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Instead of union muscle, why not a Colorado state-employee board?

Posted by Kelly Maher on February 8th, 2011
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As Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper pursues his “non-partisan” style of governing, rhetoric that even former union chief Ellen Golombek adopted when becoming the state Department of Labor and Employment head, here’s an innovative idea they should consider: a state-employee board instead of collective bargaining.

David Ohmart, a state employee, testified this week on a bill put forth by state Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, that proposes to eliminate the “employee partnerships” that were instituted in 2007 to allow union muscle. The bill was voted down by a Democratic-controlled committee.

But Ohmart’s criticisms regarding his inability to get some basic answers from the public-employee organization, Colorado WINS, prompted Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, to comment on the need for a conversation surrounding “transparency.”

I caught up with Ohmart after the hearing to ask him more about his interaction with WINS. An activist, he had previously started his own organization, Colorado LOSES as a counterpoint to WINS. I asked him what he’d like to see in place of Colorado WINS.

“I would like to see a state-employee board. Each department: CDOT, Department of Corrections, Labor and Employment, would each vote in a single member to be on the employee board. They are therefore employees of the state. They are not ruled by an outside organization, such as SEIU, which is running WINS right now, and influenced by that outside expectation. That board would then elect a chairman, and that chairman would sit in the cabinet with the governor, not as a cabinet member, but as an advisory of the employees to the governor. That person could also meet with the General Assembly and also speak on behalf of public employees to the press.”

Ohmart makes an interesting point. If we can get the advantages of better communication, without a lack of transparency and without a union sensibility at odds with taxpayer concerns, doesn’t that just make sense?

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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.

One Response to “Instead of union muscle, why not a Colorado state-employee board?”

  1. Ben says:

    Union financial transparency has legal precedence — of mostly private-sector unions through US Department of Labor enforcement and of public-sector unions in 13 states (though most of these states also have a lot of room for improvement)

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