Ritter vetoes bill making it easier to set up all-union workplace

Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

DENVER (AP) ” In the first major test of his young administration, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed a controversial measure Friday that would have made it easier to set up all-union workplaces, angering labor leaders but relieving business groups.

Ritter said he was satisfied with the bill but not with the process that led to its passage, arguing the debate should have been broader. Business leaders had complained they were excluded from the discussions.

“The message is this. We’re going to do things differently,” said Ritter, who took office a little more than a month ago.

Colorado AFL-CIO President Steve Adams said Ritter broke a campaign promise “under pressure from big business.”

“He showed that if you raise a big stink, he will cave. It tells me a lot about the man,” Adams said.

Donna Moody, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, said Ritter had kept his promise to work with all sides on issues.

“This was incredibly divisive. We believe this restores credibility,” she said.

The measure had caught Ritter between labor and business interests.

He campaigned last fall as a business-friendly Democrat, winning a job previously held by Republican Bill Owens, who was term-limited.

But Ritter is also the first Democratic governor in more than 40 years to have Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature, and unions and other traditional Democratic constituents hoped their issues would get a friendlier reception than before.

House Majority Leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder, said the Legislature will not try to override the veto because Democrats don’t have the two-thirds vote they would need. They have a 39-26 majority in the House and a 25-15 majority in the Senate.

She said she didn’t know whether lawmakers would try another version. A second attempt might produce the same thing, she said.

“I don’t know what would change,” Madden said.

The bill would have eliminated one of two worker elections required to form an all-union workplace.

In an all-union shop, all employees are required to pay fees to the union whether or not they join. The fees are intended to cover the union’s cost to represent the nonmembers.

The current system calls for two votes, one to form a union and a second to form an all-union shop. The second ballot requires a 75 percent majority to pass.

Business groups said the change would have discouraged new employers from coming to Colorado. Supporters said the measure wasn’t a big change, pointing out that Colorado is the only state that requires a second election on the issue.

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