has no particular problem with
murderers being housed in medium-security facilities. He said the
escape seems to be the result not of the Department of
Corrections classification system that put them in the Kingman
prison but that employees there violated policies and the terms
of the contract. Republican lawmakers also were not interested in
exploring the issue. House Speaker Kirk Adams said they are
instead focused on pushing ahead with the constitutional
amendment about labor organizing.

(The only urgency right now is the ballot deadline.)

Lawmakers need to give final approval to the measure by Wednesday
to ensure Proposition 113 will go to voters in November. In the
Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, Democratic Sen. Ken
Cheuvront said his Republican colleagues are wasting their time.
He said if Congress does enact card check legislation it would
preempt anything done in Arizona, even if it's within the state
constitution. But attorney Clint Bolick of the Goldwater
Institute said that's not necessarily true.

(Even in the area of labor law, the United States Supreme Court
has repeatedly held that where state interests are very strong,
then the federal law will be held not to preempt the state law.
And I cannot think of a stronger value that has ever been before
the U.S. Supreme Court in a preemption case than the right to
secret ballot.)


No one from any of the unions testified against the measure on
Monday, with its approval in the Republican-controlled
Legislature being a foregone conclusion. For Arizona Public Radio
this is Howard Fischer.