I made a call on Wednesday to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. I wanted to ask Executive Director, Ellen Golombek, whether she plans to involve her office in the dispute between the Douglas County Board of Education and the teachers’ union, the Douglas County Federation. The Federation has formally asked for their help. This is how far I got:
Recording: ”You have reached the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment general information line. If your call is regarding an unemployment insurance claim, please hang up and call 303-318-9000. For all other questions, please press 1 now.” (The message is then repeated in Spanish.)
I press 1. It rings once, twice, three times, four times. Oh boy, I’m finally going to get to talk to a live person! My palms are sweating in anticipation.
Recording: ”You have reached the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. If you are trying to reach unemployment, please hang up and call 303-318-9000. You will not be able to leave a message at this time. Please try your call again later. Thank you.”
That was it. So much for my input as a citizen.
But I was undaunted in my mission. So I called the Citizens’ Advocate office in the Governor’s office and explained what happened to the nice person who answered the phone. He took my name and number and promised that someone from the Citizens’ Advocate’s office in the Department of Labor and Employment would get back to me with a number to call. Sure enough, Thursday morning there was a message waiting for me. It was the phone number I was waiting for, 303-318-8020. With great anticipation I called it and this is what I heard:
Recording: ”You have reached the Executive Director’s office of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. If your call is related to an unemployment insurance claim, please listen to this message in its entirely. Otherwise you may bypass this greeting by pressing the ‘pound’ key now.”
Since my message was not related to unemployment insurance, I pressed the “pound” key. This is what I heard:
(BEEP…………………………..Silence). Finally I realized that I was supposed to leave a message. So I quickly gave my name, address and phone number and stated that I had two questions. First, why can’t the Department of Labor and Employment have at least one person in their office who can pick up a telephone and answer a question? Second, I want to know if Executive Director Golombek is going to involve the Department in the dispute between the Douglas County Board of Education and the Douglas County Federation since the Federation asked for her office’s involvement.
That was at 11:00 a.m. Thursday.
4:00 p.m.: Still waiting for that call back.
Friday, 4:00 p.m.: Still waiting for that call back.
I guess you get my point. They won’t be calling me back, today or any day. And I find that very troubling for a couple of reasons.
The first is that this is a department of our state government that evidently doesn’t think it’s important to communicate with its citizenry. Leave a message and we’ll get back to you (just kidding – we really won’t) is not my idea of being accountable to the public. They can’t assign one person in the office to answer the phone? Give me a break!
The more important question, however, has to do with the subject matter of my inquiry. In the past few months, the Douglas County Board of Education has totally turned its back on any serious negotiation and interaction with their officially recognized employee union, the Douglas County Federation. Most recently they have dropped their support of funding the DCF leadership positions and collecting union dues from employees. The Federation has asked the Department of Labor and Employment to intervene in this dispute and has been met with as much silence as I have when I leave my telephone messages.
I don’t understand this. Ellen Golombek, the Executive Director of the DLE is a former SEIU president and past president of the Colorado AFL-CIO. She’s a union person. She was appointed by a Democratic governor.
Ah, yes, the “Democratic” governor. That would be John Hickenlooper, right? Do you suppose he has something to do with Ms. Golombek’s silence on this issue? Like his predecessor, Gov. Hickenlooper doesn’t appear to be a big supporter of organized labor. Has he made a decision to just duck this issue, stay out of the limelight, and let the Republican school board in Douglas County break the back of this union? Does he think that that’s the politically expedient thing to do? It sure looks that way.
On Monday, I’m going to attempt to speak with Ellen Golombek in person in her office in downtown Denver. I’m going to ask her if she plans to honor the request of the Douglas County Federation. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime you can go to the Facebook page entitled, “SPEAK for DCSD” and read what folks in Douglas County are saying about the state of this once great school district.