January 11, 2008

Why did Ritter Leave Worker Protections out of His Order?

The Denver Business Journal interviewed one of the two national labor experts who spoke at an event this morning sponsored by the Colorado chapter of the Federalist Society. From the article headlined "Labor experts make case against Ritter's union order":
The governor and Democrats in the House and Senate argue the order is non-binding and won't have a direct bearing on budgets or businesses. Many in the business community also say they're hard pressed to see how the order effects them.

But Stan Greer, senior programming director for the National Institute of Labor Relations, based in Springfield, Va., made the case that Ritter's executive order isn't in the state's best economic interests -- particularly if state workers are forced to pay union dues.

Greer spoke in front of some prominent local Republicans, including Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, Senate Minority Leader John McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and other legislators, at Denver's University Club Friday morning.

Based on what he's seen in other states, Greer said, the executive order increases the chances that most state workers will belong to a union -- especially because Ritter's order didn't explicitly bar forced union fees.

"The governor is bending over backwards to say forced unionization is not what he's imposing," Greer said. "But if the governor was against union dues and agency fees, he would have explicitly put that in the order. ... He wants to leave the door open, but it's not convenient for him to talk about it at this time."
I've written a lot about Gov. Ritter's executive order. But until I heard Greer and his colleague Raymond LaJeunesse bring up this point, I had pretty much conceded that the order wouldn't be a big issue when it came to worker freedom. Sure, some state employees will have to accept union representation regardless of whether or not they believe it benefits them.

But what about setting up "agency shops" in Colorado state government - where everyone has to pay tribute to the "exclusive representative" union to keep their job? Gov. Ritter could have explicitly prohibited non-member "agency fees" in his executive order. But he didn't.

As Greer and LaJeunesse pointed out, Ritter could have followed the example of President John F. Kennedy, who in 1962 signed Executive Order 10988, enabling monopoly collective bargaining among federal government employees. Included in the order: "Employees of the Federal Government shall have, and shall be protected in the exercise of, the right, freely and without feel of penalty or reprisal, to form, join and assist any employee organization or to refrain from any such activity. [Emphasis added]"

Ritter's order has nothing to say about state government workers' rights along these lines. Why not? The governor has told us that his order doesn't provide for agency fees, and that he retains final authority over the process. But when Big Labor negotiates "fair share" agency fees into a union "partnership agreement" as a trade-off for a smaller pay raise, who will be there to counter the union's political pressure?

Hint, hint ... Someone needs to follow up on the Denver Business Journal story and ask Gov. Ritter whether he intends to amend his order by adding individual worker protections.

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

No comments: