Moment in History: Feb. 12, 1979 – 400 UPEA Members Lobby Legislature

The 1979 legislative session presented an opportunity for the Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) to demonstrate its strong voice and strength in numbers. UPEA called on its members to participate in a legislative rally expressing the unity of state employees. UPEA members statewide were invited to attend the rally on Utah Capitol Hill. On Feb. 12, 1979, about 400 UPEA members gathered in the rotunda of the State Capitol to demand a fair compensation increase. The crowd gave a face to the message UPEA lobbyists were delivering to lawmakers. Members’ attendance supported the goal of the rally: to enlist the support of legislators for Utah public employee wage increases.

Current UPEA Director J. Robert Brimhall led the rally. He asked legislators to fund an increase that would equal that approved for higher- and public-education employees. State Senate Majority Leader Fred Finlinson, and State House Minority Leader DeMont Judd joined UPEA in the rally. They shared what lawmakers were thinking. Finlinson noted legislative leaders faced a clamor for tax relief and cuts in spending. Judd told employees at the rally that although they deserved the raise they were asking for, they were unlikely to get it. Jessie Diamond, UPEA president at the time, rallied members to act. “We are 40,000 strong, and if we are not treated fairly, we should make our numbers felt in the next election.”

After the rally in the rotunda ended, UPEA members joined UPEA staff to individually lobby legislators about compensation and health insurance premiums. During the 1979 session, continuous meetings occurred with Gov. Scott M. Matheson and legislative leadership.

UPEA would like to thank its members for participating in the political process every year, by voting in local elections and taking time to contact representatives about issues of importance.

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