Conservative commentary: Business, labor ballot deal a lemon
October 5, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Colorado’s so-called “business leaders” just don’t get it but, oh boy, are they about to.
Shrewd in making deals in their own respective realms, the power brokers who agreed to pay labor union bosses $3 million in exchange for withdrawing four job-killing ballot initiatives have been played for suckers.
Politics is a different ballgame. These business executives consented to an extortion racket and will pay the price for years to come.
It is understandable that business leaders didn’t want to risk passage of even one of these four destructive initiatives. But the peace they have purchased is only temporary.
Anyone who still believes that businesses are philosophically conservative should take note. CEOs are more pragmatic than ideological, especially in big business. Their primary interest is building a profitable enterprise, and they disdain uncertainty. From that perspective, negotiating a truce seems like a better plan than trying to score a big win over labor at the risk of suffering a costly loss.
Trading something tangible for something intangible always is a lousy deal.
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The business participants made a foolish bargain, trading cash for “peace.” By this time next month, labor bosses will have spent the $3 million. Business then will be out $3 million and left only to trust labor’s good will for as long as it lasts.
These are many of the same business types who bought the myth of Bill Ritter as a pro-business Democrat, only to watch him unionize state workers and raise property taxes. About the only business benefiting from Ritter’s reign are trial lawyers and electric utilities – which might well explain Xcel Energy’s participation in this newest trade-off.
Now, thanks to the gullible generosity of these business leaders, labor – which already had raised $12 million for this election – can re-direct much of its cash to electing more labor union puppets and trial lawyer lackeys to the state Legislature where they can haunt business interests for years.
Interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Colorado State University professor Ray Hogler sees the big picture clearly, noting that “labor will now enjoy an even bigger financial advantage” and can “divert some of their campaign cash to help Democratic allies.”
How this obvious strategy escapes business executives who have lived through the hostile legislative climate of the past two years is utterly inexplicable.
If labor is successful in defeating Amendments 47 (right to work) and 49 (ethical standards), its agenda will be bolstered by an apparent voter mandate.
Labor’s iron grip on the Legislature will be strengthened by electing more of its own and by more political clout to intimidate the few remaining business-friendly Democrats and any Republican silly enough to think that labor will ever back him or her against a Democrat.
Nothing prevents labor bosses from trotting out these same anti-business initiatives at any time in the future to extract another payoff from business.
Business leaders just purchased the ammunition for their own execution. Labor bosses and Democrat activists – like shrewd negotiator Ted Trimpa, who helped engineer this deal and just happens to be an advisor to Democrat financier Tim Gill – will be laughing all the way to the ballot box.
Labor union leaders understand strength and toughness. Unfortunately, many of Colorado’s self-proclaimed business leaders have responded with weakness and timidity. In doing so, they have thrown to the wolves the handful of gutsy business leaders who truly understand labor’s political strategy and therefore backed Amendments 47 and 49.
Labor will continue its racket of extortion and intimidation until business executives grow tired of being beaten with their own hammer or until so few of them remain that their opinion doesn’t matter.
Mark Hillman operates a family farm near Burlington, Colorado, is a former Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate, a former Colorado State Treasurer, and is an honorary member of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado.