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Hickenlooper’s union tip-toe on “This Week”

Posted by Michael Sandoval on March 1st, 2011
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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joined fellow governors Deval Patrick, D-Mass., Nikki Haley, R-S.C., and Jan Brewer, R-Ariz., on ABC’s “This Week,” which moved right to the subject of Wisconsin and its embattled Republican governor, Scott Walker. Hickenlooper responded to the question of whether or not Walker was making the right moves:

“Well, you know, when I spent a number of years in the restaurant business and sometimes we took over failing restaurants, the first thing we did was reach out to the workforce, to the workers, and say, ‘All right, if we’ve got to cut costs and try to find new ways of making difficult decisions and delivering services with less, you can - you’re the ones who have to help us.’ And I think it’s a challenge to have that kind of division and adversarial relationship…it’s going to make it very tough for them to get to the point where they can make their government smaller and yet, more effective.”

Not a response to make this past week’s pro-union protesters on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol too happy. After all, one called for more “backbone” on labor issues from the Democratic governor, and Hickenlooper’s concession that cuts need to be made is exactly what the union proponents don’t want to hear.

Hickenlooper was even conciliatory when asked his take on what to do should if [like Democrats in Wisconsin did] Colorado Republican legislators were to flee to Nevada as a sign of displeasure with his actions:

“I think the key, and again, this is the restaurant background, where you learn real early there’s no margin in having enemies. But we’ve been trying to reach out to Republicans from before the inauguration and say, ‘All right, how can we work together? We need your ideas, we’ve all got . . . I mean, this country, we shouldn’t be talking about these polarized topics, we should be talking about jobs, and how do we all make the investments in education and infrastructure and technology and innovation to move this . . . all 50 states, we should be competing against each other to see who can drive our economies the fastest. And, you know, the budget’s tough, it’s difficult, but if everyone’s at the table, we’ll get through it.”

While Hickenlooper’s reaction resembles an election stump speech in many ways (references to investments, infrastructure, jobs), his reluctance to engage “polarizing topics” such as the question of public employee unions and associated critical budget cuts also won’t be viewed with much pleasure from key Democratic labor constituencies. Anything less than explicit support for their cause - or condemnation of the situation in Wisconsin - will not alleviate union concerns, however unfounded, about their alleged precarious position in the state.

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  • Post by Michael Sandoval on March 1st, 2011

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