14 March 2007: Ritter’s Blue Collar

Ritter selling his blue collar to highest bidder

One thing Steven Graeber likes to do is to conclude his column with a quote from the Gipper. One I have yet to read but frequently comes to mind after reading him is “There you go again.” Too often his Graeber is long on hyperbole and short on facts. His article last week, “Right-to-work laws build economies,” fit that mold.

It didn’t take Mr. Graeber long—the second paragraph as an aside—to make a “some-of-my-best-friends-are-black” statement in context of working men and women: “Now, don’t misinterpret my distain [sic] for unions to mean I’m against union workers. I’m sure most of them are hard working folks who have a right to determine if they want a union or not.” Yeah, right and Ann Coulter’s best friends are gay.

Graeber makes misleading, unsubstantiated and factually inaccurate statements throughout the article. Among them: “Unions seldom really benefit workers; they only benefit union bureaucracy and the Democrats” and “The present unionization playing field is level and fair.” Another egregious misstatement is that teacher “union work rules prevent a principal from firing the bad teachers and rewarding the good ones.” It’s clear that Mr. Graeber needs to brush up on state law regarding the employment of public school teachers.

All that is claptrap and fodder for a future piece, but for now our focus needs to be on another and his position on labor unions: Governor Bill Ritter. It’s hardly surprising to find “with-friends-like-you-who-needs-enemies” attitudes from rightists who when seeing two workers talking know for sure it’s a conspiracy to plot a communist revolution. But it is more than surprising to have an ostensibly blue-collar governor eschew his dirt-under-the-nails roots and kick workers up their backsides. It’s a betrayal.

Governor Ritter vetoed the bill that would have made union organizing more democratic, therefore, more American. His official position is that he did so, not because he disagrees with the content of the bill, but because of the process that brought it to his desk.

What is true, however, is that candidate Ritter, in search of votes and thus quite willing to make promises, promised to sign such a bill. Simultaneously, he was accepting donations from business interests. Perhaps in his idyllic mind, they’d go together like a political PB & J sandwich. However, with the hysterical outcry from Big Business over the labor bill, the egalitarian stalwart morphed into a shrinking violet. The Guv needed to demonstrate he is his own man, and labor conveniently surfaced as the least threatening allied group to kick. It would have been far more indelicate to boot old folks dependent on meds or kids on school lunches or college students needing help with their tuition, like his son at CSU.

The upshot of his veto is that Governor Ritter’s credibility is on the line. That has meaning beyond the labor issue. For Clear Creek it is a question about Ritter’s stance on I-70. On numerous occasions, Ritter made positive statements about the potential for rail. But, who knows?

Crunch time is nigh, for Ritter is in the process of forming his anticipated “Colorado Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel, a blue ribbon task force that will lead a statewide conversation about the future of Colorado’s transportation system,” according to his February 7 press release. He has named Doug Aden, Cary Kennedy and Bob Tointon as co-chairs, but the rest of the group—20 to 30 strong—will remain a mystery for a couple more weeks.

In response to my email query with regard to a potential Clear Creek nominee, Ritter’s spokesperson Evan Dreyer wrote, “For a panel like this, we only will comment on those who ultimately are named.”

“I promise.” Little kids learn these words, the beginning of the development of a moral code that unequivocally affirms that a person’s word is gold. A promise is a sacred oath not to be taken lightly. As adults, we understand extenuating circumstances might at times call for a promise to be broken. The labor bill was not one.

While it is true he never promised to name a representative from Clear Creek who is a strong advocate for rail to his blue ribbon task force, one would think such a choice, such as Commissioner Harry Dale, would be in alignment with his overall promise to look exhaustively at the entire spectrum of the state’s transportation needs and options including rail.

Now is the time for Clear Creek citizens to put pressure on Governor Ritter to insure that happens. Otherwise, we may one day be ruing that the current Governor Bill is driving the asphalt trail blazed by the former Governor Bill at which time I will find it necessary to write another article quoting the Gipper at that time about him: “There you go again.”

The governor’s office: (303) 866-2471.

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