Arizona state workers rally to defend raises

TUCSON, Ariz. – University of Arizona (UA) employees and other state workers are fighting back against an all-out attack by Gov. Jane Hull and right wingers in the state legislature.

After four years without a cost-of-living raise, the state last year enacted raises of 5 percent or $1,500, whichever is greater, to be effective April 1. Hull and her legislative buddies now want to do away with the raises altogether.

At a Feb. 18 rally in front of the administration building, UA employees vowed to fight for their families. “April 1 will not be a cruel joke once again,” vowed Linda Bohlke, a former UA employee now working for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Bohlke urged calls to legislators, calling on them to defend the raise. She also suggested thank you calls to State Senator Ruth Solomon (D-Tucson) who has been the workers’ first line of defense. Solomon chairs the Appropriations Committee in a Senate divided evenly between the two parties. If she can prevent any adverse legislation from reaching the governor's desk by April 1, the raises will go into effect.

Some 2,000 state workers rallied at the capitol in Phoenix Feb. 20, demanding that the legislators keep their promise. It was the largest demonstration at the capitol in over a decade.

State Rep. John Loredo (D-Phoenix) is introducing legislation to close billions of dollars in tax loopholes for corporations and the rich. Loredo said that money for raises could easily be found, noting that corporations and the wealthy benefit from sales tax exemptions equal to the entire state budget. Arizona's projected budget deficit comes after several years of tax cuts and giveaways to the richest Arizonans and out-of-state corporations.