Fighting for Workers’ Rights in Arizona: The Liberty Justice Center Files Amicus Brief in Case Challenging Union “Release Time” Scheme

December 13, 2023

On December 12, the Liberty Justice Center filed an amicus brief in the Arizona Supreme Court in Gilmore v. Gallego, a case challenging a union “release time” scheme entered by the City of Phoenix, Arizona, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 2384, Field Unit II (AFSCME).

In May 2019, AFSCME and the City of Phoenix entered an agreement that requires the city to fund the salaries of four full-time release positions, provide a bank of “release time” hours for union representatives, and pay for AFSCME members to attend union events. The agreement describes the cost of these efforts as part of employees’ “total compensation.” That means the city funds these efforts by reducing the wages and benefits available to all employees, because the money used to fund release time would otherwise go directly to employees.

The Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit in June 2019 to challenge the agreement, representing two non-union city employees who have been compelled to choose between funding union activities or losing their jobs. The Arizona Supreme Court announced its decision to hear the case in October 2023 and has scheduled oral arguments for February 2024.

In its amicus brief, the Liberty Justice Center urges the Arizona Supreme Court to strike down the City of Phoenix’s agreement with AFSCME. The brief argues that this agreement violates workers’ rights under Janus v. AFSCME—a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that the First Amendment forbids governments from making their employees subsidize union political speech. The Liberty Justice Center represented plaintiff Mark Janus in that landmark case.

“This release time scheme isn’t just as bad as the mandatory fees the Supreme Court rightly struck down in Janus—in a sense, it’s worse,” said Jacob Huebert, President of the Liberty Justice Center. “Even before Janus, governments couldn’t force employees to pay for union political activities that weren’t related to collective bargaining. But this agreement forces employees to pay for all kinds of union activities, including politics and lobbying. The Arizona Supreme Court should stop Phoenix and AFSCME from evading Janus and the First Amendment by striking down this release time scheme.”

The Liberty Justice Center’s amicus brief is available here.


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