4/29/08

'Prohibition on Certain Conditions of Employment'

A ballot initiative that would ask voters to turn Colorado into a right-to-work state received a "statement of sufficiency" from the Colorado Secretary of State's Office on Monday. According to a release from A Better Colorado, the right-to-work campaign, supporters gathered an estimated 94,546 valid signatures -- 124 percent of the 76,047 required under state law. Proponents gave the Secretary of State more than 133,000 signatures earlier this month.

The right-to-work amendment will appear on the ballot as Amendment 47. Its formal title is "Prohibition on Certain Conditions of Employment."

Organized labor strongly opposes the right-to-work initiative, which bars unions from collecting mandatory dues in collective bargaining workplaces.

In early April, a Denver attorney who represents labor unions filed a complaint with Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman after determining that at least two petition collectors told signers they didn't need to be registered voters and they could sign the petition more than once.

A spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State's office said opponents of the measure may challenge the signatures in court. If found valid and enough signatures could be rejected, then the judge could remove the measure from the ballot.

"With one-third of their signatures deemed invalid, the special interests behind Amendment 47 have raised serious questions about signature fraud," said Jess Knox, executive director of Protect Colorado's Future, an advocacy group that opposes the right-to-work amendment.

Knox said the organization will conduct a more detailed examination of the signatures and petitions.

Unions are working on their own ballot initiatives, including measures that require employers to give employees annual cost-of-living wage increases and provide major medical coverage to all workers. Union leaders say the initiatives would be necessary for Coloradans -- particularly if voters approve a right-to-work initiative.

Some fear that a showdown between businesses and labor unions over the proposals could cost millions of dollars as business interests the fight union-backed initiatives business leaders characterize as "anti-business."

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., both are urging right-to-work supporters and union leaders to drop their competing proposals.

But despite these efforts, right-to-work supporters are confident that their measure will make it to the November ballot and be approved by voters.

"When voters pass right to work in November, it will guarantee that all workers in Colorado have the freedom to choose for themselves whether or not to join a union," said Jonathan Coors, the 28-year-old nephew of Molson Coors executive Pete Coors. "It will constitutionally guarantee the basic rights that all Coloradans deserve."

Coors, government relations director for CoorsTek (a ceramics manufacturing spinoff of the brewing company) is expected to play a key role in voter education and public outreach for the right-to-work proposal.

Supporters of right to work include the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry and the Associated Builders and Contractors Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Along with several labor unions and advocacy groups, the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce has come out in opposition to the proposal.

(milwaukee.bizjournals.com)

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