5/8/08

UFCW angered by worker-choice proposal

The state of Colorado's title board on Wednesday approved two ballot initatives that aim to strengthen workers' rights. Initiative 93 would require employers to provide a "safe and healthy" workplace for employees. Initiative 96 would require employers to provide annual cost-of-living wage and salary increases to all employees. Both measures were filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 in response to the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry's endorsement of an anti-union "right to work" initiative.

The cost-of-living wage increase initiative requires increases to be pegged to the same "consumer price index for Colorado used by the state department of labor and employment to make changes to the state minimum wage."

In 2006, Colorado voters approved Amendment 42, now part of the state constitution, which requires the state's minimum wage to rise in accordance with the CPI used for Colorado. But Initiative 96 would apply to all employees, not just minimum-wage employees.

Two years ago, critics of Amendment 42 argued that no Colorado-wide CPI exists, and that it was unfair to peg wage increases throughout the state to the Denver-Boulder-Greeley CPI, an urban index that might not reflect the situation in Colorado's rural areas. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes a West regional CPI, which encompasses 13 states including Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona and Utah.

Doug Friednash, an attorney representing the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, raised a similar argument about Initiative 96.

"There is no such thing as a Consumer Price Index used for Colorado," Friednash said. "The voters are entitled to know which index is going to be used."

Michael Belo, an attorney representing the UFCW, said it was clear that whatever index was used would be the same one the state was using to set the minimum wage, which currently is the Denver-Boulder-Greeley CPI.

The title board considers only whether proposed initiatives meet the state's "single-subject" rule.

Proponents now have until August to gather 76,000 valid signatures from registered Colorado voters in order to get the initiatives placed on the November ballot.

(bizjournals.com)

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