Union ballots being counted for state employee partnerships

Mail-in ballots that will decide the unionization of some state workers into employee partnerships are being counted behind locked doors today by an independent mediator in Denver.

The organizing push has been called the largest union campaign in the country by labor officials.

Last month, five occupational groups of state employees received ballots to determine whether they want to be represented by Colorado WINS, a coalition composed of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the Colorado Association of Public Employees/Service Employees International Union (CAPE/SEIU); and the American Federation of Teachers. The deadline for casting votes was Tuesday.

The American Arbitration Association, an independent mediator, is counting the votes now, and results are expected to come some time this afternoon. According to an association representative, more than 30 percent of eligible state workers participated in the election, which is typical in similar efforts.

In November, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter issued an executive order recognizing state workers’ efforts to form employee organizations that negotiate workplace issues, although such partnerships will not have the right to strike or to binding arbitration.

State officials and Colorado WINS supporters are observing the vote counting which is being conducted by hand by arbitration association staff.

Stay tuned for the results later today.

UPDATE: Preliminary results as of 12:55 p.m. MDT

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@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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