Ganging up for forced-labor unionism

News organ prints mug shots of union officials involved

Key union leaders who fired a salvo Wednesday in the controversial right-to-work ballot battle include a former state representative and several career labor officials. Collectively, their unions represent more than 100,000 members in Colorado.

They will share the spotlight in labor's fight against a business-backed coalition aiming to ban compulsory union membership in Colorado. Labor interests said they filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court on Wednesday alleging that the right-to-work group committed fraud in collecting signatures to put the measure on November's ballot.

"The fraud on the 'right to work for less' side was unbelievable," said Mitch Ackerman, president of Service Employees International Union Colorado.

Ackerman claims to have video of signature-gatherers copying voter information from unrelated initiatives onto right-to-work petition forms.

Right-to-work proponents have called the fraud allegation a smokescreen.

In addition to Ackerman, other labor leaders involved in the fight include Steve Vairma, secretary-treasurer and principal executive officer for Teamsters Local 455; Ernest Duran Jr., president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7; and Mike Cerbo, executive director of Colorado AFL-CIO.

Ackerman, 39, started as an organizer for SEIU 18 years ago after receiving a bachelor's degree in Third World studies from Oberlin College in Ohio. He has served as president of SEIU Colorado for eight years. The union represents about 10,000 workers in the state and has contributed nearly $700,000 to the group fighting the right-to-work measure.

Duran, 52, is a tenacious, lifelong union official. He started UFCW Local 7's first in-house legal department in 1984. He was elected president in October 1991, returned to his position as legal counsel after the term ended and was re-elected president in 1997.

"The sole purpose for our existence is to fight for workers," Duran states in a message to members on Local 7's website. "I have dedicated my working life to the United Food and Commercial Workers union."

Vairma, 49, has led Teamsters chapters through several labor disputes, including a UPS workers strike in 1997. During that strike, he joined a picket line to personally congratulate workers after a tentative deal was struck. He has worked for the Teamsters for 30 years.

Vairma's Local 455 is leading the fight against right-to-work for the Teamsters, contributing $250,000 to the effort.

Cerbo, 54, joined the AFL-CIO eight months ago after representing central and west Denver for more than four years in the Colorado legislature. He has a law degree from the University of Denver and has more than 20 years of labor-union experience.

The seasoned labor leaders will clash with a business coalition led by Jonathan Coors, a 28-year-old fifth- generation member of the conservative brewing family.


No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails