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Colorado governor to sign bills aimed at helping workers

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter plans to sign a number of bills Tuesday that he says will speed aid to struggling families and workers during the recession, despite concerns from organized labor that they don’t go far enough.

Ritter plans to sign the measures at a “Help for Working Families Fair” across from the state Capitol. Counselors and other experts will direct people to information, resources and relief for finances, mortgages, unemployment insurance, health care, housing, utility assistance and home weatherization.

Bills being signed this week include legislation that will help responsible homeowners avoid foreclosure, provide additional unemployment benefits to workers who’ve lost their jobs, and attempt to ensure that hardworking families don’t improperly lose their unemployment or workers compensation benefits.

Other bills being signed this week include a new law requiring companies that hire people to circulate initiative petitions to be licensed in Colorado after a slew of anti-union initiatives were introduced last year, and a bill that will ease spending limits on big ticket state contracts.

One bill missing from the governor’s agenda this week is a measure that would give firefighters the right to unionize without getting local approval. Ritter has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. The governor has a Friday deadline to finish this year’s legislation.

Union members complained that the governor was anti-union and held rallies after Ritter vetoed one of their key proposals this year, a measure that would have given unemployment benefits to employees locked out during labor disputes.

Ritter said striking workers are not unemployed and the money is needed to help people who have already lost their jobs.

Laura Chapin, spokeswoman for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, which is currently negotiating a contract with major grocery chains, said if Ritter really wanted to help workers, he would have signed the bill.

“We’re urging our members to go to the job help fair to find out what they can do, since they can’t get unemployment,” she said.

Chapin said the bill applied to only workers who are locked out by their employers and not to employees who go on strike.

Ritter’s spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said the governor is focusing on getting aid quickly to all workers, not just organized labor.

“The governor has placed a high priority on helping working families, people and businesses, immediately. He doesn’t distinguish between unions and other workers. If a special interest group lines up for or against a bill, that’s something you deal with. Does that mean some interest groups aren’t going to be happy? Yes, it probably does,” Dreyer said.

Mike Cerbo, executive director of Colorado AFL-CIO, said his union achieved most of its goals this year, including the bill that extends unemployment benefits and another being signed this week that increases certification requirements for master electricians.


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