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June 29, 2009 11:32 AM MDT

Tough Day For Ritter On Labor's "Most Hallowed Ground"

  • by: Colorado Pols

As the Pueblo Chieftain reports:

Gov. Bill Ritter came [to Ludlow] Sunday morning to honor the striking CF&I mine workers and their families who were shot to death on April 20, 1914.

However, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, as well as Pueblo firefighters, stood up and turned their backs in protest against the governor they helped elect in 2006.

Ritter’s decisions in the past few months to veto several bills sought by Colorado unions appears to have ripped apart the alliance between the first-term Democrat and unions that worked for his election three years ago.

“He’s just disgusting us right now,” said Sam Pantelo, vice president of the Pueblo’s Steelworkers Local 2102. “I don’t know who he thinks is going to work for him in 2010.”

Most of the crowd of about 300 people at the ceremony Sunday wore caps or shirts declaring their union affiliation. Shortly after arriving, Ritter waved off a question suggesting he is losing support among organized labor.

“I have a dispute with some labor groups,” Ritter said. “But if you look at what we’ve accomplished for working families, I think I’ve acted in the best interest of the state.”

…The speeches Sunday were unashamedly pro-union and Ritter’s presence on the podium was largely ignored. In fact, he was not even listed in the program, which Robert Butero, UMWA regional director, explained as an “oversight” just before introducing Ritter after nearly 90 minutes of other speakers.

None of this should surprise you–obviously the Ludlow Massacre Memorial is not a place you would expect to find much praise for a Governor who just outraged thousands of fellow union members, and we seriously doubt Bill Ritter’s omission from the schedule was an accident. And as evidenced by these comments from a Pueblo steelworker, Ritter’s vetoes have upset a larger constituency than just the grocery workers and firefighters in the spotlight. According to the Chieftain, the biggest applause for any speaker occurred when Rep. Buffie McFadyen called for the audience to support unionized grocery workers in their ongoing negotiations–directly calling out Ritter’s veto of their (symbolically) key bill.

At the same time, you have to admit that failing to appear at the Ludlow Memorial yesterday would have been at least as bad for Ritter’s relations with labor. He didn’t have a choice but to show up and take his lumps. Until concrete steps to reconcile with this and other aggrieved communities in his Democratic base are taken–something everyone agrees is necessary but nobody seems to have really defined, let alone begun–Ritter should probably get used to the experience.

It’s what happens when you “say no to your friends.” You still have to see them every day…


45 thoughts on “Tough Day For Ritter On Labor’s “Most Hallowed Ground”

  1. For anyone interested in exploring the political tone deafness of this administration, read exhibit A above.  

    I’d say he has balls for showing up but I really think he’s too stupid to know that this would end badly!  

    He should have sent his co-governor.

    1. He could either show up and face the hostility or not show up and engender even more hostility.  Ritter does not seem good at thinking more than one move ahead, nor does he have a strategist capable of doing so.  

      Statewide elections aren’t going to be cakewalks for Dems in Colorado any time

      soon. While labor and other interest groups may have nowhere else to go, they still shouldn’t be taken for granted. Enthusiastic contributing, volunteering and turn-out is still key.  

      You can rag on politicians all you want, make the term a dirty word but lousy politicians don’t win elections, do they?

        1. all the time. (I’m not saying that Ritter is a lousy politician, and there may many flabors of them, but the general proposition is true.)

          Also, the don’t show up v. show up and take licks dichotomy is not entirely true.  Indeed, the Ludlow speech would have been a perfect opportunity for Ritter to “concrete steps to reconcile with this and other aggrieved communities in his Democratic base are taken.”

          Chief among them, would have been anything on his part to show that he is willing to do something for organized labor in particular, and doesn’t think that generalized support for “working families” is sufficient.  His reluctance to go that far in his rhetoric is worrisome from labor’s perspective.

        2. People who run crappy campaigns do NOT win all the time.  Not unless they are in a safe district.  If McCain hadn’t run such a lousy campaign, for instance, many of the moderate Dems and indies who used to like him a lot may well have been more comfortable voting for him than for Obama. If he had remembered to return to the middle after the primary for starters.  Failing to do that was lousy politics.  Schaffer wouldn’t have been quite such a push-over had he been a less clueless candidate.  The list goes on and on.  Maybe you are mixing up being a lousy potential elected official with being a lousy candidate.  That DOES happen all the time.  Plenty of candidates tank due to lack of political skill.

            1. To me being a lousy politiician means making poor political moves and decisions both in campaigning to get elected in the first place and in getting things done in office and positioning oneself for re-election. Ritter did a good job getting elected but has proved pretty clumsy in office.

              What did he think would be the reaction to appointing a guy who wasn’t on ANYBODY’S short list to the vacant Senate seat? What did he he thnk the Romanoff camp’s reaction would be to his kicking the popular Ronmanoff to the curb for this unknown quantity after Romanoff was so  helpful in getting Ritter elected in the first place?

              What did he think would be the reaction of labor to vetoing legislation they worked hard to promote and which was passed by Ritter’s own party in the State Leg? Why didn’t Ritter try harder to work it out with his Dem leg before it came to the point of a veto? Lately Ritter always seems to be caught off guard by the obvious. He looks like a weaker more clueless leader every day.

          1. Granted, but contrary to your point, the Udall campaign was generally conceded to be poorly run — I don’t know a single campaign professional who wasn’t complaining about their operations and missed opportunities — and he won because he’s a good politician who ran in a good year and had a lousy opponent.

            1. between the political skills of the candidate and the skills of his or her campaign team, but then the first job of a good politician in getting elected is to choose the team wisely and lead the team well.  

              Udall did a decent job, especially in selling a sufficiently “middle” persona after years of being tagged the Boulder Liberal from Hell. Yes, he also ran in a good year.  But the fact that his opponent, by contrast, was so lousy is kind of my point.  A skilled pol would have been a much bigger problem.

              I’m  not saying that Ritter is doomed.  Just saying he isn’t exactly strengthening his position these days.  

              1. about the Ritter campaign, which is sound, but to clarify: I’ve got friends on Udall’s team and think it was a good team for the job and, proof in the pudding, they won by a hefty margin. But it wasn’t a well run campaign and we’re all lucky other factors made Udall’s election much more likely.

                1. 2008 was a very good year for us but we shouldn’t count too much on sheer luck in 2010.  We’ll need successes we can point to, the kind of enthusiasm  that generates funds and skill as well as luck. Oh and weak opponents.  At least those still seem to be in good supply.

  2. Penry increasingly has a better chance.  Not a good one, but better.  And if Ritter kills more labor bills in 2010 he will be the choice of Dems holding their noses.

    1. The anger is palpable in the rank and file.  Its not just labor.  I can feel it throughout the interest groups, even with interest groups that have no obvious relationship with each other.

      Governor Penry would be terrible and the leadership in labor knows (as does the leadership in the other groups).  Unfortunately, even if interest group leadership decides to back Ritter as a lesser of 2 evils, he will not get the rank and file back unless he moves decisively to get them back: the rank and file is not motivated by redistricting or Lo2E.

      In a non presidential year turning out your base is critical, and it is unlikely that many low motivation voters will turn out, I find the political strategy curious.

          1. This is an important point which illustrates why the terms “special interest” and “interest group” are really misleading descriptions of political realities. These terms imply that such groups are against ‘you’.  Are oil companies against me or do I need energy and fuel like everybody else?  The question becomes where is the balance? The biggest special interest groups are those people in positions of authority (elected officials, ect) trying to maintain the status quo.    

      1. …because such claims are easy to make.  I know some “rank and file” types and what they feel is nowhere near anger.   I think your conclusion is far too dramatic, although I do love the drama.

        1. Heck, I AM rank and file.  I would say that many are feeling disappointment in and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for Ritter more than anger, although anger is no doubt accurate for labor.

          The good things that he has accomplished are being overshadowed.  He’s going to need to spend a lot of time, money and energy reminding people of the positives if he wants to see grassroots enthusiasm going into 2010.  

              1. You are all almost enjoying dragging Ritter down.  Well, if he loses, it’s all your fault.  Enjoy Gov. Penry/McInnis for 4 years and see how much you enjoy that.

                You all are disloyal and selfish.

                1. You can’t fix something if you don’t first recognize there’s a problem.  It seems that a number of people are concerned that the Governor and his campaign team are not yet showing signs of recognizing there is a problem.  Pointing out a problem is not being disloyal.  

  3. Sometimes, you do have to break rank with your friends.  But, generally, you are expected to give them fair warning that you will do so well in advance, and are expected to explain that what they want is bad on the merits.  In these respect, Ritter failed in the veto process.

