Source: WhoSaidYouSaid, via YouTube.com
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By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
A confirmation hearing yesterday for perhaps Gov. John Hickenlooper’s most controversial cabinet appointee turned into an interrogation by Republicans over the expected labor chief’s past connection to progressive groups and unions.
Ellen Golombek, nominated to run the Department of Labor and Employment, has previously worked as the former president of the Colorado AFL-CIO. She most recently served as state director for the liberal America Votes organization.
Republicans question Golombek’s commitment to the business community.
Two Republican senators — Sens. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch — opposed Golombek’s appointment, but she still received 4-2 approval by the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.
Mitchell raised several questions during the more than 30-minute hearing over concerns with Golombek’s business perspective given her history with organized labor.
“Most of your professional life has been not only devoted to the labor movement but in a strong leadership role in the labor movement, and that raises the issue of how you would approach supporting economic opportunity and job creation in Colorado because you have a track record of approaching jobs and economic growth from a particular perspective in the private life, and you’ll probably bring a lot of those views and perspectives to your public life,” Mitchell said during the hearing.
Republicans issued a news release following the hearing stating that Golombek “made no attempt to substantiate her qualifications.” But during the hearing, the expected labor chief was quite clear in stating that despite her background, she is committed to growing Colorado’s economy. She said organized labor can play a role.
“Organized labor works well in industries in which it’s prevalent …” Golombek said in response to Mitchell’s questioning. “It provides a clear pathway for business and labor to work together to try and resolve issues they face.”
Mitchell pointed out that Golombek previously opposed former Republican Gov. Bill Owens’ labor department appointee, Vickie Armstrong, not because Armstrong wasn’t capable, but over concerns with Armstrong’s agenda. Golombek did not disagree with Mitchell’s assessment.
“I appreciate the conundrum that that puts you in,” said Golombek. “There have been many times that I agreed with appointees, cabinet staff, in my previous jobs, and many times that I disagreed. I commit to you that I’m here today to do the job that I was appointed to do in the nonpartisan manner that I am committed to do so.”
During her opening remarks, Golombek said her priority as labor chief will be to advance Gov. Hickenlooper’s agenda to create jobs.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs — job creation and job training,” said Golombek. “At all times, we must focus on building our current job base and attracting new businesses as well as retaining the companies that have already committed to our state.”
Sen. Harvey raised concerns over a policy decision by the labor department to stop checking residency status before extending unemployment benefits. He also encouraged the labor department to crack down on employers for hiring undocumented immigrants and made a pitch for statewide use of the federal E-Verify system.
“If we do have somebody seeking unemployment benefits from the state and you find out about it, I would hope the state would also go after those employers with the full force of law to penalize them for hiring illegal immigrants …” said Harvey. “It’s one of the most important things we can do this session from an employment perspective to get American citizens back to work and not continuing to incentivize illegal immigrants.”
Golombek pointed out that it was her first day on the job, but that she would examine the issue.
Not surprisingly, Golombek received strong support from unions across Colorado.
“She brings with her a wealth of experience in bringing all sides together to protect working families and understands the importance of creating sustainable jobs,” Mike Cerbo, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, said in a statement e-mailed to the Denver Daily News. “Ellen knows firsthand about implementing an economic vision and reinvesting in Colorado to create an economy that works for everyone — not just the few.”