Senate approves union bill, sends to Ritter; he’s mum on plans
DENVER – The Senate on Monday approved a Democratic measure making it easier to set up all-union workplaces, sending the bill to Gov. Bill Ritter.Ritter has not said whether he would sign it but said Republican lawmakers and business groups who opposed the measure were overreacting.”This is not a big deal. This is not the end of economic development in Colorado,” he said on KOA radio in Denver.Republicans, who staged an eight-hour filibuster to protest the bill (House Bill 1072) last week, repeated criticism that it would discourage businesses from moving to Colorado and help Democratic-friendly unions raise more money.They also said Democrats, including Ritter, never told voters this was part of the agenda even though it is one of the first bills to be sent to his desk on the 27th day of the 120-day session.”Did Bill Ritter have his fingers crossed when he made the Colorado Promise?” asked Sen. Josh Penry, referring to the governor’s campaign slogan. “In a few days, we’ll find out.”Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, said Democrats were “ripping off the mask of moderation” in passing the bill. He held up copies of the opening day speeches of House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald.Ritter denied GOP charges that the bill was put on a fast track to pay back unions for their help in the November election.”There was nothing about it that fast-tracked it. I think before it gets to my desk we’ll have one other bill, perhaps two other bills that I will see that were not fast-tracked,” Ritter said.The bill would eliminate one of two worker elections required to form an all-union workplace. In an all-union shop, all employees are required to pay fees to the union whether or not they join.The fees are intended to cover the union’s cost to represent the nonmembers.Under the current system, the initial vote requires a majority to decide to form a union and the second requires a 75 percent majority to form an all-union shop. Colorado is the only state that requires a second election on the issue.Even in an all-union workplace, Fitz-Gerald said employees who didn’t support the union would have to pay fees to cover only the union’s cost of representing them in negotiations, and not full-blown union dues that support union political causes.She said the bill isn’t a big change, pointing out that 27 other states operate without a second election, and Republicans are using it as an opportunity to oppose the new Democratic administration and Legislature.”They chose to have this as their Alamo where they could make their stand,” she said after Monday’s debate.The 22 other states are considered “right to work” because unions are never allowed to collect fees from non-members.
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