Voters attempt to legalize worker-choice

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Forced-labor unionism may yield to controversial worker-choice scheme

One of the major players in Colorado’s business-versus-labor ballot issues is Amendment 47, or the Right to Work Amendment. If passed, the amendment would prohibit unions from requiring employees to join and pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Violators would be subject to a misdemeanor penalty.

Under current law, people cannot be forced to join a union as a condition of employment, but they can be required to pay fees as part of the collective bargaining process.

If Amendment 47 passes, it would abolish the Colorado Labor Peace Act of 1943.

Brian Willms, chief executive officer of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce, said it would be better to stick with the current act.

“I think everybody would have benefited if we kept things with the Labor Peace,” Willms said. “We’ve done very well with that. However, if there’s going to be a change, (supporting Amendment 47) is going to be the direction that is going to be the best.”

The main reason that the chamber and the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance are supporting Amendment 47 is because, “no one should be required to make payments as a condition of employment,” Willms said.

The organization backing this amendment is For A Better Colorado.

While opponents are calling it anti-union, For A Better Colorado spokesman Kelley Harp said it isn’t anti-union, because it still allows employees to organize.

“It’s really a freedom issue, not an anti-union issue,” Harp said.

Sandra Hagen Solin, Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance issues manager, agrees. “(Amendment) 47 doesn’t restrict the ability to form unions, it merely states, as a condition of employment, you don’t have to join a union.”

Protect Colorado’s Future, a progressive organization leading the charge against Right to Work, said the measure would “let government interfere, instead of allowing employees and employers to negotiate what’s best for them in the workplace,” according to its Web site.

One of the chief objections to the amendment is it would allow people to benefit from union collective bargaining without having to pay dues.

Laurie Shearer, president of Thompson Educators Association, calls it the Right to Work for Less amendment.

“It interferes with contracts that have been written between unions and employers,” Shearer said.

The bill could damage the union’s collective voice, according to Manny Gonzales, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7 based in Wheat Ridge.

“We are at a time where big corporations are exploiting workers,” Gonzales said. “In a perfect world, that wouldn’t happen. People organize in a labor union, they collectively bargain for freedoms and basic rights. Amendment 47 would basically make it impossible to have that collective voice.”

Harp said that making unions strike-proof was not a motivation of the campaign.

Because workers won’t have to automatically pay dues, it will force the unions to “become more effective” and work harder to represent their constituents, Harp said.


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