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January 29, 2009 06:59 PM UTC

"I heard from a friend who heard from a friend that Unions are bad."

  • by: ClubTwitty

( – promoted by redstateblues)

Today’s Daily Sentinel is reporting:

A high-ranking Senate Democrat is considering introducing legislation this year that could encourage the unionization of local fire and police agencies – a prospect that concerns Mesa County leaders.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, said the legislation she plans to introduce will change how police and fire agencies unionize.

Tochtrop declined to comment on the proposal’s specifics but did say she has “talked about the concept” with representatives from Colorado’s firefighter and law enforcement communities.

Needless to say in this reddest part of a still red Western Slope the local political establishment is in panic at the thought of higher wages for their First Responders.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said a union could demand pay increases, more benefits and the creation of tenure for employees.

Follow me, dear readers, to learn what frightens the monolithic GOP of Mesa County.

Not afraid himself to use his position to negotiate cozy deals to reap more gain off the public dole, Rep. Steve King (what is up with representatives that have that name anyways?) feels no need to explain his motives, he just knows that allowing workers in one of the county’s more dangerous professions to organize must be stopped:

“I think that is a work in progress,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction. “Hopefully it’s a work in progress we can put a stop to.”

And the reason that Mesa’s protectors of the status quo (if not of its actual citizens) fear unions so much?  Something someone said once to someone else who passed it along to Sheriff Stan Hilkey:

“I’ve heard many anecdotal stories from colleagues around the country … about employees that the agency needs to get rid of but can’t because of the union rules,” Hilkey said in an e-mail. “These are officers with integrity issues, use-of-force issues … that the public expects us to weed out, but they can’t due to the union.”

The next step–if this is not nipped in the bud–is that other workers might also get the idea that they can organize to negotiate better pay, safer working conditions, or meaningful benefits.

At the behest of Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce voted Tuesday to oppose any legislation encouraging the unionization of local public employees.

Diane Schwenke, president of the chamber, said such a bill could signal a trend toward the strengthening of unions’ positions in the private sector.

Oh Noz!  Unions in Mesa County…next stop: and end to one-party rule?


15 thoughts on ““I heard from a friend who heard from a friend that Unions are bad.”

  1. But it’s the individual contract (aside from teachers where the security is required by statute) that determines the level of job security.

    So the police & fire can unionize and that does not mean grounds for firing will change. It’s up to both groups to hammer out a reasonable compromise.

    1. I’m not familiar with state statutes on employment, but can you give a section of statutes or a title or something?  I’m curious how the teachers contract works, by law.


        1. I can’t get the probationary contract to load, but the state statutes state that a teacher can be fired as long as there is cause.  Or, a teacher cannot be fired with no cause.  I don’t understand how this works in practice as unreasonable and how it became impossible to fire a teacher.

  2. The greater concern, hardly theoretical, but something that already exists under civil service rules anyway in most cases, is difficulty in disciplining and terminating bad cops.

    This is a chronic problem in Denver, where police brutality is a never ending problem.

    1. …but I don’t think police and fire are working under the same conditions! And pay is generally good, better than what many people in the private sector get with similar education levels.  Good job security if you don’t do something really stupid and great bennies.

      What’s to fight for?

  3. and that the Sheriff’s fear is that it COULD raise wages or COULD mean more benefits or COULD allow employees to negotiate for tenure…

    As David notes, its a NEGOTIATION process (not a requirement that unions be formed).  But for the entrenched establishment of Mesa County, that is fearful enough…the mere thought of unions.  

    1. are already civil service system hires who can only be fired for cause, and are subject to merit based hiring and promotion (usually with a testing component of some kind).  

      The precise process by which cause is determined would differ a bit (probably favorably to the employee) under a union contract.  But, a situation where you can be terminated only for cause is pretty much the definition of tenure, so they have that already (as do almost all rank and file government employees in all but the smallest governmental entities).

      Indeed, the job security that public employees already have is one important reason that public sector unionization rates are soaring, while private sector unionization rates continue to fall to 1920s levels (pre-any federal union protection legislation).

  4. For the second year in a row, union membership nationally has increased.  This is a change from the last few years in which union membership was declining.  It moved up this year by approx. 428K

    Unions represent a little more than 12% of the workforce, now.  A better number than it has been but still small compared to the heydey of unions (and the American Economy) the 50s.

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