Three East Valley cities are paying their employees for more than 13,000 hours of union-related activities at taxpayer expense, according to an investigation by the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute.

The organization is planning legal action to stop cities from releasing employees for union work, which would wipe out employee protections negotiated over many years.

Goldwater researched numerous collective bargaining agreements after learning some Phoenix employees do not perform any government work because they are allowed to focus exclusively on union work.

The union issue has flared in Phoenix's mayoral race but it hasn't gained traction elsewhere yet.

Goldwater wants to change that, said Clint Bolick, director of the institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. The organization is seeking a person to challenge the release hours as a violation of Arizona's constitution. He believes it violates the gift clause, which prevents public funds from benefiting private organizations.

"I think this may go beyond partisan lines because this is a diversion of scarce resources to non-productive activities," Bolick said. "It's taking cops off the street. It's diverting resources from other possible activities."

Goldwater found Tempe provides at least 7,068 hours for union activity. That includes 6,000 hours for the Service Employees International Union to address grievance/disciplinary hearings and work on management-approved task forces. That is the largest pool of union-related activity in the East Valley. Firefighters have 2,912 hours for the union president and a business agent, with a pool of 1,000 hours for other members.

Chandler has negotiated 2,175 hours for its SEIU and 1,500 hours for firefighters. Police have 1,040 hours for one designated person and a pool of 500 hours for members. The union has 30 minutes each with officers who've just completed the academy.

Mesa has 1,500 hours for firefighters.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said the release hours are important to make sure the city has a good relationship with employee groups. He also said it's important to know Mesa doesn't have employees who only perform union work.

"I would never support funding a full-time union official," Smith said.

Management and union members could only meet outside normal business hours without release hours, Smith said.

Chandler Law Enforcement Association President Shawn Hancock said negotiations with the city allow the group to seek release hours or higher benefits. The two sides have agreed on the hours because they've found the time has improved relations.

"If it wasn't for some of the time that we're given to do those things, relations would suffer," he said. "I think it actually increases the product and improves the product that's delivered to the public."

Bolick said he expects to file a lawsuit within three months. He believes the release hours provisions are so obscure that most elected officials don't know about them. Recent and painful government cuts could trigger activists to begin questioning tax dollars for union activity, he said.

"I suspect we'll be hearing more about this at the local level," Bolick said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

(10) comments

KingArthur

The tome has come for fiscal management and control.....spending on the unnecessary must stop....waste must stop...no more muffins at city meetings! Stop travel! Reduce cell phone costs!

rp004892

It appears thet the cities are giving in to the radical unions!

rp004892

King Arthur, thanks for your comment!

rp004892

Arizona Willie, please name these so called conservative Republicans.. they are RINO'S

KingArthur

[beam] you are incorrect, you should have said it was those who posed to be conservative Republicsns!

Arizona Willie

KingArthur, conservative Republicans negotiated those arrangements in the first place [beam]

KingArthur

This is highway robbery! Just for whom do these "union" folks think they are working! Do they realize that taxpayers are paying their wages and salaries? And all of this occurred on the watch of incumbents who are seeking re-election. Who can you trust? No doubt that they also campaign for their favorite incumbents on paid time as well!

It is time to throw them all out of office. Start anew with conservative Republicans!

In_God_We_Trust

Basically, the taxpayers are paying the salaries of the union workers union reps? Holy Cow! Why don't we just pay the union workers to stay home and hire the union reps to do their jobs? How many union reps do we pay for per union worker? This is why unions are losing the support of the American public, and why many of us previous union workers want the unions gone for good.

didtheyreallysaythat

Mark Mitchell, Joel Navarro, Corey Woods, Shana Ellis, and Robin Arredondo-Savage are all bought and paid for by the unions. Hugh Hallman and Onnie Shekerjian aren't any better, they aren't even RINOs - they're Ben Arredondo Republicans.

They all should be recalled and Charlie Meyer fired!

Reglnlos

Professional butinskies always bother me . Perhaps the people in the Ivory Goldwater Tower should spend some time out in the real world so that they can actually make a difference instead of playing gotcha politics . I realize that most of them have serious social interaction disorders but thats no excuse . I f I wanted excuses I would ask a politician .

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.