Rude union bigs skip worker-choice debate

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Union bigs terrified of worker choiceIn what is being called a “bizarre strategic move,” opponents of the so-called right-to-work initiative opted out of a crucial debate Friday with proponents of the measure, leaving the floor open solely to a one-sided argument.

Union allies with Protect Colorado’s Future and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 declined to participate in the KBDI-Channel 12 “Colorado Decides” debate series concerning Amendments 47 and 49 unless perceived anti-union Amendments 47, 49 and 54 were all debated together. Because each segment is only 30 minutes long, KBDI producer Dominic Dezzutti said it would not be possible to include all three initiatives in the same taping. The opponents would have been allowed to debate each measure separately, but still chose not to participate.

“I’m doing this 12 years, and I’ve never had this happen with initiatives,” said Dezzutti.

“I’ve been playing politics in this state for roughly three decades, and this is one of the more bizarre strategic moves I’ve seen,” said Eric Sondermann, host of the series.

“Colorado Decides” will air tonight at 8 p.m. and again at 8:30 p.m. on KBDI Channel 12.

Labor debated one issue

A UFCW Local 7 representative did show up to debate pro-labor health care measures, Amendments 56 and 57.

Amendment 56 would require employers with 20 or more employees to provide health care benefits. The amendment would be written into the Colorado State Constitution. Critics say the measure would result in businesses leaving Colorado, firing employees and reducing benefits, which would lead to higher prices on goods and services.

Amendment 57 is a statutory amendment that would require employers with 10 or more employees to allow injured employees to seek damages outside the workers’ compensation system. Critics argue that the language of the amendment is vague, only requiring “safe workplace” standards.

Proponents of both Amendments 56 and 57 say the measures are needed to start fixing a broken health care system.

“Coloradans are smart voters, they realize that we need to do something with out health care system, that we need to have a safe working environment,” said Manolo Gonzalez, spokesman for UFCW Local 7. “These just make sense for Colorado.”

Deal sought

As of Sunday, Gov. Bill Ritter, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and others were still trying to mediate an agreement between business and labor groups to pull four union measures from the ballot, in exchange for business funding campaigns to defeat three perceived anti-union measures, Amendments 47, 49 and 54.

Amendment 54 would prohibit people who receive no-bid contracts of $100,000 or more in a single year from contributing to political campaigns and ballot initiatives. Unions oppose the measure because labor groups receive expensive contracts and donate to campaigns.

Amendment 49, Ethical Standards for Public Payroll Systems, would prevent state and local government from levying dues or fees from employee paychecks for union membership. Opponent Jess Knox, spokesman for Protect Colorado’s Future, was scheduled to debate the issue but declined to appear for the debate. The same decision was made for Amendment 47, the right-to-work initiative.

Phone calls Friday by the Denver Daily News to Protect Colorado’s Future went unanswered and unreturned.

Amendment 47 would make Colorado a right-to-work state in which union fees could not be required as a condition of employment. If the agreement is reached between labor and business leaders, business would pump millions of dollars into fighting Amendment 47.

On ballot no matter what

But Kelley Harp, spokesman for A Better Colorado, the group leading the Amendment 47 initiative backed by brewery heir Jonathan Coors, said the right-to-work initiative will appear on the ballot as planned, despite potential opposition from its original supporters — the business community.

“We have a larger voice that is saying keep pushing forward, to keep it on the ballot, to keep fighting for workers’ freedom,” said Harp. “And so it is that voice that our backers are listening to that will keep it on the ballot.”


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