March 24, 2008

Union Bosses Act Like State Property Owners Under Ritter's Order

Face the State has the skinny on "Colorado WINS" union bosses acting like they own state government property:
An executive order, signed by Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, last November, empowered unions to serve as “exclusive representatives” of state employees for the purposes of forming “employee partnerships.” Days after the order, a coalition of three major unions – CAPE-SEIU, AFSCME, and the American Federation of Teachers – announced a cooperative agreement to organize state workers under the name "Colorado WINS."

After hearing from state employees that Colorado WINS is aggressively trying to organize an election, Face The State attempted to attend an on-site meeting between the union and state employees. Face The State had cleared its attendance with Dawn Lee, the media contact at Colorado WINS. Then minutes before the meeting, Lee contacted FTS to say that the government building where it was being held had restricted access and she was unable to clear the attendance of a FTS staff writer without performing a background check, for which there was not enough time.

In response, FTS contacted Julie Postlethwait, the public information officer for the Department of Personnel, to confirm Lee's claim. Postlethwait said that FTS's presence at the meeting was not a problem, yet when FTS staff writer, Rachel Boxer, arrived to cover the meeting, she was denied access at the door. After Boxer identified herself by name, a DPA employee told her she was not allowed into the meeting and needed to leave the building "immediately."

According to Postlethwait, Colorado WINS had directed DPA staff to deny FTS access to its public meeting – an action that directly conflicted with the department's orders. Postlethwait apologized to FTS for the breakdown in communication, and said that the reporter should have been let into the meeting.>
It looks like Gov. Bill Ritter has given the union bosses reason to think they're in charge. The story goes on to explain how they appear to have taken Ritter's executive order as a license to move aggressively:
There are mounting complaints from state employees that the union is making a hard-line pitch for an election. Jimmie Cook, operations and maintenance manager at the state's mental health facility in Pueblo, said that in the early days after the executive order, union organizers acted as though "they had free rein from the governor." He said some of his employees reported incidents of being "accosted" by Colorado WINS representatives in the workplace parking lot. "Some went ahead and signed the petition just to get rid of them," said Cook. He noted that a directive from the facility's executive director has since halted the activity.
You have to wonder: Since Bill Ritter's executive order, what else has been going on below the public radar? In the case of denying a reporter access to a meeting on state property, "Colorado WINS" clearly overstepped its bounds. And outside scrutiny has helped to ensure public officials will work toward remedying the problem. But what happens when no one is looking again?

What has Ritter unleashed?

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

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