Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter looks to be more serious about his payback to Big Labor leaders than even earlier anticipated. As Face the State reports today – having uncovered key communications – the Governor is seriously considering an executive order to institute collective bargaining for state employees.
The problem with the governor’s proposed policy change is identified well by Republican state senators Kester and McElhany in a recent commentary for the Pueblo Chieftain:
Why the secrecy? Maybe it is because they know collective bargaining is a train wreck waiting to happen.
Just look at the cost incurred by other states that have gone down that path. Washington’s state government, which began its experiment with collective bargaining in 2004, will spend an additional $1.6 billion in salary and benefits on its 110,000 employees over the next two years under that state’s labor contract. Members of Washington’s legislature have little leeway under the contract and cannot change it.
In Colorado, collective bargaining is even harder to justify. As the Rocky Mountain News reported, Colorado state employees earn about 25 percent more than their counterparts in neighboring states! Their average salary of $51,753 already ranks ninth in the nation, or 9 percent higher than the national average for state employees.
It is not only the taxpayers who would feel the pinch. Some of the very same state employees whom collective bargaining is supposed to help would wind up with the short end of the stick. That is because they would be forced either to join the union or pay â€œagency feesâ€ in lieu of dues. In Washington, state employees who refused either option actually lost their jobs.
These observations only scratch the surface. Perhaps understanding this helps to explain why the governor may push his policy through a stroke of the pen. First, such a dramatic policy change without any mention of the problem supposedly being solved. And now, without even a debate among the people’s elected representatives?
Maybe the majority Democrats, realizing just how unpopular mandated collective bargaining would be, want to leave it to their popular governor to absorb the entire political hit. That would help spare Democrat legislators in vulnerable districts from having to choose between re-election and spurning the union bosses on one hand, and drinking the party Kool-Aid and going down to electoral defeat on the other.
On the surface, it looks shrewd. But if Ritter goes down the executive order road on this issue, he may forfeit more popularity and coalition support than he can afford. What’s left of the political honeymoon would then come to a screeching halt.