Goldwater Institute Real 'Shakedown' Organization

Originally posted Mar 23, 2012

Steve Poe

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012 12:30 am

By Steven S. Poe, President, All AZ School Retirees Association

Nick Dranias’ commentary on the “meet and confer” process (March 9 Peoria Times) is nothing but a shakedown by the Goldwater Institute author who has finally found something else under his bed along with the Communists from the 1950s and 1960s. He calls the proposed ban on government sector collective bargaining in HB1485 “absolutely essential” to protect Arizona taxpayers from being “fleeced by government unions.” Let’s look at the background of the Goldwater Institute, Mr. Dranias’ credentials, and any facts he shares with us about the need for his stand.

The Institute is a well-known conservative “think-tank” funded by far-right, wealthy business owners and libertarians. They spend much time and money purportedly “protecting individual liberty.” They say the collective bargaining statutes in Arizona ensure the “very real threat of costly litigation.”

This is an excellent case of hypocrisy, as the lawsuits regularly filed against many Arizona governments is a major expense at the state, county, and local levels. The lawsuits against Clean Elections, protecting the rights of “Tea Party” folks to wear their T-shirts to the polls, lawsuits against the National Labor Relations Board, and another suit that allows private schools to gain an advantage over public schools by allowing state tax credits for those wealthy enough to give to scholarship funds is only the tip of the lawsuit-happy activity at the Institute.

Mr. Dranias’ background is in law, where he was a real estate and commercial and personal injury law specialist in Chicago. In 2005, he became associated with the Minnesota chapter of the Institute for Justice, a self-proclaimed libertarian public-interest law firm providing pro bono litigation help to those suing for right-wing causes. He joined the Goldwater lobbying and legal team in 2008. What makes him so knowledgeable about the meet and confer process and the “shakedown” that public sector unions foist on elected officials? That is an excellent question.

As for the factual information in his printed commentary, there was only one “fact” in the half-page rant. He claims “collective bargaining costs Arizona taxpayers $550 million a year in outsized wages and unsustainable benefits.”

There is no quoted source, no way to check who made up this figure. If any reader researches the salaries of Arizona teachers, firefighters, public safety officers, and the average state and local government employee, you will find a lack of exorbitant salaries among the rank-and-file employees. Yes, with nearly one-half (47 to 48 percent) of the government employees holding college degrees, they do make more money than private sector cashiers and custodians. As for unsustainable benefits, most of these employees have been putting 11-plus percent of their salaries in their retirement fund. How many private sector employees must do that?

As a former elected councilmember in Peoria and a classroom educator in Phoenix, I can tell you from my experience on both “sides” of the meet-and-confer process, that Mr. Dranias’ assertion that local government unions “routinely sue their government employers to meet their negotiating demands” is a flat out lie. The workers in all of these sectors, fire, police, educators, and other government employees, are the same as anyone else on your block. They are trying to do a job and provide for their family, as we all do. They are not indentured servants (which they would be if this bill passes), and should not be treated as such, no matter what Mr. Dranias and the Goldwater Institute want you to believe.

Remember, they spend hundreds of thousands of right-wing/libertarian dollars to lobby state and local governments to get their way and sue us (the taxpayer) if they don’t get what they want. If that isn’t a shakedown, what is?