Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
COURT RULES TAXPAYER-FUNDED UNION ACTIVISM ILLEGAL, UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Government workers can no longer perform union work on the job
Phoenix--A trial court ruled today that the taxpayer-funded union activism found in municipal contracts called "release time" is unconstitutional, setting the stage for elimination of the practice in city halls and courtrooms across the country.
Under the practice of release time, public workers are released from their government jobs to perform union work, while still receiving full taxpayer-funded salary and benefits (including pension benefits). The practice costs millions of dollars to taxpayers. In Phoenix, some city workers on release time had not reported to their actual government jobs in over a decade, instead working full-time for the union recruiting new members, lobbying against the city's own interests, and even electioneering.
The lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute on behalf of concerned taxpayers argued that release time provisions found in the City of Phoenix's contract with the local police union (PLEA) violated Arizona's state constitution’s Gift Clause, which requires the government to prove it receives direct, tangible benefits from payments it gives to a private entity such as a union.
According to today's ruling by Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper, release time fails the Gift clause test and is therefore unconstitutional because it "does not serve a public purpose" and “diverts officers from performing police work.” Judge Cooper enjoined the City from negotiating a new contract including illegal release time, and indicated that the law applies to the City’s six other union contracts.
Dozens of states have gift clauses enshrined in their constitutions, meaning the outcome of this lawsuit could spur an end to the practice throughout the country.
“This decision is the first step in getting rid of an outrageous practice that places public resources at the disposal of special interests." said Clint Bolick, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute. "Today's ruling puts government unions everywhere on notice that taxpayers cannot be forced to bankroll union activities."