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Former Union Leader Gets Senate Nod To Lead Agency

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Ellen Golombek (credit: coloradolaborblog.org)

Ellen Golombek (credit: coloradolaborblog.org)

DENVER (AP) – A former union leader on Monday came a step closer to taking over the state’s Department of Labor and Employment.

The Democrat-controlled Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Technology approved the appointment of Ellen Golombek, former president of the Colorado AFL-CIO. Golombek cleared a short confirmation hearing 5-2.

The full Senate will vote next.

All of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Cabinet picks face Senate review, though Democrats control the Senate and Hickenlooper’s confirmations aren’t in doubt.

Still, fireworks were expected at Golombek’s confirmation hearing, because Republicans criticized her as too cozy with unions. The confirmation hearing was short and restrained, but two Republicans on the committee did ask Monday whether Golombek’s background in organized labor would cloud her judgment working for the state.

“You have a track record of addressing jobs and economic growth from a particular perspective,” said Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield.

Golombek was at one time national political director for another prominent labor group, the Service Employees International Union. Unflustered by the questions about her union ties, Golombek told the Senate panel that she met with business groups before her confirmation hearing and wouldn’t be unfairly supportive of unions.

She defended unions’ existence.

“Organized labor works well in the industries in which it’s prevalent,” she said. Pressed to take a position on whether unions have helped or hurt domestic automakers, Golombek simply replied that she’d never worked in the auto industry.

Even Mitchell, who voted against Golombek’s confirmation, followed his questions by saying, “The governor did win the election, is entitled to choose his team.”

The committee also gave unanimous approval to a less divisive Cabinet pick, Kathryn Nesbitt at the Department of Personnel and Administration.

- By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writter

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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