9/9/08

Labor-state voters rethink mandatory unionism

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

Worker-choice advocates won't be bullied

Only two people can pull a proposed "right-to-work" amendment from November’s ballot, and neither of them is budging. While much has been made of brewery descendant Jonathan Coors’ financial backing of the controversial measure, it was formally proposed by two other men: Ryan Frazier, an Aurora city councilman thought to be an up-and coming GOP politician, and Julian Jay Cole, who runs a Golden-based consulting firm that helps companies avoid becoming unionized.

Amid pressure to withdraw Amendment 47 so that others will pull competing initiatives, the "right-to-work" campaign issued a statement Monday on behalf of Frazier and Cole. The bottom line "in no uncertain terms": They have no intention of backing down before November’s election.

Frazier has referred past calls about his involvement to the campaign and did not return a phone call to his office on Friday.

"The journey of right-to-work in Colorado began with a great deal of soul searching, careful consideration and a commitment to the principles this country was founded on," Frazier said in Monday’s statement. "That journey continues because Amendment 47 is the right thing to do for our state. Principle must never be trumped by convenience."

Frazier, who eventually will face term limits as an Aurora councilman, is seen by some in his party as a possible candidate for higher office.

"He’s a very bright, articulate, young and ambitious individual," said Bob Legare, a Republican and former member of the Aurora City Council. “I think he’s got potential if he wants it."

Efforts fail to make a deal

Lawmakers and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce say they have tried to persuade Frazier and Cole to take the measure off the ballot. The hope was that organized labor groups would then pull several countermeasures viewed by some as detrimental to Colorado’s business climate and, ultimately,workers.

But attempts to work out a deal have gone nowhere.

"To pull the measure before the November election would be insulting to every person who is relying on Amendment 47 to end the corruptive practice of forced unionism," Cole said in the statement issued by the A Better Colorado campaign group.

Because federal law already prohibits forced union membership, the amendment would have the effect of banning agreements that compel workers to pay union fees if they are covered by collective bargaining contracts.

In Colorado, those all-union agreements already require majority approval by workers before they take effect. And workers can request they pay only "core" dues covering the cost of union representation.

Cole, who is listed as one of the two proponents of the right-to work measure, has a long history of working for companies trying to prevent unions from forming.

"Cole Associates has a superior track record in defeating union organizing attempts and in winning union elections," according to his Website. "CA has successfully coordinated many of the most challenging and sensitive elections in the last 10 years."

At a dinner at the Capital City Club in Montgomery, Ala., last year, executives dined on London broil at the monthly membership meeting of the Society for Human Resource Management. Also on the evening’s agenda, which is still posted on the Internet, was a speech by Cole on the topic of "union avoidance."

Cole did not return a phone call to his offices on Monday.

Labor’s countermeasures

The head of a labor-backed group called Protect Colorado’s Future reacted to Frazier and Cole’s statements by saying they continue to put "their own ideology ahead of the needs" of Colorado residents.

"Mr.Cole, Mr.Frazier, the members of the Coors family and other special interests need to answer for why their ideological beliefs are better for Colorado than strong nurses, firefighters, teachers and police officers," said Jess Knox, executive director of Protect Colorado's Future.

Knox and his group proposed two ballot measures earlier, both of them in reaction to the right to-work proposal banning mandatory union dues.

One of the measures would make executives criminally liable for wrong doing while another would require employers to provide reasons for firing workers.

The food and commercial workers union has two other initiatives on the ballot - one requiring employers to pay most of the cost of health insurance for workers and another that would allow workers to sue for more damages after collecting workers compensation benefits.

"In these risky economic times when working families are being squeezed, it just makes no sense to fix a system that is not broken," UFCW Local 7 President Ernest L. Duran Jr. said in a statement about the right-to-work proposal.

(rockymountainnews.com)

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