The Goldwater Institute is asking for a judge to stop allowing Phoenix police officers to work as union representatives as their full time assignment.
The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association has six full time officers who receive full city pay and benefits for working for the union.
The contract between the city and PLEA includes provisions for these positions.
"We have a police department to maintain law and order not to do union work," said Clint Bolick, an attorney with the Institute who will argue its position in court on Friday.
Bolick said using taxpayer money to do union work violates the gift clause of the Arizona constitution.
PLEA Vice President Ken Crane disagreed.
"We feel that Goldwater is just taking a very overly broad interpretation of the state constitutions gift clause. Clearly, we don't see it the way they see it. These positions are costed against our contract that we negotiate with the city every two years," Crane said.
Colick contends they are seeking the injunction to save taxpayers money and to protect the public.
"These are six people who if they weren't working for the union they would be patrolling the streets. They would be arresting criminals. They are being diverted from the jobs for which they were hired to work full time for the union," Bolick said.
Crane said the Institute is just trying to weaken the union. He also said the "full time release" positions as they are called actually save the city money that it would have to spend on the task that PLEA handles, like grievances, representing officers in shootings or who get in trouble.
"When you eliminate that full time release, in our view and opinion, we think that it's really going to complicate the city's business drastically. Because when you pull those people out of the mix you still have state statute and federal statute that says there are certain obligations that have to be met regarding representation," Crane said.
The judge's decision in this case could have widespread implications.
Aside from PLEA, there are six other employee unions in Phoenix who have these full time release positions, and they are commonplace in just about every other city in the state.
"We're treading into territory that until now hasn't been explored before. We haven't had to face this in our entire history. It is a very unique situation," Crane said.
Bolick acknowledged this request for an injunction with PLEA was just the first step in a much larger goal.
"This is really the shot across the bow. If we get this injunction I am hoping that the city will clean up its contract and make this practice comply with the law. It will also be a warning shot for other cities that use this practice of paying people to do union work really needs to be brought under control," Bolick said.
A court hearing is set on the matter for Friday afternoon in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Copyright 2012 KPHO(Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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