Denver Post mocks worker-choice advocate

Reliable pro-union news organ grooves election-season riff

He's been a business owner, chauffeur, screenwriter, window washer and most recently a call-center worker at the state's unemployment office — but David Ohmart's newest role is the voice of dissent as state employees are encouraged to unionize.

The self-described "nonunion rep" worries that the nascent state workers union will eventually draw dues from even employees who voted against it, a specter other states have faced. It's a scenario Colorado union organizers flatly reject.

Nevertheless, Ohmart in June began offering counter-points to union pitches through a group dubbed "Colorado LOSES," a jab at the three-union coalition Colorado WINS that won the right to represent all 31,000 eligible state workers last month.

"I don't want someone forcing me to join something," Ohmart, 59, said. "I want my money to come here and help me and my friends, to help solve problems at work. What they want their money for is political advantage."

LOSES' 50 members, who Ohmart affectionately calls "losers," are a tiny sum compared to the nearly 7,700 state workers who supported unionization.

Difficulties getting e-mail addresses from the state until this week stymied LOSES' growth — and prevented Ohmart from affecting the most recent union vote, he said. Now he's resigned himself to rebutting labor arguments through his newsletter and getting people together at the "non-union hall," also known as Charlie Brown's Bar downtown.

By contrast, WINS began organizing before Gov. Bill Ritter in November signed his controversial executive order allowing state workers to unionize but not strike, one organizer said.

Out of 31,000 ballots sent to eligible employees, about a third cast votes in two separate elections. In total, 72 percent of the voting third favored union representation.

In October, the union members begin crafting bylaws and setting priorities.

WINS booster Patty Herrera — and Ohmart's officemate at the labor department — said there's nothing to fear from the state employees union, which she characterized as a "great way to bring people together."

"Don't rain on our parade. We're happy. We're the majority," Herrera, 40, said. "This whole fear, it's hype. It's the organizers saying it's not our intention" to take nonmembers' money.

In his trademark green Dayton Dragons baseball cap — he's an Ohio native — Ohmart chewed a roast beef sandwich at a downtown shop Wednesday afternoon and disagreed.

He points to states such as Washington, where public employees set up unions and later tried suing nonmembers for dues. Allegedly improper payroll deductions from nonunion paychecks in California and New Jersey have landed labor organizations there in court as well.

For Ohmart, who signs his letters "The Biggest Loser," his group's gallows humor acronym largely sums up his argument.

"Lousy Options Steal Employee Salaries," he said.


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