January 25, 2008

Dems' "No-Strike" Bait-and-Switch a Boon to Ritter

The Democrats at the State Capitol are trying to pull one over on Colorado voters in an attempt to give cover to Gov. Bill Ritter's executive order that provides for the unionization of state employees. Startled by the Attorney General's revelation that his order could not prevent strikes, Ritter quickly and publicly agreed to support the concept of a no-strike law in the state legislature brought forward by Republicans.

Well, today we receive word of a bait-and-switch. After killing a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, that would provide real enforceable penalties that deter public employee strikes, the Democrats went ahead and gave mere lip service to public order and accountability:
[The House Business and Labor Committee] voted 6-5 in favor of House Bill 1189, sponsored by Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, which would prohibit strikes for the roughly 37,000 state workers eligible for Ritter's so-called employee-partnership agreements.

Ritter had argued that his order barred state workers from striking. But he agreed to sign legislation banning strikes after concerns were raised that his order could not supersede an existing law allowing a qualified right for public employees to strike.

Riesberg's bill would make it a misdemeanor to violate the prohibition. He urged its passage in the interest of helping the legislature move on to what he said is more important business. [emphasis added]
Yes, the whole topic of preventing public employee strikes is just a nuisance to Democrats, who need to keep their alliances with deep-pocketed labor officials well-fed and fat, while throwing an unenforceable "no-strike" bone for the people of Colorado to chew up. Misdemeanor, eh? That's really going to have a deterrent effect to stop union collective action against the public interest.

Unless the Democrats' bill can somehow be amended first, it will end up on Ritter's desk where he can sign it and look like a champion of order and the public good while giving a wink to government employee union leaders.

But that won't stop Republicans from trying:
Afterward, House Minority Caucus Chairwoman Amy Stephens, R-Monument, said that her party would try to toughen up Riesberg’s bill at its next stop on the House floor.
And lest you think we've heard the last of the sops to special interest Big Labor, one union leader confessed to reporters the plan to make Ritter's executive order work more strongly to their benefit, at a cost sure to be felt by taxpayers:
Teamsters Local Union 455 Political Director Ted Textor said he is working with an unidentified legislator on a bill that would grant state workers collective bargaining, in which they present proposals on everything from salaries to safety to their bosses and then vote as a group whether to accept the state’s terms. The “partnerships” that Ritter created carry less power, he said.
Now, we've already established that Ritter's order grants collective bargaining rights. This description sounds like maybe union leaders want costly binding arbitration and/or guaranteed agency fees imposed on state workers.

Gov. Ritter has let the Big Labor genie out of the bottle. What's he going to do when this proposal floats to his desk?

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

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