Worker-choice would dry up union-dues

Forced-labor unionism gains attention

Half of Colorado's United Food and Commercial Workers would stop paying union dues if they could, according to the group's local president. In a May 1 letter to members, Ernest Duran warns that the right-to-work initiative headed for Colorado's November ballot would decimate his ranks of dues-paying members.

"If this amendment passes, we will enter all future negotiations divided," Duran wrote. "In my opinion, we will enter with less than 50 percent of the workers as union members."

If Amendment 47 passes, no one could be forced to pay union dues. Under current state law, those working at union-organized companies may have to pay union dues whether they like it or not.

Sounds like plenty of Rocky Mountain region grocery workers don't like it. In the right-to-work state of Wyoming, for example, the UFCW counts less than 40 percent of workers at companies where it has organized, Duran laments.

"Before we start to negotiate, we are divided," Duran wrote. "Unity is the workers' greatest strength. Less than 40 percent simply cannot fight effectively for 100 percent of the workers."

Duran was unavailable for comment on his call-to-action missive. But UFCW spokesman Manny Gonzales confirmed Duran's fears of mass defections.

Amendment 47 "basically creates a freeloader system," Gonzales said, "so that people can opt out of union membership, but they still can benefit from the same union services that members can."

Clearly this is not fair, but no matter how the labor laws are written, somebody gets shafted.

Under Colorado's long-standing Labor Peace Act, it's those workers who loathe unions but have to pay for them anyway because they work in union shops.

If right to work passes, it will be unions that are forced to negotiate on behalf of people who refuse to pay their dues. To Duran's point, that's unfair too.

In any case, unions represent only 8 percent of Colorado workers. And to hear Duran tell it, many of those workers are being held against their will.

"This letter tells me Colorado workers want the freedom to choose," said Kelley Harp, a spokesman for A Better Colorado, the group that is backing Amendment 47. It "blows the lid off all the reasons the unions give for opposing right to work."

The UFCW also is backing a series of proposals that would make Colorado employers pay and pay.

They would mandate cost-of-living raises from all employers; allow injured workers to sue outside of the state's "unjust" workers' compensation system; require employers with more than 20 workers to provide health-care coverage; and raise property taxes on corporations and lower them for homeowners.

Nothing like sticking it to the man, but you can't expect halfhearted union members to do this for free.

"We will need to gather over 100,000 valid signatures on all four petitions," Duran wrote. "You will be paid $2 for every valid signature you secure ... I urge you to get involved. This is your Union."


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