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State GOP Lawmakers Launch Attack Against Labor

State lawmakers launched a broad attack Wednesday against public unions -- including an absolute ban on state and local governments and school districts from bargaining with organizations that represent public workers.

Goldwater Institute economist Steve Slivinski told lawmakers that making the move now will save the state more than $500 million a year in about seven years, as wage hikes are held down. But Senate Democrat Steve Gallardo said the Goldwater Institute and the Republicans have a hidden agenda.

"What you're seeing," he said, "is an organized effort to eliminate organized labor. That's exactly what you have here. It has nothing to do with saving money. It has nothing to do with fairness. It's about not liking the mission and organizations that represent public employees."

Jennifer Loredo of the Arizona Education Association, told lawmakers that negotiations include not just salaries but issues of preparation time, class size and supplies which she said helps create better schools.

But the Goldwater Institute's Nick Dranias, lobbying for the measure, said he sees something more sinister.

"Collective bargaining laws," he said, "are government power used by unions to coerce government employers to pay them as much as they could possibly extract from the taxpayer.

The party-line vote by the Committee on Government Reform sends this measure and three others targeting unions to the full Senate.