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After the Utah Transit Authority spent $74,000 to hire "union-busting" consultants to convince just 44 supervisors not to unionize, one Utah lawmaker is pushing a bill to ban any such spending in the future.

State Rep. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, said she introduced SB103 because such expenditures of public money by UTA show "a culture of arrogance."

A former UTA board member, Mayne said she has long pushed for improved bus service on Salt Lake County's west side. "What irks me is if I want a new bus route in Kearns, they say they have no money. But they have money for [hiring of consultants]."

Mayne, whose late husband, Ed Mayne, was president of the Utah AFL-CIO labor union, is upset that UTA spent so much to hire the Labor Relations Institute (LRI) to help defeat efforts this year by the Teamsters Union to represent 44 TRAX supervisors. The teamsters called LRI "union-busting" consultants.

The TRAX managers voted 25-19 to reject unionization in September.

Documents obtained through open-record requests by The Salt Lake Tribune showed that UTA contracted to pay $3,000 a day for LRI consultants' work while they were in Utah, plus travel expenses — which included alcohol charges.

Also, UTA agreed to pay consultants at a rate of $375 an hour if they phoned the consultants with questions.

The company also provided videos, handouts, and posters for use in lobbying employees, and software to track efforts. LRI's website describes some videos, including one from a former labor organizer who "warns the average employee is very unlikely to learn the truth about unions until it is too late."

Mayne's bill, SB103, bans transit districts from "spending public funds or contracting with a third party to restrict employee rights."

Utah is a "right-to-work state," which allows any employee to choose to skip joining a union, so UTA's efforts to block unionization are "not their duty," Mayne said. "Their duty is to provide good transportation."

The bill also seeks to make changes to Utah's open-records laws, aiming to make it easier and quicker to appeal denials from UTA for public records. That comes after the UTA initially denied The Tribune's open-records requests for details of the LRI contracts and how much was spent.

After a two-month tussle — and just before the State Records Committee was scheduled to hear the Tribune's appeal — UTA decided to release documents listing $46,700 in expenses.

A month later, it said it had missed some receipts, and the total grew to $74,000, or about $3,000 for every vote that sided with the agency.

Mayne's bill shortens possible appeals of denials by allowing people to skip a now-required appeal to UTA's president to appeal directly to the State Records Committee. It requires that committee to give priority to consideration of denials from transit agencies, and allows it to order payment of attorney fees for successful appellants.