Recently, the Goldwater Institute filed suit against the city of Phoenix for inappropriately subsidizing government unions. The complaint alleges that collective bargaining agreements between the city and unions requiring “release time” for union officials are illegal. Release time allows union officials to exclusively conduct union business while being paid by the city — or more accurately, the city’s taxpayers.
The lawsuit coincides with Goldwater Institute reporter Ken Flatten’s investigation, “Money for Nothing: Phoenix taxpayers foot the bill for union work.” The report reveals that Phoenix government unions receive 73,000 hours of release time, costing the taxpayers $3.7 million a year.
The report and lawsuit allege that Phoenix City Council has violated the Arizona Constitution and their fiduciary duty to taxpayers. Arizona’s Gift Clause does not allow the government to award subsidies to private associations, unless there are equal tangible benefits in return. Release time never produces any benefits to the taxpayer, tangible or otherwise. Unfortunately, the U.S. Constitution has no such clause. Federal government unions logged 2.9 million hours of release time, costing taxpayers $129 million in FY 2009.