PHOENIX (CN) – A federal judge has blocked an Arizona law that would make it harder for some of state’s unions to collect dues through payroll deductions, finding that it likely violates the First Amendment because it doesn’t apply to police and firefighter unions.
The Arizona Education Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers sued the state after the Republican-led Legislature passed the Protect Arizona Employees’ Paychecks from Politics Act (Senate Bill 1365) in April.
The statute requires unions that collect dues through payroll deductions to “affirm to the employers who process the deductions that none of their general fund is used for ‘political purposes,’ or specify the percentage of their general fund so used,” according to the ruling. It also prohibits an employer from deducting union dues from an employee’s payroll without written consent, reauthorized every year. A union that spends a greater percentage of dues for political purposes than it said it would is subject to a minimum $10,000 fine.
But the law, which was set to go live in October, exempts the organizing efforts of all “public safety employers,” including “a peace officer, firefighter, corrections officer, probation officer or surveillance officer,” the ruling states. It also allows “charitable organizations and organizations that provide employee health care, retiree, or welfare benefits” to deduct money without restrictions.
In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow granted the unions’ motion for an injunction. Snow ruled that, at least on their First Amendment challenge to the law, the unions were likely to succeed.
“[The] burdens imposed by the law do not fall equally on similarly-situated groups,” Snow wrote. “The law therefore violates the First Amendment by discriminating against ‘those wishing to express less favored or more controversial views.'”
He added that “by imposing its burdens on the political speech of some unions and other organizations and not imposing like costs upon other similarly-situated unions, or on other organizations that can use the funds for political activity, the law is underinclusive and discriminates according to speaker.”
In a statement, Arizona Education Association President Andrew F.
Morrill called the injunction a “victory for AEA and for free speech for Arizona’s teachers.”