University of Utah Health workers forming union

Nov 14, 2023, 3:40 PM | Updated: Nov 15, 2023, 1:22 pm

university of utah health hospital shown, workers are starting a union...

University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Workers at University of Utah Health are forming a union under the national labor union Communications Workers of America.

The local union is called Utah Health Workers United.

A new website and social media pages popped up overnight. But there’s very little information listed on those sites.

A frequently asked questions page said the employees have raised concerns through official channels without meaningful results.

But it’s not clear what those concerns are or what the goals of this union are.

Union Official Stephen Rideout said they’ve done a lot of research to make sure people were actually interested in a union. But there was no actual vote to unionize.

“This is not a union that’s been collectively bargained currently. It’s called an open union, so there’s no threshold,” Rideout said.

Interest was enough to join the national labor union Communications Workers of America.

Rideout said a lot of workers are really frustrated after COVID and want to try something different.

“We’re hoping to get as many people as possible together to have a unified voice so that we can engage the university,” Rideout said.

Suzanne Winchester, with UofU Health, said the health agency hadn’t received any official notification about the formation of a union. And that U of U Health couldn’t recognize collective bargaining organizations.

“U of U Health is prohibited from recognizing organizations for purposes of collective bargaining,” read the statement from Winchester.

“That said, we are committed to transparency, to listening, and to collaboration. We welcome the opportunity to work together with our teams to continually improve working environments and to discuss any concerns.

Unions are rare in Utah

Unions are somewhat uncommon in Utah because it’s a “right to work” state.

“Right to work means the right to organize. The right to, if it works out with the rest of the workers, or the majority of the workers, to have collective bargaining,” said KSL Legal analyst Greg Skordas.

Skordas said the right to work also means an employer can fire an employee for virtually any reason.

KSL NewsRadio reached out to Utah Health Workers United for comment but has not yet heard back.

Peter Johnston contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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University of Utah Health workers forming union