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Utah bill would mean stricter regulations for union workers

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Alex Gonzalez

(Utah News Connection) A Utah lawmaker has proposed a bill which could impose stricter restrictions and regulations for public employees.

Passage of House Bill 241, sponsored by Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, would mean union stewards and leaders would not be allowed paid time to engage in union work. It would also prohibit a public employer from deducting union dues from a public employee's wages and prohibit public money or public property to be used for union organizing or administration.

Shelley Bilbrey, court clerk for Salt Lake City for almost two decades, has been a member of her union for the last 16 years and has been a union steward the last eight. She said in her opinion, the provisions mean Utah labor unions are in for the fight of their lives.

"A union member cannot do any union business whatsoever in a public building," Bilbrey explained. "That, right there, pretty much puts a kibosh on the union."

Teuscher has said it is an issue of using taxpayer money to process payroll deduction for union dues. Bilbrey countered she is shocked and confused because public employees have other deductions being taken out of their paycheck, and she does not see how union deduction fees are different.

Bilbrey added the measures proposed in the bill would heavily complicate helping union members. Bilbrey explained she joined her union to have a voice. As a union steward, Bilbrey emphasized she has a specific number of hours covered to handle union issues. If the bill were passed, Bilbrey stressed union issues would have to be resolved on one's own time. 

"I don't know how to figure out how we would go around that," Bilbrey admitted. "What am I supposed to say to someone? 'Oh yeah, hey, meet me at Denny's.' "

Bilbrey added being part of a union is all about leveling the playing field and about giving individuals a voice at the workplace. She sees the bill not only as perplexing, but as an attack on public employees and Utah unions.