Glenn Hamer

Most weeks I talk about the ingredients that go into a state’s economic development mix. Its tax code, education system and legal environment are all critical to whether a state attracts jobs or sends companies looking elsewhere.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is working with the Legislature and the governor to advance legislation this session that makes Arizona fertile ground for job growth. A comprehensive economic competitiveness bill with key tax reforms is nearing introduction, while a bill that makes a key legal reform by placing a monetary cap on appeal bonds just passed the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee.

But there’s another element that businesses consider when assessing whether to make an investment in a particular state: the labor environment. Is a state a haven to unions, or does it respect employers’ rights?

Companies are paying more attention to labor questions in light of the Obama administration’s kowtowing to Big Labor.

The National Labor Relations Board in January sent word to Attorney General Tom Horne and the attorneys general in Utah, South Carolina and South Dakota that they cannot enforce recently passed ballot measures guaranteeing access to a secret in union organizing elections. Kudos to our Attorney General for dismissing the NLRB’s outrageous demand.

This comes on the heels of attempts to pass so-called Card Check legislation in Congress, which also sought to do away with a secret ballot in union elections, as well as the appointment of a longtime union lawyer to the NLRB. Big Labor clearly has a seat at the table in the White House, and its agenda is hitting the states.

But here in Arizona, legislative leaders are standing up for job creators. Sen. Frank Antenori has introduced some key labor reform legislation, including Senate Bills 1363 and 1365.

A key element of S.B. 1363 is that it ensures that when a labor union member terminates his or her membership, the wage deductions for union dues stop immediately. There have been instances when an employee still sees paycheck deductions to cover union dues despite having already severed his or her relationship with the union. This is like quitting your gym membership but still paying dues.

The Antenori bill also tightens the trespass statutes to ensure that when labor organizers or other protesting groups violate trespassing laws that they can be arrested on the first offense. This is a private property rights issue. Labor organizers know they can trespass on employers’ private property while picketing, but will rarely face arrest as police attempt to sort out property lines and determine who the property owner is. This legislation would allow a business to post a trespass policy publicly with the secretary of state that could be easily accessed by law enforcement, which would allow trespassing laws to be enforced on a first offense.

Finally, the bill establishes presumptive penalties for unions and organizations that defame a business. Penalties can be assessed for actions including defamation of an employer by maliciously making false statements to a third party, and knowingly, recklessly or negligently disregarding the falsity of the statement and causing damage to the employer by or through the statement. We’ve heard the stories of employers finding their names in the headlines associated with ridiculous claims by the labor movement. This bill puts in safeguards to stop that defamation.

S.B. 1365 protects union members’ rights by ensuring that union funds used for operational expenses are segregated from the funds used for political purpose, while seeing to it that union members can prevent their dues from being used for political purposes. A worker shouldn’t have to bankroll a union’s agenda that he or she finds objectionable. A number of states have such paycheck protection laws, with Alabama having passed such a law in December.

If this labor package sounds familiar, it’s because S.B. 1363 represents the core of another labor reform package the Chamber supported last year. In the dying days of last year’s legislative session, that labor package failed to make it to the governor’s desk. But it was a good bill then, and it’s a good bill now. The same can be said for the paycheck protection bill, which came up two years ago.

Companies are watching Arizona this session. We’re on the brink of advancing once-in-a-generation job creation legislation. But if we don’t make business-friendly moves on the legal and labor fronts, then we’ve left a lot of our job undone. S.B. 1363 and 1365 send a clear message to the private sector that labor unions won’t run roughshod over the Arizona workplace.

Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry