Hickenlooper would retain Ritter order on state employee partnerships

Denver Mayor and candidate for governor John Hickenlooper plans to retain Gov. Bill Ritter’s executive order authorizing state-employee partnerships, or lesser-grade labor unions, at least for now, his campaign told the Colorado independent Wednesday.

“We believe it makes sense to leave the order in place and to ensure that it is followed while it is evaluated,” George Merritt, spokesperson for the campaign said.

The executive order was issued by Ritter in 2007. It allowed employees to participate in partnerships , which are similar to unions but lack the ability to enact binding arbitration or to call strikes. Republican candidate for governor Scott McInnis has said he would strike the order.

“John learned early that any business is only as good as the people working and interacting with the customers,” Merritt said. “He has a long track record of working with employees in business and government to ensure fair compensation and a good working environment in the workplace. He is committed to continuing that as governor.”

The statement comes as Hickenlooper conducts meetings with local unions across the state. Unions are now deciding on candidates to endorse in this year’s elections.

Merritt said that the campaign has so far spoken with the Colorado Education Association, the State Patrol Protective Association (state troopers), and had just rescheduled a meeting for July with Colorado WINS, the state employees association.

WINS spokesperson Ellynne Bannon said the group did not want to comment before the meeting with Hickenlooper in July.

Hickenlooper has had what Merritt calls a “pragmatic” history in dealing with unions. Hickenlooper strongly opposed ballot initiatives 47 , 49 and 54— all proposals that would have limited the power of unions and the ability of unions to organize in the state.

Yet he also opposed an effort in Denver spearheaded by teamsters in 2008 that would have granted city council members the power to unionize city employees. Hickenlooper said employees already enjoyed protections provided by a union and he fought off the teamsters.

Hickenlooper did work to unionize the Hyatt Regency Hotel for the Democratic National Convention in 2008 so Party and union officials would stay there.

AFL-CIO Political Director Phil Hayes told the Colorado Independent that his organization is looking forward to speaking with Hickenlooper and predicted that, in the end, the AFL-CIO will endorse Hickenlooper.

“The [union] members democratically vote on whether they want to endorse a race at all or whether they want to endorse multiple candidates, or one candidate,” Hayes said. “Obviously with Hickenlooper, he has no major primary opposition. I imagine we will endorse him, though it’s up to the democratic process.”

Hayes said that although his organization has not worked much with Hickenlooper in the past, he believes the mayor has worked well with labor organizations in general.

“There is still an eagerness to learn where his priorities match up with ours, particularly on jobs and making sure that when we invest resources to build infrastructure, that these are good-paying jobs with benefits that are sustainable over time and not just low-wage low-road jobs. I think there is a lot of room for collaboration with the mayor on that front,” Hayes said.

[Photo: Flickr DNC]

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