A new piece of anti-union legislation was introduced in Utah in January by Republican Rep. Keith Grover. HB106, formally named “Limitation on Collective Bargaining,” seeks to prohibit the collective bargaining rights of state and local government employees. Over the last year we have seen a number of attacks on the right of the American working class to collectively bargain.
The most prominent of these attacks came in Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker forced through his “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill” last March, following weeks of protests across the entire country. As many as 100,000 protested in Madison, WI, while here in Utah a protest of 300 was organized, a sizable number given the prevailing conditions here.
In June of last year, Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, signed into law legislation that significantly increased the health contributions public sector workers have to make and delayed the ability of workers to collectively bargain the issue for four years. When Gov. John Kasich of Ohio attacked the right of public sector workers to collectively bargain in his state with SB 5, the response of Ohio’s unions was swift.
The labor movement banded together to hold a statewide referendum on the law, and they collected a million more signatures than the necessary 300,000. The measure was placed on the November ballot and 63 percent voted to defeat the law.
One thing that makes Utah’s HB106 different from the legislation in Wisconsin, New Jersey, or Ohio, is the fact that Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert has not yet publicly put his weight behind the bill.
Currently, HB106 is in the “House Rules Committee,” and has yet to face any attention from the state or national media. If Rep. Grover can garner support for his bill among the Republican establishment (Governor Herbert for example), it will be difficult to stop.
This past year’s history is a further demonstration of the fact that the class struggle does indeed exist. The ruling class wishes to strip away the power of the U.S. labor unions in order to push further austerity upon the working class. As in Greece, the ruling class does this in order to stave off the economic crisis that capitalism has once again brought to their doorstep.
Although this is a conservative “right to work” state with few recent examples of the class struggle, Utah’s public sector workers do have the power to fight back and defeat this bill. Already, there are rumbles of discontent from the firefighters and teachers, and this may be an opportunity to draw broader sections of the sympathetic working class towards a more militant form of organizing.