Angry Colorado union members confront Ritter
Associated Press Writer
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Ignoring catcalls from angry union members, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed a package of bills he said will help struggling families and workers during the recession.
Members of a union representing grocery store workers called the governor a “liar” and told Ritter he misled them when he vetoed a bill that would have given unemployment benefits to workers locked out by employers during a labor dispute.
Ritter told the union workers the bills he signed Tuesday will help all workers, including union members.
“That is a lie,” shouted Kim Pleasant, a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, which is negotiating a new labor contract with Safeway, King Soopers, and Albertsons. Their contracts expired last month but workers have continued working while negotiations continue.
Ritter told union members he vetoed the bill because he believed it was wrong to use the legislative process as a lever to settle a labor dispute that is ongoing.
“It is my great hope you can work this out. I made my case,” he said, walking away from the podium when the catcalls continued.
“I called him a liar because he promised us he would sign that bill,” Pleasant said after Ritter left the room.
Andrew Carillo, who represents the union, said Ritter told him he would sign the bill and said the governor is losing the support of organized labor.
“He hasn’t been very friendly to workers. We campaigned for him. He can’t count on my support anymore,” Carillo said.
The bills signed Tuesday that the governor said would help struggling families include legislation that will help homeowners avoid foreclosure, give additional unemployment benefits to workers who’ve lost their jobs, and provide funding for employment and training technology.
The governor still isn’t saying what he will do with one of the remaining union bills, a measure that would give firefighters the right to unionize without getting local approval.
The confrontation capped a hectic day of bill signings that included bills to protect water resources, health care, veterans, the military and provide funding for federal stimulus projects.
There were tears and cheers when he signed a bill providing treatment for autism. Ritter said the state could save millions of dollars by providing early treatment of the disorder.
“It’s fiscally irresponsible not to treat autism at an early age,” said Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont.
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