11/13/2007 11:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Business Slams GOP In Battle For Worker Rights (UPDATED)

Last week, I appeared on Colorado statewide television to debate Gov. Bill Ritter's recent executive order giving state workers the right to join state-recognized employee partnership associations - that is, to give workers a bigger voice, and join the majority of states that give workers such a voice (you can read a rundown of what's going on in Colorado here). In the two-on-one debate with the House Republican Whip and the leading Colorado conservative think tank (which you can view below or at this link), my opponents claimed Colorado businesses are outraged over the executive order. This is a complaint that the conservative political Establishment and the media here in Colorado has been parroting for more than a week. Except there's one problem - The Denver Business Journal today reports that the claims are a fabrication, showing just how frayed the conservative coalition really is out here in the heartland.

As the Journal reports, the Colorado businesses "lack the bitter outrage expressed by Republican politicians who claim the action will stifle the state's economy and hurt businesses." That's not surprising, considering that the Denver Post has reported that Colorado businesses like Kaiser Permanente have very similar employee partnerships that they say "has worked well."

Here are a few choice excerpts from the Journal report:

"I can't tell you ethically that the business community is mad as hell and won't take it anymore," said John Brackney, president of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. "Is this a major boost of energy for the unions? No doubt. But I've tried really hard to think about how this directly affects business and came up with nothing."

As of Nov. 5, Brackney said he hadn't received a single email from the chamber's 1,600 member businesses about the order.

Republican lawmakers claim they've heard from "a number" of concerned businesspeople about the matter. But House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said on Nov. 6 that no business leaders had contacted him about the issue...

Jim Howell of Denver-based Howell Construction...didn't think [Ritter's executive order] would affect his business, hurt public-private partnerships or discourage businesses from backing campaign initiatives like Referendum C.

Dan Pilcher, senior vice president and chief operating officer for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), said he can't see the connection between government action and business in the private sector.

"Where's the evidence to back the assertions?" Pilcher asked. "If I were a vice president of a manufacturing company, I'd be wondering how this affects me." (emphasis added)

This is a positively devastating article for Republicans - one that echoes precisely what I said on the PBS show last week: It is simply laughable to claim that business is offended by an initiative that does not affect business or its bottom line in the least, which is all that Ritter's executive order does, nothing more, nothing less.

But it gets better. The article is even more damning when you consider that leading business voices are even applauding Ritter's decision to make the move via executive order - another absurd point of criticism that Republicans have been airing, despite the fact that many states administer their state workforce via executive order (including Colorado under Republican Gov. Bill Owens). Here's a bit more from the Journal:

Donnah Moody, vice president of governmental affairs for CACI, said she was "personally glad" the governor dealt with the bargaining matter through the executive order so that legislators can focus on other priorities for CACI's membership. (emphasis added)

The Progressive States Network (on whose board I serve) last week released a detailed fact sheet on the executive order, which you can read here. It goes over many of these points - but again, this Denver Business Journal article is a huge blow to the GOP's sad attempts to slander Ritter's very modest measure as supposedly "anti-business." More broadly, it shows that Democrats everywhere have a lot of running room to advocate for the rights of workers - even in traditionally conservative places like Colorado.

UPDATE: Mike Saccone at the Grand Junction Sentinel reports that former Colorado Republican House Speaker and now-Republican Cabinet secretary Russell George is saying that Ritter's executive order will be beneficial to him running his Colorado agency. As Saccone says, George's statements and the Denver Business Journal report "run counter to the assertions of Colorado Republican lawmakers."

Independent Thinking - 11/8/07

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