Utah now enters the national fray over public employees collective bargaining.
Don’t worry. We won’t end up like Wisconsin – whose governor is now facing a recall election (costing $9 million) over the same issue.
Utah has no elected official recall law.
On Tuesday, Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, an Alpine School District administrator, introduced HB106, a bill that would stop state and local governments, including school districts, from bargaining with public employees on any issue other than for wages and health care.
In other words, no collective bargaining allowed with public employees for preparation days, work hours, setting up 401ks, sick and vacation days, onsite safety and so on.
“I’ve been working on this for a year,” Grover told UtahPolicy.
If he had his druthers, he would just outlaw any public employee labor negotiations with state and local governments.
“That is just a red flag for me,” said Grover, one of the founding members of the fundamentalist Patrick Henry Caucus.
“But I don’t think we’ll see the drama of Wisconsin or Indiana,” he said. No doubt in part because Republicans are so dominant in Utah in general and in the Legislature in particular.
Grover said he’s talked to various state, local government and school district officials. “At first they were stressed, as you might imagine,” he said.
Across the nation, and in Utah, some “arbitrary” issues have been placed in public employee contracts or agreements, from vehicles being assigned to workers to “the requirement that vacuum bags be changed every three months.”
Restricting collective bargaining for public employees to just wages and health care is a first step, he said. He would like to see such collective bargaining ended all together.
“I wanted to start much bigger. But this for now.”
“This is not an attack on public school teachers or anyone else. For me, it’s a matter of good public policy,” said Grover.
Democrats and union folks don’t see it that way.
“This is just another example (of Republicans) providing a bill in search of a problem: There is no problem” in governments negotiating with their employees, who may belong to a union or association, said Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake, who in private life is a co-director of the Davis Education Association.
Briscoe has been a member of the DEA for 30 years, working as a high school history teacher, and has been a full-time employee of the DEA for nearly four years.
Briscoe said that perhaps half a dozen school districts out of 41 actually sign contracts with teachers.
“We are a right to work state,” he said. “You can join a union or not. And as I understand it, most of these negotiations (between employees and the administration/school board) are policy agreements with the board, which can be changed at any time.”
There is no reason, said Briscoe, that teachers or other public employees shouldn’t be able to talk to their employers about any work-related issue.
“There is no reason to limit these talks – which really is all they are – talks,” said Briscoe.
According to Reuters, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will face a recall election later this year because a group opposed to his administration has gathered the required number of voter signatures.
The group has collected more than 1 million signatures, and the main complaint against Walker is his fight to stop collective bargaining with state workers.
A number of Wisconsin lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, also face recall elections this year for supporting Walker’s anti-union efforts.
But Utah legislators and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert couldn’t face such efforts, Utah doesn’t have an elected official recall provision.
Former GOP state House member Kory Holdaway, who now directs lobbying for the Utah Education Association, said HB106 “is a reaction to what has happened in Wisconsin and other areas of the country.”
“A similar law was repealed in Ohio by 60 percent of the voters. And voters in Utah don’t want something like this. Under this bill, teachers couldn’t negotiate on workplace issues, like safety for themselves and the children.
“Utahns want a safe environment for their children, and so do teachers,” said Holdaway.
“These kind of” anti-union laws for public employees “have not proven a positive thing in other states, and wouldn’t be so here.”