The state Senate Judiciary Committee last week passed SB 1191, legislation that aims to eliminate municipalities’ attempts to sidestep Arizona’s right-to-work law, which ensures union membership remains voluntary and not a required condition of any employment.
Some cities have adopted local ordinances to give organized labor a leg up when issuing zoning permits. The bill prohibits municipalities and counties from requiring the use of union labor in zoning and land use activities and prohibits certain requirements from being included in public works contracts.
A representative from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce testified in support of the bill.
“The purpose of the bill and amendment language is to ensure that competitive advantages aren’t given to union labor companies,” said Mike Huckins, the chamber’s vice president of public affairs. “These (local ordinances) have a chilling effect on the business communities and create an unfair burden on businesses, especially small businesses.”
The Arizona Building and Construction Trades Council opposed the bill.
“This comes down to local control. It comes down to whether community leaders know best,” the Council’s Luke Douglas said. “It also could end up jeopardizing prices.”
Those in support of the bill said the bill could put downward pressure on construction costs.
“The city will sometimes attach conditions to zoning requirements, including the use of union labor workers. Tempe is demanding this as part of the development agreements,” said Jon Riches of the Goldwater Institute. “This drives up prices for consumers, infringes on basic private property rights, and gives preferences to organized labor workers.”
Josh Umar, a representative from the American Subcontractors Association of Arizona, spoke to the legislation’s effect on small businesses.
“Small and upcoming businesses and contractors are going to be the ones that are going to be benefiting from this,” he said.
Jake Hinman of the Arizona Multihousing Association said the rising construction costs hurt housing consumers.
“Researchers have examined the prevailing wage and found that the rates are unbearably higher, increasing construction costs in the low-income residential products,” he said.
Other groups in support of the bill include the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Arizona Builders’ Alliance, Arizonans for Fair Contracting, and the Arizona Chapter of National Association of Industrial & Office Properties.
Opponents include associations representing city and county governments and Living United for Change in Arizona, a progressive advocacy group.
The bill will receive a vote of the full Senate after being considered by each party’s caucus.