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Wary of “outraged” unions, Hickenlooper sweet-talks labor

Posted by Kelly Maher on October 6th, 2010
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Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper indicated Monday that, if governor of Colorado, he would continue with Gov. Bill Ritter’s controversial executive order that gave state workers - and unions - more say in running the state of Colorado.

During a gubernatorial candidate forum, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said if he were to “rescind it immediately,” organized labor groups ”would be outraged.”

Well, OF COURSE, they would be outraged, but that’s not a reason for this policy to stand. Avoiding temper tantrums probably shouldn’t be the basis for governing. I will be outraged if the policy stands under a Hickenlooper gubernatorial reign. I may even throw a union-sized fit. Trust me, I could do it. Just ask my mother.

Contrast the mayor’s comments with those of Tom Tancredo, the American Constitution Party candidate, who on Friday released a statement that read, “I’ll repeal the Executive Order unionizing state government before lunch on my first day. What about you, Mr. Mayor?

Republican candidate Dan Maes has also said he would rescind the order.

Ritter’s order in 2007 “gave workers the right to collectively negotiate on matters of workplace safety, training and efficiency,” The Denver Post reported in 2008. “Employees can bargain on any ‘issues of mutual concern,’ including wages, health care and staffing.”

Hickenlooper’s recent remarks were captured on video by blogger Donald Johnson of The Business Word.

Hickenlooper was questioned at the forum by former Gov. Dick Lamm, a Democrat who served from 1975 to 1987.

LAMM: “Would you reverse Gov. Ritter’s order on collective . . . not collective bargaining…but on organization?”

HICKENLOOPER: “Well, everything we’ve been able to see is that the impact of that executive order has been minimal, almost no impact. And I think we will include it with the process of looking at every executive order, which I think every new governor should do and evaluate whether it’s had a negative or a positive. If you go out, what happens is you get these situations, you get these intense adversarial relationships. If I were to go back and rescind it immediately, I can guarantee you that the organized labor, the various organized labor groups, would be outraged. And then all of a sudden we have this huge push from labor. You know, at this point in this economy, it seems far more important for us to get people working together and to get, if we’re gonna try to get this thing turned around, we need organized labor, we need the business community, we need everybody pulling at the same time.”

Sooooo, that was a really long-winded way of saying: No, I don’t think this is the time for that.

In May, the Colorado Independent reported Hickenlooper’s support for Ritter’s executive order.

When Ritter signed the order in 2007, The Denver Post ran a front-page editorial that torched Ritter, whom the paper had endorsed in 2006.

“Ritter campaigned under the guise of a moderate ‘new Democrat’ but now we know he’s simply a toady to labor bosses and the old vestiges of his party — a bag man for unions and special interests,” read part of the editorial.

The Post’s endorsement of Hickenlooper for governor on Friday did not raise the issue.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelly Maher
    Kelly, a co-founder of WhoSaidYouSaid, brings more than 10 years of campaign and policy work experience. In addition to her skills in grassroots activism and organization, Kelly has a knack for distilling complex issues into accessible messages that resonate with voters. Her policy specialties include health care, education, employment and tort reform. Follow Kelly on Twitter at @okmaher.

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