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Union members rally against bills they say target organized labor

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PHOENIX – Several hundred people demonstrated Thursday at the State Capitol against four Republican bills they say unfairly target unions representing public employees.

“These four bills area an attack on public service workers and are not fair to our communities, our neighbors or to the working families that are targeted by them,” said James Baker, a project manager for the Tucson Unified School District.

Manny Armenta, a Albuquerque, N.M.–based sub–district director for the United Steelworkers, said anti-union bills have been popping up across the country.

“It’s just a repression against labor,” he said.

The rally included union workers who came from as far away as Yuma and Flagstaff.

Sen. Rick Murphy, R–Glendale, authored three of the bills on public employee unions.

One would prohibit the state or local governments from recognizing unions as bargaining agents. The measure is more sweeping than a 2011 Wisconsin law because it would cover law enforcement officers and firefighters.

Another bill would stop state and local governments from withholding a portion of wages to pay labor organization dues, while the other would keep public agencies from compensating employees for union activities.

Murphy didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.

Unions also object to a bill authored by Sen. Andy Biggs, R–Gilbert, that would bar public employers from deducting any third party payment from workers’ paychecks without annual authorization.

Andy Richards, field communications associate with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, noted that some of the demonstrators aren’t in unions.

“This isn’t just about bills that impact unions,” he said. “It’s about bills that affect working families in Arizona.”

Addressing the crowd, Baker said union members need to oppose lawmakers who support anti–union bills.

“They are hurtful,” Baker said. “They’re designed to attack, not just public employees but all unions and all working families.”