Incoming guv’s labor department pick raises GOP concerns

/ Colorado News Agency
Jan 5th, 2011

IMG_3434A place at the table and an understanding of the dynamics at play are what Colorado’s small-business community says it is expecting of newly designated Department of Labor and Employment chief Ellen Golombek.

The announcement Monday of the labor appointment by Democratic Gov.-Elect John Hickenlooper stirred up passions among Republicans, who said the development was bad for business. They cited Golombek’s ties to organized labor, including her onetime leadership of the Colorado AFL-CIO.  Golombek is currently the state director for America Votes, an organization whose stated purpose is to “advance progressive policies, expand access to the ballot, coordinate issue advocacy and election campaigns, and protect every American’s right to vote.”

Senate Minority leader Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, fired off a prepared statement this week saying Hickenlooper’s appointment would trigger fears among the state’s employers.

“His selection of a noted progressive activist and union boss in Ms. Golombek certainly will raise plenty of eyebrows in Colorado’s business community,” said Kopp.

Tony Gagliardi of the Colorado chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, said his members would try to work with Golombek, and he pointed to his group’s cordial relations with the current department director, Don Mares, appointed by outgoing Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter. Gagliardi said he is hopeful that will be the template employed by Golombek.

“We aren’t going to resort to using labels,” said Gagliardi. “We do have different philosophies, but the issues that she will be facing are non-partisan issues.  We just need everyone at the table coming to a common solution.”

The most immediate issue that Gagliardi says merits serious attention is the solvency of the state’s unemployment fund. It is encumbered with federal debt that was incurred to shore it up as unemployment levels rose during the recent economic downturn, drawing down reserves.

Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton,  with ties to the business community as a human-resources consultant, said concerns across the aisle about the appointment may prove moot if business is given a fair shake.

“As long as everybody’s at the table talking – I’m happy,” said Newell.   “Coming from an HR background, I see things from both perspectives.  With business and labor together, you can only be going in the right direction.”

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