The Employee Rights Act, or Senate Bill 1874, is steadily gaining support in Congress, as President Donald Trump would likely sign it into law. Two Colorado Republican members of Congress, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton, are among 105 House co-sponsors who are all Republicans.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., might sign on with 19 Senate Republican sponsors, and the list is destined to grow.
"Sen. Gardner was a cosponsor of this legislation last Congress. He is currently reviewing this version and remains supportive of the concept," explains an email from Gardner's office to The Gazette.
The bill could win bipartisan support, if better understood. Introduced in September by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the bill would:
- Guarantee private ballots in elections
- Mandate scheduled union recertification by vote of union members
- Require permission of union members before spending their dues on political races
- Establish "majority vote" as the threshold for deciding election outcomes
- Enhance personal privacy of union members from union leaders
- Prevent coercion by union leaders
- Ensure ballot privacy in strike elections
- Criminalize threats against union members by union leaders
Labor unions have been, and remain, a vital component of the checks and balances that maintain constructive labor/management relations. Unions have increased compensation and protected workers' interests for generations.
Just like poorly regulated employers sometimes abuse their authority, so do poorly regulated union leaders. Congress has not substantially updated union regulations in 70 years. Meanwhile, union tactics and workplaces have changed substantially.
A survey found four of five Americans support the concept of the Employee Rights Act.
The bill is not anti-union. It is pro-worker, by making unions more responsive to the needs and wishes of union members.
By requiring routine recertification elections, the law would cause union bosses to work only in the interests of members. If union membership is not worth the dues, members will vote to decertify. If the union is helping workers, members will gladly vote to recertify and continue paying dues.
By ensuring private ballots, the law would liberate workers to vote without fear. The law would prevent spending of union dues on candidates a majority of members may not like. This is common sense.
Every detail of the Employee Rights Act would make unions more supportive of the members who fund them.
Unions are important but should represent only the interests of members who voluntarily join. Republicans and Democrats who care about workers should support this bill.
The Durango Herald, Oct. 30, on anonymous donor paying it forward for veterans to ride public transit for free:
More than 100 veterans are taking advantage of an anonymous donor who is covering the $30 charge for an annual pass for the T, Durango's public transit system, so far this year.
Last year, City Council set the favorable rate of $30 as the annual pass price for veterans — the pass is much more expensive for everyone else — which was an admirable gesture toward those who served. Then, an anonymous donor stepped up — anonymous to everyone except transit leadership — to pay for 100 passes for veterans. He has done that again, recently, but this time the number is an additional 150.
Sarah Dodson, the assistant director of transportation, said this week that the donor, who is also a veteran, wanted to do something specific, something concrete, for local veterans. That is just what has happened, she said.
While no precise records are kept, Dodson said that multiple conversations between the pass holders and transit drivers make it clear that the veterans are using the free bus rides to reach medical and other services from their residences, and to travel to various Durango locations more frequently than they would otherwise. The veterans' pass can be used on all the city's transportation services and routes.
In this case, as in so many others, a relatively small, targeted donation is doing a lot of good. Thanks very much to the anonymous donor.
The purchase of the passes also, in a small way, adds to transit revenue. Durango has an exemplary transit system, including the transit center building at Camino del Rio and 8th Street, largely because of city leadership and some skilled grant writing.
As has been reported, in the coming years the state funding source for transit will be spreading its funds over more municipalities than it is now; that is certain to reduce what Durango has been receiving. Covering veterans' passes, when some veterans individually might not have purchased a pass, provides a little more revenue.
To obtain a pass at the transit center, a veteran usually shows some service records, especially what is known as a DD 214. But, in at least one case, a photo of a veteran in his uniform was adequate. Transit staff want to do the right thing.
Veteran number 116 received his pass this week, and there are more veterans than that who could use the transit system. Pass the word.
The Denver Post, Oct. 27, on Ryan Zinke's national parks fee proposal:
Seventy-five dollars might not sound like a lot of money to a Washington elite, but it's real money for low-income families. So call us amazed that the Make-America-Great-Again administration is stiffing poor families who wish to enjoy our most popular national parks.
Call us doubly amazed that a Westerner from the great state of Montana, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is the Trump official to hatch the idea. Zinke has proposed, and, unlike past administrations, given the public scant time to comment on, pricey entrance fees at 17 of the nation's most visited wilderness showcases, including Rocky Mountain National Park here in Colorado.
