Taxpayers Foot Bill for Union Interests
Prior to a court case ruling otherwise, taxpayers in the city of Phoenix paid $950,000 a year in salaries and benefits to send six city police officers to work as full-time union managers, 35 officers to work as part time union representatives and one to work as a union lobbyist. Including Phoenix, the state of Arizona was giving approximately $3.7 million in taxpayer dollars to public employees doing union work on “release time.”
Wednesday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released a new report, “A Remedy for Taxpayer Giveaway to Unions.” The report explains how public employees receive subsidies from the government in the form of release time, a practice in which public employees act as union activists while maintaining a full-time salary paid for by taxpayers.
A Remedy for Taxpayer Giveaway to Unions argues that the “gift clause” in the Missouri constitution effectively prohibits government payment to public employees performing union activities on release time. The gift clause in Missouri prohibits the use of public dollars for narrowly tailored private interests. The gift clause in the Missouri constitution is similar to that in Arizona, where release time subsidies were successfully challenged in Cheatham v. Diciccio.
If an activity does not advance a public purpose, it should not be paid for with taxpayer dollars. Activities performed by public employees on release time include negotiating union contracts, filing grievances and lobbying legislators, all activities which do not advance a public purpose. These activities should be paid for by the union whose interests it serves, not by the taxpayers.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has model policy to end release time practices, Prohibition on Paid Union Activity (Release Time) by Public Employees Act and the Resolution on Release Time for Union Business, because taxpayers should not pay for union activity serving union purposes.