Legislative proposal would ask voters to ditch Arizona’s right-to-work status

A worker’s right to choose whether to join a labor union is in doubt, as progressive Democrats in the Legislature have introduced multiple bills aimed at repealing Arizona’s right-to-work status.

SCR 1030, sponsored by state Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, and a companion bill in the state House of Representatives, HCR 2008, sponsored by Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, would send to the 2024 statewide ballot a measure asking voters whether to rescind Arizona’s more-than-75-year-old status as a right-to-work state.

Arizona and 26 other states have right-to-work laws, which give workers the choice of whether to join a labor union. States without right-to-work laws could require employees to pay union dues and fees as a requirement for employment.

If voters were to approve Mendez and Salman’s proposal, business community advocates say the state’s competitive standing would be dramatically undermined.

“Arizona’s status as a right-to-work state has been a major contributor to our standing as one of the country’s top performing economies,” said Courtney Coolidge, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry vice president of government relations. “Rescinding our right-to-work laws would be a blow to job creation and competitiveness.”

The ballot referrals and additional legislation, also sponsored by Mendez and Salman and cosponsored by fellow progressives, are just the latest attempts at state and national levels to erode workers’ choice whether to join a labor union.

Congressional Democrats in the previous Congress strongly backed the PRO Act, legislation containing a litany of labor union-backed priorities, including not only the rescission of state-level right-to-work laws, but also provisions that would make it harder for a worker to be classified as an independent contractor, and that would allow so-called “secondary boycotts,” picket-line protests against companies that do business with another company where a labor union is attempting to organize.

Arizona U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D, and Sen. Mark Kelly, D, were both critical in preventing the PRO Act from advancing.

While the business community attempts to defend Arizona’s employment laws, labor activists in Michigan have gained the upper hand.

Now with Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate and with a democratic governor, Michigan’s Legislature is poised to repeal that state’s right-to-work law that was adopted in 2012. Michigan’s law was established by the Legislature and can be repealed by legislative action, where Arizona’s right-to-work status is enshrined in the state constitution and could only be overturned by voters.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce opposes a repeal, saying it would hurt the state’s economic development efforts. Wendy Block, the Michigan Chamber’s vice president of business advocacy, told The Detroit Free Press that “other states will try to pounce on the opportunity that they could have to lure jobs and new economic development projects away from Michigan and into their states,” if the Legislature were to overturn the decade-old law.

Robert Clarke

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