For decades and across the country public employees have enjoyed release time, where they work full-time for their unions while being paid full salaries from the taxpayers. Because this practice explicitly violates a law, present in most states, that public funds cannot be used for private gain, is it being challenged in a Phoenix Arizona courthouse, and the prospects for the plaintiff are looking up:
The core of the case rests on the Arizona constitution’s gift clause, different forms of which are present in almost all 50 states. The gift clause stipulates that public funds cannot be used for private purposes, and, as the prosecution argues, release time is for the private benefit of the union. “Basically, this is a classic gift-clause violation because it is a diversion of funds from one of the most important functions that government provides to a private organization to use for its own purposes,” Bolick [lead attorney representing the plaintiffs] says.
What’s worse, PLEA, like other unions, has used publicly funded release time for overtly political actions. “They’re using it for lobbying purposes, they use it to recruit members,” Bolick says. “They use it to negotiate their very own contracts. . . . They endorse candidates.” Ironically, in contract negotiation, taxpayers are footing the bill for both the city and the union to negotiate with each other.
And the total cost? “In Phoenix, we have seven public-employee unions,” Bolick explains. “Our initial report was that it was $3.2 million a year, and that’s just Phoenix. And we have discovered that a significant amount of the release time is not reflected in those costs, so it’s actually more than $3.2 million.”
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