DENVER (AP) – Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper has named two more people to his Cabinet, including a labor activist to head the Department of Labor and Employment that upset some Republicans.
Ellen Golombek, who was elected the first woman president of the Colorado AFL-CIO in 2000, was appointed Monday to head the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, which promotes job creation, helps the unemployed and ensures fair labor practices and a safe work place.
Golombek is now state director for America Votes, which promotes progressive voting issues.
Hickenlooper said he picked Golombek because of her experience working with the labor and business communities.
The state Senate must approve the appointments, which is virtually assured because Democrats control the body with a 20-15 majority.
GOP Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp said he was disappointed.
“Governor-elect Hickenlooper’s appointment to the Department of Labor may certainly take some of the air out of the bipartisan atmosphere he has promised to promote as governor. His selection of a noted progressive activist and union boss … certainly will raise plenty of eyebrows in Colorado’s business community.”
Tony Gagliardi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business representing small businesses, said Hickenlooper, a Democrat, needed labor support and he was sure to get it with Golombek’s appointment.
“We will be very cautious as we move forward,” he said.
State GOP chairman Dick Wadhams said the appointment is a real concern for business leaders because of the department’s power to regulate them.
Mike Cerbo, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, said it’s too soon to determine if Hickenlooper, who touted his experience as a former businessman and brewpub owner, will also be flexible on labor issues.
“It’s too soon to go down that road. We still have to develop our relationships with the new administration and department heads,” Cerbo said.
Hickenlooper also appointed Western Slope Republican Reeves Brown to head the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which works with local governments to provide financial and technical assistance, emergency management, property tax administration and programs addressing affordable housing and homelessness.
Brown is executive director of Club 20, a nonprofit political lobbying group representing 22 counties on the Western Slope. Hickenlooper says he wants Brown to use his working relationships with local governments to assist them in delivering services in their communities.
Political consultant Floyd Ciruli, said with Golombek’s appointment, Hickenlooper is trying to avoid some of the mistakes made by Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat who had strained relations with organized labor because of furlough and pension issues, as well as his veto of a bill that would have made it easier for unions to organize.
“Hickenlooper needs someone with labor experience who will watch his back,” Ciruli said.
– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)