Republican lawmakers sent a strongly worded letter last week to Washington in an effort to thwart a proposal tacked on to an appropriations bill in Congress requiring state and local governments to participate in collective bargaining with labor groups representing police officers, firefighters, and emergency responders. The letter claimed the proposal would stifle economic recovery in Colorado.
The letter, addressed to all members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, was written and signed by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, along with 38 other Republican Representatives and Senators from across Colorado. It calls on the delegation to reject what the Republican lawmakers have characterized as a “dangerous amendment” to House Resolution 4899 offered by Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin.
Citing economic considerations, the letter states that the proposed amendment would cause more harm than good to Colorado’s precarious economy. Gardner defends the assertion made in the letter, saying that now is not the time to fiddle with the equilibrium currently maintained between labor unions and government.
“Particularly with all of the uncertainty currently surrounding the economy, now is not the time to be making radical changes to the balance between labor unions and local governments,” said Gardner. “The amendment that has been attached to this bill will cause further harm to our economy and hinder our economic recovery.”
One Democratic lawmaker, Sen. Lois Tochtrop of Thornton, doesn’t buy the argument made by the Republicans that collective bargaining would have a negative effect, and said she wholeheartedly supports the concept.
“I would support any amendment that would that would help in the process of collective bargaining whether in government, or in the private sector. I do not see any economic harm in allowing employees to have a place at the table,” said Tochtrop.
Collective bargaining for government employees is a topic Tochtrop is familiar with. In 2009, she successfully saw the passage of Senate Bill 180 which would have allowed firefighters to engage in collective bargaining only to see it vetoed by Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. In 2010, Tochtrop, along with Rep. Sara Gagliardi, D-Arvada, offered Senate Bill 84, creating a “peace officers bill of rights,” addressing due process considerations, one of those considerations being collective bargaining. That measure did not make it off the Senate floor. Tochtrop said the she will try again next year with the premise of SB 84.
“It’s coming back next year. We’re going to look at it and change some of the verbiage and we’ll see what happens. “
Meanwhile, Gardner remains focused on the federal government’s involvement with collective bargaining in Colorado.
“Legislators from across the state signed this letter because they are just as concerned as I am that this overreaching mandate could be on its way from Washington to Colorado,” said Gardner. “I hope our congressional delegation agrees and joins with us in opposition to this amendment.”