State Democrats organize to oppose Labor Commissioner Mark Costello
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Published: 22-Sep-2011


State Democratic party Chairman Wallace Collins is calling a 501 c 4 lobbying group formed by Commissioner of Labor Mark Costello “shady.”  At a press conference this week he called for an investigation into the group’s legality. 

In a fundraising email to supporters early today (Thursday, September 22), Chairman Collins (a former Democratic state legislator from Norman) said, “We are encouraged by the growing momentum to hold Costello's feet to the fire on this issue, and will continue to do our part.”
 
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) has also criticitzed Costello’s recent comments. 
 
Sen. Judy Eason-McIntyre has objected to Costello’s use of “feral hogs” in reference to government employees and benefits programs. This week she reiterated a call for Costello to resign, commenting, “He is a state official who is responsible for the lives of many people in this state, and he could’ve chosen any other word than pigs.”
 
Senator Jerry Ellis, a Democrat from Valliant, assailed Costello’s use of the “hogs” analogy, saying,  "The next time the state is burning down, don't call a firefighter, call the hogs.”
 
Commissioner Costello formed the 501 c 4 group focused on gaining “Parity in Oklahoma,” including removal of what he asserts are advantages afforded to government employees and to labor unions in the state. He is stressing a range of public policy issues, including paycheck protection, pensions, perks and performance. 

In the latter category, he observes that, “Many state government workers are employed in agencies governed by a rigorous set of rules, designed to protect the workers that detail and define the ability of management to take disciplinary action against poorly performing workers. Many of these rules are more restrictive than labor union workplace rules. These restrictions on management are called ‘Merit Rules.’ They do more than protect good employees from arbitrary action by supervisors; these rules can actually reward bad employee behavior.”

He expresses on the new personally-funded website frustration he felt after learning that “a newly-hired, merit-protected state government worker cannot be fired for showing up on the first day of employment inebriated. Why not? Because under the Merit Rules, only a habitually drunk employee can be fired. This is a ridiculous state policy.” 

Costello is pushing for three-year probationary period for new state employees, putting them in the same category as “at will” employees in the private sector. OETA reported this week that Costello asserts, “We need to visit these issues in an honest and forthright candor. I believe in the referendum of the last elections. The taxpaying citizens of Oklahoma wanted another direction.”

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