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Nobody cares about the little guy

Business leaders are scrambling to raise $6 million to finance a deal with organized labor that would remove four union-backed measures from the November statewide ballot, according to people familiar with the situation.

Colorado Concern, an alliance of business leaders heading up the negotiations with labor, has secured pledges for $2 million, a source said Wednesday. Alliance chairman Walter Isenberg and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president Joe Blake have been calling businesses in the past week, seeking contributions, as the Oct. 2 deadline to withdraw measures from the ballot approaches.

The money would be used by business to fight Amendment 47, which seeks to ban forced union-membership dues in Colorado, and two other measures that unions oppose.

The problem Blake and Isenberg are facing is that many businesses are in favor of those measures, particularly Amendment 47.

Blake is asking companies that contributed to the chamber's issue committee — formed to oppose only the labor-backed measures, not Amendment 47 — if they would be willing to shift their money to fight the pro-business measures. The committee has raised $2.2 million.

Unwilling to finance fight

Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association and executive vice president of the Metro Denver Automobile Dealers Association, has told Blake that his members would not be willing to finance the fight against Amendment 47.

"Although it's not finalized yet, my belief is that we would not allow our money to be forwarded to a campaign that would be opposed to what we would call the pro-business ballot measures," Jackson said Wednesday.

The metro Denver auto group has given $500,000 to the chamber's issue committee, while the state auto group has contributed $100,000 to the Amendment 47 right-to-work campaign.

Jackson said right-to-work "would actually be good for Colorado" but stressed that his members did not contribute to the effort to place Amendment 47 on the ballot.

That charge was led, in large part, by the Coors family.

Jackson said he told Isenberg this week that he thought businesses are being asked to pay a "pretty steep" price as part of the potential deal with labor.

"If it was something less, like $3.5 million, would you be inclined to support it?" Isenberg asked Jackson on Tuesday, according to Jackson.

"I don't think we would be inclined to support it," Jackson responded.

Isenberg has not returned phone calls seeking comment.

Amendment 47 has divided the Colorado business community and is at the heart of a looming ballot battle Isenberg and Blake are working furiously to defuse.

Amendment 47 ad launched

Unions filed four measures in response to the right-to-work initiative, with hopes that Amendment 47 backers would withdraw their measure.

Not only have they declined to do so, the Amendment 47 campaign launched its first TV commercial Wednesday.

Unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, the Teamsters and those under the AFL-CIO umbrella are financing the four labor measures. Among other things, the measures seek to require companies with 20 or more workers to provide health-care coverage and limit a business' ability to fire employees except for "just cause," such as incompetence or substandard performance.

Unions have raised more than $8 million to fight business-backed initiatives and promote their four amendments.

Business leaders have said the labor measures would give Colorado an anti-business reputation and devastate the state's economy as companies move elsewhere.

Blake and others have also said Amendment 47 is unnecessary because Colorado's existing Labor Peace Act provides balance for businesses and unions. State labor laws require unions to hold a second vote after organizing a workplace to create an all-union shop where membership fees would be mandated as a condition of employment.

Jess Knox, head of a coalition of unions behind two of the four measures, said Wednesday that negotiations are ongoing but declined further comment about a possible deal.

Sources have said labor wants the business war chest to go beyond what unions spent to get their initiatives on the ballot and to aggressively attack Amendment 47.


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