CSU stands to be impacted by Gov. Bill Ritter’s latest executive order in the upcoming months, depending on actions taken by the Board of Governors of the CSU system.
Earlier this month, Ritter issued a controversial order forcing state agencies to recognize sole unions representing state workers when negotiating on issues such as work conditions.
The order’s ripple effect barely touches upon the campus of CSU: only state-classified employees with the university will be affected by the order.
By definition, state-classified employees are employees within the university that are hired on under Colorado’s state personnel system, brought on to curb the spoil system. Universities hire their state-classified employees through a government application process.
The employees are under the government’s rules and regulations, working mainly in the utility and maintenance offices of departments.
Management professor Ray Hogler has spent years representing both unions and managements in labor discussions. He said the issue with Ritter’s order wasn’t about wages, but rather about workers’ roles in management.
From this, Hogler says the university could get drawn into negotiations between its state-classified employees and the state.
“(The Board of Governors is) more or less responsible for running the university,” Hogler said. “But if the state-classified employees want to negotiate a partnership agreement, then the Board of Governors is going to have to be involved, because they have the ultimate authority to what happens with the university.”
In prepping for potential changes, CSU’s Office of General Counsel has been evaluating the issue and its possible impacts, and has been conferring with the Board of Governors on such issues.
Amy Parsons, associate legal counsel with the office, declined to comment on the evaluations and conversations.
However, Bob Jones, chair of faculty council, said he believed it was likely the General Counsel was looking at possible agreements state-classified employees would be seeking from the university.
“I would say it looks to me like that’s an area that has yet to be determined: whether the state-classified employees on this campus would want to go into a negotiated partnership agreement, a union-type of agreement, and whether the board would want to enter such an agreement with them,” Jones said. “I think that’s left entirely as an open option in the governor’s executive order, it doesn’t give any directed outcome.”
In a statement released shortly after Ritter’s order, President Larry Penley said the administration sought to do right by its employees in terms of communication, regardless of issues in the capital, noting the recent raise in faculty salary as an example.
“CSU employees can feel confident that we will continue to do what we can to support our workforce, no matter how this issue unfolds at the state level,” Penley said in the statement.
Since his announcement, Ritter has taken heat for the order.
As it reads, the order does not require state workers to align with any associations and allows them the ability to strike.
But this has not deterred critics of Ritter, some of whom have accused him of “paying off labor bosses” and abusing his executive power.
Defenders of Ritter argue that the bill allows flexibility in the management of state government by enabling him to change his order if need be.
John Straayer, a CSU political science professor, said the order had been blown out of proportion and had little influence on the power of state employee unions.
“There’s no right to binding arbitration, there’s no right to strike, but it’s a hot political issue,” Straayer said. “The Republicans have found an issue, and they’re going to make an issue out of it, and that’s OK; that’s what minority parties always do.”
Assistant News Editor Erik Myers can be reached at email@example.com.