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AFSCME members’ strong, united opposition derails anti-union bill in Utah

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AFSCME members’ strong, united opposition derails anti-union bill in Utah
By Andrew Dudenbostel ·

SALT LAKE CITY – Members of AFSCME Local 1004 fought hard and stood strong against anti-union legislation filed in the Utah Legislature this year, playing an important role in derailing it during the session that wrapped up on March 1.

HB 285 was an updated version of anti-union legislation AFSCME members defeated in Utah in 2023 and it featured even more severe restrictions on public service unions. 

HB 285 would’ve limited the amount of time union members could spend on union matters, forced members to sign cards for dues collection every year, and required public service unions to hold regular recertification elections and win 51% of the vote from the entire bargaining unit — not just those voting — or shut down.

AFSCME and a coalition of unions came together to fight the bill, including those representing teachers, firefighters and police officers. The Utah Education Association, Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers, and others were part of the coalition.

“The fight against HB 285 and its attack on public unions has been the pinnacle of the power of collaboration. We have brought together associations, unions and supporters of public employees for the defense of working families. Our message has been an attack on one is an attack on all,” said Brad Asay, executive director of Local 1004 and vice president of the Utah AFL-CIO.

He said union members came together like never before to fight the bill.

“We gave fair warning to our opponents that we would fight back if they pursued this legislation. They pushed the bill, and we responded by unleashing the power of union solidarity," Asay said.

The bill would’ve affected many of Local 1004’s 600 members, who are municipal and state workers.

AFSCME members from both sides of the aisle sent more than 2,000 emails and made many phone calls to state representatives to voice their opposition to HB 285. They also showed up repeatedly to the state Capitol to persuade lawmakers to vote “no” and to attend committee and floor sessions. Along with other union members, they packed the chamber galleries and multiple overflow rooms. 

Shelley Bilbrey, a Republican, defies the stereotype of a union member as a Democrat. She joined Local 1004 18 years ago to have a voice in the workplace.

“Unions are about negotiations and communication to bring a better work force together. Through this avenue, we bring a level of professionalism and knowledge for all involved including management, city council, HR, and most importantly the taxpayer who expects this professionalism and knowledge,” Bilbrey said. “No matter how you vote (politically), we stand in solidarity."

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