As The Denver Post's Jason Blevins reported this week, Zinke's plan would more than double gate fees during peak seasons (at Rocky Mountain, for example, from June through October). Presently, weekly vehicle passes at Rocky Mountain cost $30. Annual passes cost $60. Both of those fees rose under the Obama administration by $10 each, and already were cast as hardships by advocacy groups who remind us our public lands ought to be accessible to all.
The new increases would raise weekly vehicle fees to $70 and annual, park-specific passes to $75. For those on foot or on bicycles, the cost would be $30. The plan would also negate the current charge of $20 for a one-day vehicle pass at Rocky Mountain during the peak months, triggering the $70 charge instead.
The annual America the Beautiful pass, good for all federal lands, would remain at $80. Public comment ends Nov. 23.
At other parks, fee increases would go into effect May 1 at Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion; June 1 at Acadia, Mount Rainier and Shenandoah; and as soon as possible in 2018 at Joshua Tree.
To give Zinke his due, the idea is to help shore up park infrastructure and deal with massive use of these popular parks — a significant problem. Wait times to get into some parks on busy holiday weekends are excessive. Considered in that light, higher fees would help both pay for badly needed maintenance and upgrades and perhaps make demand for the parks more reasonable.
After all, the new fees would likely raise $70 million a year, a 34 percent increase. With $12 billion or more in deferred maintenance, the money would come in handy, but hardly solve the problem.
Still, we grouse about it, and for good reason. While it seeks to more than double fees at these parks, the Trump administration has also proposed a 12 percent cut, or about $1.5 billion, to the National Park Service budget. Presumably, that money could have funded extra shuttles or other improvements to ease wait times.
We support congestion pricing in many applications. Dedicated toll lanes on interstates can improve conditions for all drivers while helping pay for needed infrastructure.
But the mission of national parks is to provide access to all of us, not just the better-off. And the bottom line here is that many working families would be excluded from premiere public lands. A father or mother making minimum wage, or $7.25 an hour, would need to spend more than a day's pay just to get the family into the park.
The working class already is excluded from so many entertainment and cultural opportunities. Surely we can figure out a way to let a family camp or day-trip in a national park.
The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel, Oct. 27, on an effort to serve homeless teens:
The awarding of a $1 million federal grant to give homeless teens in the Grand Valley an extended opportunity to get their lives in order is a significant development in a saga that started as an invisible problem.
"Hardly anyone in the community knew anything about a homeless teen population," said John Mok-Lamme, executive director of Karis, a local nonprofit dedicated to serving the homeless. "This population was really underground; they don't really hang out in parks or hold cardboard signs."
That quote is from http://www.thehousegj.org , the website for The House, an emergency teen shelter sponsored by Karis. "Our History: How We Got Here" outlines the challenges of uncovering the extent of the teen homeless problem and how the Karis board engaged the community to help solve it.
Karis operates several shelters for homeless and at-risk youth, including The House, which offers intensive services and case management for teens unaccompanied by parents or a guardian. But youths can only live at The House for three weeks at a time — not enough to exhale, Mok-Lamme told the Sentinel's Katie Langford.
That led Karis staff to apply for funding to secure three homes to serve as long-term housing. It received a five-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Karis had to come up with $150,000 to partially match the HHS grant.
Qualified teens and young people will be able to live in the houses, rent-free, for up to two years while still receiving services, counseling and guidance from the organization's staff and volunteers.
In total, there will be 13 rooms in three houses as well as three rooms in foster homes for younger teens, Mok-Lamme said.
Sarah Fuller, a program coordinator at The House, said giving long-term housing to teens and young people gives them the stability to finish school, find and keep a job, save money and begin to heal from the trauma that often accompanies homelessness.
Karis began to contemplate a teen shelter in 2009, but it took several years of community outreach to help the public understand that upwards of 200 teens in the community were couch surfing, living on the street or otherwise trying to avoid unstable home environments.
Some key donors responded generously, leading to the establishment of The House. The grants will cover the cost of purchasing and opening the three new homes, but they still need to be furnished. Mok-Lamme is hoping the community will step up with donations of furniture, beds, linens, furnishings and, of course, cash for operations and matching funds.
Karis is changing lives. Long-term housing provides the stability for homeless teens to build healthy relationships and master the skills they need to succeed. Mok-Lamme and his staff have made tremendous strides serving a vulnerable population no one knew existed a decade ago.