Phoenix Officials Tweak Labor Contracts to Comply with Court Ruling on Release Time

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Phoenix City Council debates amendments to union contracts.
Phoenix City Council members this week amended labor agreements with two unions to comply with a court ruling that found the city's longstanding practice of including "release time" in its contracts violated the state's gift clause.

That clause prohibits gifts of public money to people or businesses unless the government body can prove it gets direct and tangible benefit in return.

Under its old release time practice, the city allowed labor leaders to receive their usual salaries, plus overtime, while conducting union work, including representing other employees at disciplinary hearings, lobbying, and campaigning.

That eventually ended after the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based conservative think tank, filed a lawsuit in 2011 claiming the city was giving an unlawful "gift" to the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, PLEA, via the release time.

City of Phoenix's legal experts couldn't prove in court that there was any direct benefit to taxpayers, and the city was forced to end the "release time."

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper put a stop to the practice for the 2010-2012 labor agreements, but when they expired in June 2012, the city "promptly resumed the prohibited release time" in July 2012 for the 2012-2014 labor agreements, according to court records.

City officials are now taking a different approach and agreed on Wednesday to refund the unused "release time" written into labor agreements with PLEA and the Laborers' International Union of North America, LIUNA 777, back to employees in the form of vacation time. Click here for details on the amended labor agreements.

The employees can, in turn, donate the additional vacation time into a bank of hours that union leaders can draw on to continue doing certain union-related work, such as representing employees during disciplinary hearings.

Councilmen Sal DiCiccio, Bill Gates, and Jim Waring voted against the amendment.

Clint Bolick, the Goldwater Institute's vice president for litigation, says that while Phoenix is taking positive steps in its amended agreements, its latest action is a "shell game" that will result in "the same old practices, still funded by taxpayer dollars."

Bolick says that the Goldwater Institute plans to "take action" against the city.

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Since you decided to erase my comment of truth, let me resubmit it.  The City of Phoenix did not "tweak" the labor contracts to comply.  The City of Phoenix has now breached the stipulations of the contracts.  The City is attempting to prevent the union reps from doing their required duties, which was part of the agreement within the contracts.  These duties include preventing the city from taking away the real city workers pensions, which the frauds eventually want to do.  The City is adamant to take away from the people that actually provide the services to the City of Phoenix residents, the workers that are actually working.  Management and Executives at the City would be unaffected by the so called anti-pension spiking bill they want to become law.  These are the people that figure out new ways to burn taxpayer money over golf outings, expensive "business" lunches and trips, while they whip around in their taxpayer funded vehicles and receive taxpayer funded housing money to go with their inflated salaries, and are the real pension spikers.  The regular, non management, non-executive employees, who are already limited on how much vacation and sick leave time they can cash out or contribute toward their pension, are the only ones that are going to be affected.  The real workers are not spiking their pensions, they are not living the life of luxury now and won't be in retirement either.  The union reps have a right to protect the workers, the city signed the contracts in agreement.  The regular workers have the right to earn a living, this is not Walmart.  These are people that keep our city running day in and day out.  They are experienced and carry out their jobs in a professional manner.  When the citizenry mistakingly votes this so called anti-pension spiking into law, the executives and management will be unaffected and will continue to be able to spike their pensions, while giving a Cavazos like explanation that they earned it.  Shame on you all.

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