Phoenix Council Approves Changes To Labor Agreement After Heated Debate

By  Al Macias
February 19, 2014

The Phoenix City Council has approved changes to a labor agreement with two employee unions. The changes affect the way workers perform some union duties. Wednesday’s debate grew heated between council members and union leaders.

The issue is “release time.” Under existing labor agreements, police and other city employees were paid by the city to conduct union activities like labor negotiations. A court ruling last month said the practice violated the state constitution. In its ruling, the court said the city and unions had to specify what duties would be performed and the unions would have to pay the city back for whatever work wasn’t approved.

On Wednesday, city staffers presented the council with the proposed modifications. Councilman Sal DiCiccio, a longtime union critic, said he’d like to get rid of release time altogether.

"If you can’t explain it, if it looks too funky, it’s too weird. It tells you there’s a lot of backroom stuff occurring," DiCiccio said. "It should have been simple. It’s not. The common public can’t understand it because it’s a scheme."

Union representative Luis Schmidt said DiCiccio was demonizing union members. He said any future changes to the contracts will need union buy-in.

"You don’t just arbitrarily break them, you don’t. Because you open up yourself to more litigation. Is that what you want? Do you want to just keep spending more money on more lawsuits and more lawsuits? That’s not what we are here for," Schmidt said.

The council approved changes to the contracts with two labor groups. Five other contracts are being negotiated by city and labor representatives.