Labor Lobbying

UPDATE: Gov. Ritter will sign the healthcare worker whistle blower bill tomorrow, and issue and executive order  calling for a taskforce to address hospital staffing levels.

It’s not just businesses on the lobbyist bandwagon.

While corporations pay thousands of dollars for representation at the capitol, labor groups are hip to hiring their own lobbyists to influence the legislative process.

But that’s not to say they’re equal. Labor is in the minority when compared with the long list of lobbyists registered to work on behalf of businesses, and many unions are represented solely by the Colorado AFL-CIO.

Despite this, work is being done beef-up Worker’s Compensation, to protect whistle blowers in the healthcare industry, and to assist low-income state employees with healthcare costs. 

In February, SEIU supported bills to enact whistle blower protection for health care workers and to reallocate tobacco litigation settlement money to medical benefit premiums of low-income state employees.

The former was sent to the Governor’s office last week, while the latter is waiting to be heard by the House Appropriations committee.

SEIU also supported Senate Bill 10, which would have required nurse-to-patient ratios in hospital staffing plans. The bill was killed by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee after the sponsor, Democrat Sen. Lois Tochtrop, alleged unethical lobbying by the Colorado Hospital Association.

The Colorado AFL-CIO opposed a bill that would have created a junk mail “opt-out list,” due to concerns over the impact the measure would have on postal workers. The proposal was killed earlier this month by the House committee on Business Affairs and Labor.

The CO. AFL-CIO also supported measures to allow injured workers to choose their own physicians and to provide Worker’s Compensation coverage for firefighters who contract certain types of cancer. Both bills have been passed by the House.

Predictably, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) joined SEIU in supporting the tobacco settlement money plan, along with a bill outlining a state employee and employer grievance process which set to be heard by the House Appropriations committee.

While the Governor’s veto of House Bill 1072 has caused anger from the labor community, lobbying at the capitol on worker’s issues is still trucking along on a steady pace with a good success rate.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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