Arizona taxpayers head to court against PLEA

On Monday, taxpayers represented by the Goldwater Institute, will take on a Phoenix, Ariz. police union (PLEA) in court over the practice of “release time,” a contract provision in collectively bargained contracts between local officials and government unions.

With release time, government employees, such as police officers, can be released from their full-time jobs as public workers protecting the safety of our families to do full-time work for the union, while still collecting full salaries and pension benefits.

Release time goes on in nearly every state in the country.

Here are five unbelievable activities one government police union is using local taxpayer money in the form of “release time” to do:

1) Threaten bodily harm to their bosses, including threats to “tail” a local city official and then “break it off in his a**,” when the official was suspected of meeting with a competing union.

2) Encourage other police officers to actively disobey direct orders from the chief. When a new “Taser Cam” protocol was put in place to monitor officers’ use of Taser weapons, release time officers encouraged officers to ignore commands and not use the new cameras. They also encouraged employees to inundate the chief with “grievances” over a separate issue, even though a survey showed that 85% of officers approved of the chief’s policies.

3) Threaten to “Torch this Place” when displeased with how contract negotiations were going, in addition to threatening work slowdowns. When those kinds of threats come from the people who are supposed to be protecting us, city officials have reason to be scared!

4) Wage a PR campaign to damage the character of a former police commander applying for a job in a new city. When former police commander Rob Handy was being considered for the job of San Bernardino, Calif. chief, release time employees spent hours writing letters to city officials in San Bernardino encouraging them to take a pass on their former commander.

5) Lobby against the position of city officials. That’s right, release time funds lobbying! Thanks to this practice, taxpayers are paying for union release time officials to lobby for more funding, more policies unfriendly to taxpayers, and even to lobby against the position of city officials (even though taxpayers are footing the bill!).

Fortunately, for taxpayers in the nearly fifty states with “gift clauses” in their constitutions, the practice is also likely illegal because it uses public money (American tax dollars) to fund a private benefit (union activism).

The Goldwater Institute has already won two injunctions against the practice, temporarily putting an end to this union’s release time. The outcome of this case could signal an end to release time – not just in this contract – but in nearly forty states.

The trial, taking place in Phoenix, begins Monday, November 25.

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