Arizona Educators Rally to Protect Employment Rights
NEA affiliate asks state Supreme Court to strike down law that tramples bargaining agreements
By Kevin Hart
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 -- Thousands of educators across Arizona are uniting to demand that the state respect the rights they have collectively bargained with their home districts. The Arizona Education Association recently filed a special action petition with the state Supreme Court arguing that a law passed and signed during a special legislative session is illegal and infringes on educators’ rights.
The Arizona Legislature met over the summer in a special session that was supposed to focus on resolving budget issues. But, as part of a budget package, the legislature passed and Governor Jan Brewer signed House Bill 2011, which undermines the relationships and agreements local education unions have with their employers.
HB 2011 allows for arbitrary salary reductions; removes tenure and seniority as considerations when districts conduct layoffs; and eliminates a requirement that districts notify teachers by April 15 whether they will be offered a contract for the next school year, so they have time to pursue employment elsewhere.
"These policies represent a complete abandonment of legislative leadership,” said AEA President John Wright. “The special session was called to address Arizona's budget deficit; instead, the legislature mysteriously determined that removing contract security and allowing salary reductions for career educators was a more appropriate focus. The interests of Arizona's families, students, and economy were completely ignored."
The changes in HB 2011 don’t just run roughshod over collective bargaining agreements throughout Arizona -- they also violate the state constitution, AEA claims in its state Supreme Court filing.
The Arizona state constitution prohibits the use of a special legislative session to pass bills that could have been considered during regular session. This provision is designed to prevent legislation from being quickly passed without the benefit of public debate. AEA believes the legislature and governor violated the state constitution when they called a session to resolve budget issues, and then used it to pass legislation that tramples the employment rights of educators.
The state constitution also requires single-subject legislation (the provisions affecting educators were only part of HB 2011) and prohibits legislation that violates contracts – such as the contracts AEA’s 40,000 members have with districts throughout the state.
For more information on AEA’s actions to protect the rights of its members, visit the AEA Web site by clicking here.