A Moment in History: Letter-Writing Campaign Demonstrates Why Participation Matters

In November 1970 Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) members (then called, USEA, Utah State Employees’ Association) used a letter-writing campaign to get their message across to Gov. Calvin L. Rampton. Their message was that it was urgent that Rampton reinstate a 5 percent merit increase and an additional 8.5 percent pay boost into his budget for the next fiscal year.

USEA President Sherral Winget; Governor Rampton; Executive Director Rick Kinnersley and Executive committee members, Geri Shaw and Paul Gillette examine a large section of letters sent to the Governor by USEA members.

Just fewer than 2,000 handwritten, personalized letters were written to express the importance of this compensation increase. The letters were presented to Rampton on a 1,100-foot roll of paper that was long enough to stretch from his inner-office boardroom and across the second floor of the State Capitol three times.

The governor took a “wait-and-see” attitude toward the requests for better pay from UPEA . He argued that he wanted to provide pay increases, but he could only do so if the state’s income increased enough to supply the funds. Sales-tax collections were running ahead of projections that year, but income-tax collections were lagging in 1970.

Ultimately, UPEA members ended up having a dramatic effect on state employee compensation. Legislators took heed of the letter-writing campaign and adopted a report that UPEA used to demonstrate the need for a pay increase. In January 1971, state employees received a record salary increase. The total compensation package the Legislature passed included an average pay increase of 6 percent.

The campaign demonstrated the effectiveness of UPEA members in achieving their goals when everyone works together and participates. It is a great reminder that the more active members UPEA has, the greater pull the Association has at the state Legislature.