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For Immediate Release

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

AFSCME Challenges Constitutionality of Newly Enacted Arizona Statutes

Anti-worker statutes would restrict the free-speech rights of unions

Washington, DC — 

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) today challenged the constitutionality of two Arizona laws that would severely restrict the rights of working men and women. The union joined a coalition that has filed suit in Federal District Court challenging SB 1365 and SB 1363. “We believe, and we are confident the courts will agree, that these laws are unfair, un-American and unconstitutional,” said AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee.

“No politician should have the right to tell workers that they can’t distribute leaflets or attend a rally or walk a picket line, yet that’s exactly what the politicians in Arizona are trying to do,” McEntee said.

AFSCME asserts that the Arizona bills violate several provisions of the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment rights of unions and their members to associate for the purposes of engaging in free speech and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances; the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause because they apply to unions (or in the case of SB 1365, only disfavored unions) but do not apply to other similarly situated organizations; and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment because of the vague terms of the statutes. Five of AFSCME’s locals in Arizona (AFSCME Locals 449, 2384, 2960, 3111 and 3282) have also intervened to challenge the laws, joining a challenge initially brought by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). Other unions in the coalition are National Education Association/Arizona Education Association (NEA/AEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The Arizona statutes impose burdensome requirements for unions to collect voluntary dues to engage in core political activity – including lobbying, member education and issue advocacy. In addition, a union would be required to calculate the amount of political activity it will engage in during the next 12 months and report that to its members’ employers.

“Working families in Arizona and the unions who represent them have consistently spoken out against Governor Brewer’s anti-worker agenda,” McEntee stated. “We have fought for more jobs, better wages and working conditions for Arizonans, for quality schools and good public services for Arizona taxpayers. We will not be silent while anti-worker politicians try to muzzle the constitutional rights of every American.”

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