3/21/08

SEIU uses hard-ball politics to press advantage

The 200 parking-lot employees at Denver International Airport have a bigger bargaining tool this spring, when they are due to renegotiate their contract, thanks to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The Service Employees International Union chapter director for the parking employees, Dennis DeMaio, said the union is fully prepared to strike should it need to, and its employees are concerned about a possible cut in health-insurance coverage. The current contract expires April 15, and DeMaio calls it "outdated."

"There's the potential for some problems if an agreement isn't put in place soon," DeMaio said. "And I think that's why the City Council is concerned."

The leverage SEIU can use: Imagine how hard it could be for convention organizers if the 40 percent of the more than 6,000 delegates who are union members refused to land at DIA while their brothers and sisters were striking.

Several council members raised questions Wednesday about a new contract the city is considering for the DIA parking operator.

Simply put, the lowest bid seems too low. Councilman Paul Lopez wondered at a committee meeting whether the low management fee proposed by Standard Parking was possible because of cuts among workers.

"I hope that (lower fee) doesn't come on the backs of the employees," Lopez said.

The parking employees and their new contract already have been discussed in at least one meeting of the Denver host committee's labor subcommittee, of which DeMaio is a member.

DeMaio said he is at present most concerned with the city's proposed change to the amount of money it reimburses to the parking operator for employee health care coverage from 85 percent to 75 percent.

"How are (employees) going to afford health care when the city is proposing cutting the existing inadequate level?" DeMaio said.

Lopez said Thursday that he doesn't support the health-coverage reduction.

"It's not April 15 yet, and so I hope that there can be an agreement between the contractor and the employees at DIA," Lopez said. "I think it's in our best interest to make sure we are maximizing our community benefits and creating good jobs."

The city's host committee dealt with union problems soon after it won the bid to host the Democrats.

Only one hotel here is unionized, and the Pepsi Center, where the delegates will gather, isn't represented by unions, though union workers will be on hand for the convention.

(denverpost.com)

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