    Also, even if you break rank with your friends for perfectly good reasons and in good form, you are expected to promptly offer to make amends in the best way that you possibly can, as soon as possible.  I haven’t seen this happening with labor either.  Part of Ritter’s problem is that he acts like the matters the unions are unhappy about are no big deal, when almost nobody else see it that way.

  4. The Republicans can’t find anyone remotely better.  Penry is a joke and Tancredo is worse.  At least Ritter was traveling inside the state with his pecker in check.  That should count for something with the values voters.

  5. If Ritter signed into law anti-union bills, I’d agree with you folks.  The truth is, he didn’t give the unions a bunch of sweetheart deals, so they’re all mad.  That’s no reason to call him a backstabber, turncoat, Republicrat, anti-labor, etc.

    Just chill.

    1. Basic job protections are the right to form and join a union is not a “sweetheart deal”. I think you just flat wrong, but you are also missing another key point. If a person is an anti-labor DEM, so be it, just be honest about it during the campaign.  

        1. We know more than anybody how anti-union this state is and within the country in general.  We also know that this thinking preservers in both parties.  We do not expect people to always agree with us, not even close, but we do expect a reasonable effect to comply with the law from people who claim to support labor.

          National Labor Relations Act –

          ‘Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection”…  

          Party platform – “We believe that all workers have the right a fundamental right to assembly, organize, bargain collectively and jointly petition businesses and government for better working conditions and vote on all matters without intimidation or coercion from management or outside influences”….

          We know that getting to this point of compliance with law and the platform position will cause conflict, but progress will always cause conflict.  The health care debate is a fine example.   Asking someone to stand up for they CLAIM to believe is not asking much. Asking someone to respect and follow the law is not asking much despite opposition from wealth and status quo sectors of society.  

          If you think it is ok to say one and do the opposite, so be it. I do not share that position. In this state, that has come to be the definition of a “moderate”.  I think I am a moderate too, but I would not anybody to think I was gutless.  

  6. If the grocery employees strike, I’ll have no problem crossing the picket line for groceries.  The union members were given a great deal and were led down the path of darkness by their union leadership.

      1. So are you going to support him and vote for him?  Look me in the eyes and say yes.  If not, you’re a Republican and have no right to criticize me.

        1. I don’t see myself voting for Penry, and I don’t think I’ll be voting for McInnis.  I haven’t seen another candidate who engages me.  And I will be voting for someone.  Right now Ritter has the lead for my vote.  

          That may change.  I was a Republican once; I led my local Democratic Party for 4 years just recently…  In the end, I’ll vote for the person who I think/feel can do the best job for the state.  What you call me won’t affect how I elect my representative officials.

  7. There needs to be an understanding of average Puebloans and the rag that passes for a newpaper. This is a very Democratic town. Almost half of all registered voters are Democrats. It is also very pro-union. The  paper is very, very Republican. Many of us don’t subscribe, but get a great deal of pleasure out of reading it for free on line. Don’t know how long that will last. This is supposed to be the newspaper with the greatest market penetration in the country, but it gets slimer  and slimer as time and the depression progress.

    I don’t want to get into the what ifs about Ritters run for re-election. I would like to describe what happened at Ludlow on Sunday. The weather was chilly at first and really pleasant all day, unlike many years in the past when it was really hot. This was one of the largest crowds that has turned out for this event. Despite the impression the paper gave, only about 10% of the crowd turned their backs. Most of those people were from Pueblo and I was one of them. However, I was extremely disappointed that about half of the audience stood and applauded both when the Governor came to the podium and when he finished speaking. I was hoping for silence.

    You are all invited to come down next year. This has become a spiritual pilgramage for many.  

    1. You said the paper gets “slimer and slimer” as time and the depression progress.  Not sure if you meant slimmer, or slimier, or both.  

      I laugh when I remember my interview with the paper’s editorial board when I ran for the legislature – the interview went well (as well as it could), and the editor concluded by saying, “I’ll tell you what I told Buffie — you need to be a Republican.”

      Thanks for the details about Ludlow – wish I could have been there.  

    2. If the governor called out the National Guard to arrest the people who disrespected him, I’d say you have every right to be upset.  Otherwise, what you did only pushes the governor further away rather than engaging him to see where a compromise might be found.

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