9/24/08

Big Bedfellows oppose worker-choice

Related story: "The 28 labor-states" • More worker-choice stories: here

Who's left to stick up for the little guy?

While business and labor leaders continue talks on how they could work together to defeat a "right-to-work" initiative, the group pushing the measure has been touting it to voters all over the Western Slope.

The campaign spokesman for Amendment 47, which would ban agreements requiring workers to pay for union representation, is spending the week visiting roughly a dozen towns and cities - from Rifle to Grand Junction and Durango.

"A big part of the campaign, of course, is reaching out to voters across the state," said Kelley Harp, spokesman for A Better Colorado, a pro-Amendment 47 group backed by executives such as Jonathan Coors of CoorsTek and Jake Jabs of American Furniture Warehouse.

With little chance that right- to-work proponents will withdraw their measure before an Oct. 2 deadline, a group of Denver-based executives continues to discuss the terms under which they could combine forces with organized labor to fight Amendment 47 at the ballot box.

In return, labor groups would agree to pull four ballot measures they hoped to use as leverage to persuade the right-to- work campaign to back down.

Businesses have characterized all four of the labor proposals as potentially devastating, but some local leaders have acknowledged that unions need an incentive to withdraw them after spending millions to get them on the ballot.

The talks between business, labor and elected officials have come down to how much money executives would contribute to a "no" campaign on Amendment 47 and two other amendments viewed as anti-union.

The amount businesses would spend - as much as $5 million - has been a sticking point mostly because such an alliance has little precedent.

"If you can get past the part that it is so unusual for business to raise money for that issue, there's a greater good in it," said Barry Hirschfeld, a longtime Denver businessman who sits on the board of Colorado Concern with some of the business executives trying to craft a deal to work with labor on a "no" campaign.

Hirschfeld stressed that he has not had direct involvement in the discussions with labor groups. But he said he remains hopeful that the members of Colorado Concern talking with union representatives can cement a deal.

Walt Imhoff, whose term on the same board expired last month, expressed frustration that Coors and other "right-to- work" backers have declined to pull their ballot measure despite the "very serious business interests" that have tried to head off the confrontation at the polls.

"The consequences of not trying to work with the unions in this case - because we've already got some pretty good labor laws on the books - is detrimental to future business," said the retired investment banker. "I'm surprised they don't understand that. I'm disappointed in the Coors operation," Imhoff said.

(rockymountainnews.com)

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