Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

El Paso County lawmakers target state employee unions

JOHN SCHROYER Updated: January 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

Unions are a favorite target of statehouse Republicans, and that won’t change this year.  

A pair of Colorado Springs Republicans plan to introduce bills that would prohibit state and local governments from negotiating with employee unions.

Sen. Bill Cadman and Rep. Janak Joshi are drafting parallel bills that they say will save Colorado money and allow the state to manage its budget without having to fight organized labor.

“State employees are basically working for the people. And when they become union, it just defeats that whole purpose, because they start to demand from the citizens, basically. And when citizens don’t have the money, then what do you do?” said Joshi.

Cadman said that state and local governments don’t have an option to making concessions to unions.

“It’s not like we can flip a switch and go someplace else,” Cadman said. “It’s completely different from the private sector.”

Joshi added that he believes layoffs are inevitable this year, given Colorado’s estimated $1.2 billion budget shortfall. And if the state employee union won’t accede to needed cuts, the budget battle could get even uglier, said Joshi.

“This wouldn’t be the first time that a legislator has tried to demonize state employees who are trying to have a voice,” said Scott Wasserman, political director of Colorado Wins, which represents state employees.

Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said the Republicans are making unions “the scapegoat of the day.”

“It’s easy to yell at the unions, but in reality, what you’re doing is yelling at the workers,” said Ferrandino.

Ferrandino, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee, said the chances of such a bill saving the state any money are “slim to none.”

State employees have taken pay cuts, had furlough days, and now spend much more on health care benefits, Ferrandino noted. Cutting off the union’s power to negotiate would be a purely symbolic gesture, he said.

Ferrandino didn’t rule out the possibility of layoffs.

Other government unions that would be affected include the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers.

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