Utah lawmakers take aim at collective bargaining
By Robert Gehrke
The Salt Lake Tribune
Published: July 20, 2011 01:21PM
Updated: July 19, 2011 11:47PM
STEVE GRIFFIN | Tribune File Photo Lawmakers plan to study banning collective bargaining during interim meetings leading up to next January's legislative session
"It doesn't save any money." During a U.S. House committee hearing today, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) got Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) to admit that key anti-union provisions of his so-called budget repair bill had nothing to do with balancing the state's budget.
On April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, where he had gone to stand with AFSCME sanitation workers demanding their dream. The right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a better life. Today, that same demand is electrifying people across America. It's the demand of all people -- black, white, Latino and Asian America. The right to join together for our common dreams.
It is clear that the men and women of America's working families are on our side in supporting the rights of collective bargaining. Join us to make SATURDAY, APRIL 2, 2011 a day to stand in solidarity with working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and dozens of other states where well-funded, corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for. It's a day to show movement. Let's not miss out on this rare opportunity -- it's time to be creative, but clear --
AFSCME Local 1004, along with other AFL-CIO unions, rallied at the Utah State Capitol today in support of Wisconsin public employees who face major setbacks in their ability to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions.
We must stand in unity!! Thanks to everyone that participated.
When the Ogden School District refused to participate in collective bargaining and asked all teachers to sign a contract or resign by July 20, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, were prompted to look at banning the practice in Utah.
The two lawmakers head the committee overseeing public education funding. Presumably their motivation is to aid other districts in following Ogden's lead. But the ensuing debate last July inspired discussion on what is left of worker's rights in Utah.
Collective bargaining the label given to the process of an employer and a union negotiating work contracts for employees is optional in Utah. An employer is not required to work with a union, as the Ogden district demonstrated, and a worker cannot be required to join a union as a condition of employment.
That makes the proposed banning of the practice an assault on the freedom of association, said Patty Rich, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Former Salt Lake City mayor Ted Wilson was supportive of employees organizing and the city council at the time approved contract negotiations with the AFSCME.
The group recently won rights to "meet and confer" with Salt Lake County over contracts, which Rich described as a "watered-down" version of collective bargaining. It only applies to employees of the "trades unit," which Rich said is mostly "blue-collar."
The employees choose to support the association, and the city and county choose to negotiate with it. Interference with it would constitute interference in a democratic political process, Rich said.
But the bigger problem is the attack on workers' rights to speak with a unified voice, she added.
"It's a good process that makes everyone equal at the table. Everyone is accountable on both sides," Rich said. "This is trying to silence the voice of the working class."
As chair of the committee funding public education, it is possible Stephenson and Wright only had teachers unions in mind when they proposed banning the practice. That doesn't matter, Rich said.
"An attack on teachers is an attack on all public employees," she added. "It doesn't matter if it's teachers or police officers or sanitation truck drivers."
Michael Kovacs, assistant manager for Park City Municipal Corporation, said none of the city's employees he is aware of belong to a union or similar association. The city does not work with any when writing employment contracts.
But he, former mayor Brad Olch and former council members Tina Lewis Bob Wells recall there was a proposal to organize in the 1980s. None of the three could remember the details, but agreed Public Works Department employees desired to organize, but it did not occur.
Brian Bellamy, human resources director for Summit County, said no employee he is aware of belongs to a union and the county negotiates with none.
"(The county) being a creature of the state, it doesn't do them any good," he said. "They have the Utah Public Employees Association, but they don't have the right to strike it's just an employee association, they can't do anything."
Still, neither Summit County Republican Party Chair Henry Glasheen nor Summit County Democratic Party Chair Glenn Wright support the legislature banning the practice.
"We'd be the first state to go from it being optional to it not optional an outright ban is not necessary," Glasheen said.
The only way a ban would affect Summit County employees is if the Park City School District ended collective bargaining.
And while the school district is struggling with budget issues, fighting the teacher's union here doesn't make sense, he said.
"They've got teachers that have been here years and years," he added. "All sides need to come to the table with the idea that they need to negotiate."
Wright said collective bargaining is essential to the middle-class standard of living. The practice has had incredible past success in moving Americans out of poverty.
Public employees need someone to stand up for their point of view, he added.
"They don't get to dictate what they're going to get; it's all about negotiations but public employees have a right to be represented."
Wright said he would encourage anyone who cares about the plight of the middle class to fight a ban if it is proposed by the Utah Legislature this winter.
As politicans across this country move to take away the rights of public employees and the working class, your Union -- AFSCME -- continues to fight!
Local 1004 will be calling on you to help ensure that Utah doesn't become the next Wisconsin or Ohio. Employees in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have the ability to sit as equals with management and discuss their wages, benefits and working conditions. Salt Lake has had this practice in place for 30 plus years. Who on Capitol Hill is harmed by this? Not a single soul.
Please watch for details as we move forward to protect the rights of public employees in the State of Utah!
Forty-three years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, where he had traveled to support AFSCME sanitation workers striking for the right to collective bargaining. The struggle for workers’ rights continues today in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, Michigan and other states throughout the country.
Legendary soul and R&B singer and musician Aaron Neville recorded the song “America the Beautiful” especially for the video.
More than 1,000 “We Are One” events are being held across the country—including the 43rd Annual March in Memphis today—to honor the legacy of Dr. King, commemorate the anniversary of his death, and oppose the assault on public employees by elected officials bought and paid for by corporate interests. Yes, the struggle continues but together we will prevail.
"...some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions... it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends... They make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution
Main Street Stands Up in Ohio and Defeats Anti-Worker Bill
by Cynthia McCabe | November 08, 2011
COLUMBUS, OHIO – What began here in the darkest days of winter ten months ago, on the steps of a statehouse whose doors were locked to its own citizens, ended Tuesday night in the stunning defeat of Gov. John Kasich’s anti-worker Senate Bill 5
Page Last Updated: Sep 29, 2011 (13:33:00)
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees