Gov. Janet Napolitano was cheered Monday at the Arizona AFL-CIO’s 2003 convention, and she asked for the union’s help in bringing about policy changes.
While addressing AFLCIO leaders and members, she said labor plays an important part in attracting and keeping quality jobs that offer competitive wages.
Critics of Napolitano recently said the governor had sided with labor over business in vetoing an unemployment insurance bill that would have left thousands of Arizonans ineligible for the benefit.
"We’ve sent a message that in Arizona, no longer will only one side of a debate be heard," she said. "Where working families are concerned, I’m interested in listening and working with the chambers of commerce and the business groups, very much so . . . but we aren’t going to be able to keep good jobs and quality jobs without labor also being added."
Napolitano said she looks forward to an upcoming report on the effectiveness of the state’s child protective services, as well as recommendations by the Citizens Finance Review Commission on overhauling the state’s tax code to make it "low, predictable and fair."
She said, "Now is the time to invest. Now is the time to work together to build a new Arizona. Now is the time to stop making the same type of decisions that we made over the past decade which drove us to the bottom in nearly every social indicator, and also did not improve our per capital income. It was a failed strategy."
Napolitano said she hopes to see a lot of change take place in the years leading up to the state’s centennial, in nine years, and that the AFLCIO can play an important role.
"Will we be a state that continues to languish at the bottom of the line, the bottom of the pole in terms of perpupil classroom spending, or will we have increased it?" she asked.
"Will we continue to pay our teachers below the national median or will we start raising their pay so they’ll stay in the profession? Will we continue to have one of the highest rates of women who do not have medical insurance, or will we begin to address that problem? Will we continue to rank tops in the country in terms of things like stolen cars and teenage pregnancy, but at the bottom in terms of where we support children’s services and where we support education?"
William McGlashen, executive director of the Arizona AFL-CIO, said there’s a lot the union can do and will do to support about the governor’s plans.
"The AFL-CIO can take a role in helping the governor pass legislation . . . we can lobby for her, we can lobby our friends in the House and Senate, we can go out and activate our members about a particular issue," he said.