Despite stiff opposition from organized labor and Democrats, the Senate Wednesday approved Gov. Norman Bangerter's appointment of Thomas R. Carlson to the State Industrial Commission.
The 16-13 vote came following a Senate caucus, a special caucus by the Democrats, an executive session for the Republican caucus and a floor session called specifically to consider Carlson's appointment.Democrats found themselves in an unusual position by voting against one of their own. Carlson has been active in the Democratic Party. Even though the Democrats had some help from a few Republicans senators who have large constituencies of the working class, they fell short from keeping Carlson from joining Chairman Stephen M. Hadley and Commissioner John Florez on the three-member body.
None of the Democrats could find anything wrong with Carlson's background or personal life that would keep him from serving. They opposed the appointment because they said the governor broke a long-standing tradition that a labor-oriented person serve on the commission.
Last February when it became apparent that Lenice L. Nielsen had resigned and a replacement must be found, the AFL-CIO was asked by State Democratic Chairman Randy Horiuchi to submit some names for a replacement to the committee.
Eddie Mayne, state AFL-CIO president, said 13 people were interviewed and the list pared to five and submitted to the governor. Carlson, who was a superintendent for Kennecott Utah Copper for many years, wasn't on the list because labor union officials consider him as management.
Labor union officials say the commission needs balance because the panel considers so many issues dealing with workers. Earlier this week, Carlson's appointment received a 2-1 approval from the Senate Confirmation Advisory Council with Sen Frances Farley, D-Salt Lake, voting against.
In the Wednesday caucus with all members present, Carlson said he started at Kennecott on the track gang, but became part of a training program and worked in various departments, eventually becoming superintendent of the copper mine operation. He retired a few years ago when the layoffs started to occur.
When asked about statements there should be someone on the commission who can get benefits into the hands of injured workers quickly, Carlson said, "I think I can relate to people problems."
Sen. Richard B. Tempest, R-Salt Lake, a member of the advisory committee who voted to approve Carlson Monday, indicated there are problems between Hadley and Florez and the "commission's procedures are so loose that anything can happen."
Sen. W. Rex Black, D-Salt Lake, said he objected to the insurance industry, the Utah Mining Association and the Utah Manufacturer's Association having input into the new commissioner's appointment. Jack Christensen, mining association president, asked Carlson if he was interested in the job.
Carlson's opponents also wondered if the time had come for a woman to serve on the commission, but Carlson's backers also noted that none of the five people the labor organization suggested was a woman.