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Colorado Right-to-Work Initiative Qualifies for Ballot

July 1, 2008
By Scott Dilley

A right-to-work initiative in Colorado has qualified for the November ballot. The Colorado Secretary of State's office confirmed initiative proponents had gathered 94,546 valid signatures, thousands more than the 76,047 necessary for qualification.

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A right-to-work initiative in Colorado has qualified for the November ballot. The Colorado Secretary of State's office confirmed initiative proponents had gathered 94,546 valid signatures, thousands more than the 76,047 necessary for qualification.

The proposal is formally titled "Prohibition on Certain Conditions of Employment" and will appear on the ballot as Amendment 47. The measure would ensure individual workers in Colorado have the right to choose whether to join a labor union. Mandatory union dues would be barred.


Opponents May Challenge

Supporters of the amendment submitted 136,608 signatures, of which 69 percent were deemed valid. Labor-reform opponents quickly alleged fraud when they noticed the unusually high invalidity rate. Jess Knox, executive director of opposition group Protect Colorado's Future, hinted at possible legal challenges.

"With one-third of their signatures deemed invalid, the special interests behind Amendment 47 have a lot of questions to answer about whether they used fraudulent means to gather signatures," Knox said in a statement.

Knox's group is supporting two possible ballot initiatives of its own. One would deal with corporate fraud accountability, and the other would require employers to find just cause before firing employees.

Unions also have discussed supporting measures to increase mandates on employers. One proposal would force employers to give annual cost-of-living increases to employees. Another would mandate major medical health insurance for all employees.


Optimistic Supporters

Supporters of the right-to-work amendment remain undeterred and are optimistic voters will approve the measure. Proponent Jonathan Coors said the measure will "constitutionally guarantee the basic rights that all Coloradans deserve."

Independence Institute policy analyst Ben DeGrow believes Colorado's current law, the Labor Peace Act, "offers some limited protection for worker freedom, but it is far from complete protection. A right-to-work law would greatly improve safeguards for protecting an individual's right to decide about workplace representation issues."

Because right-to-work laws allow for voluntary employee participation in union activities, representation, and dues, unions must maintain levels of service and accountability to their members, proponents note.

Sources: "'Right-to-work' initiative approved for November ballot," Denver Post: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_9090046

"Right-to-work amendment put on ballot," Denver Business Journal: http://denver.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2008/04/28/daily9.html


Union Violence Claimed in Michigan

The latest chapter in an ongoing dispute between two labor unions--the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the California Nurses Association (CNA)--turned physical in April.

Three buses of SEIU members crashed a conference that representatives of the California Nurses Association were attending in Dearborn, Michigan. Witnesses said SEIU members shoved their way into the hotel, bruising bystanders and forcing one person to be taken to the hospital to be treated for lacerations.

SEIU and CNA have had an ongoing dispute for months over the unionization of 8,300 workers at nine hospitals in Ohio. SEIU alleges CNA tried to hijack SEIU's potential members by introducing itself as an alternate union shortly before nurses were scheduled to vote on union representation. CNA is associated with the AFL-CIO, an intra-labor SEIU rival, and believes SEIU collaborated with the nurses' employer in an effort to deny the nurses a choice in union representation.

After the altercation in Michigan, CNA asked for and received a temporary restraining order against SEIU. SEIU President Andy Stern denied his union was involved in harassing CNA leadership or members. He claims CNA is spreading misinformation.

A judicial officer later lifted the order.

Sources: "Nurses Accuse Members of SEIU Of Assault During Mich. Parley," New York Sun: http://www2.nysun.com/article/74674

"Order Against Union Is Lifted in California," New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/24/us/24brfs-BARTOUNIONEF_BRF.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=california%20nurses%20association&st=nyt&oref=slogin&oref=slogin


California Rebuffs SEIU Fund Bill

California lawmakers dealt a blow to a recent attempt by SEIU to increase its membership at the expense of California teacher pensions.

In an attempt to unionize the employees of ManorCare, a nursing home chain owned by a private equity firm, SEIU attempted to exert pressure on the owners by cutting off major sources of their funding--capital from the state pension systems.

SEIU used human rights as the pretext for a bill to limit the state investment options. The list of human rights violators included Singapore and Abu Dhabi. The sovereign wealth funds of those countries invest with the private equity firm that owns ManorCare. China, absent from the list, invests with a different private equity firm that owns another company with SEIU-union member employees.

Lobbyists for the state pension systems derailed the bill even before a committee vote. Taking high-performing investment options off the table for the pension systems would have forced pension managers to neglect their fiduciary duties, fund less-productive investments, and eventually cost government employees through lost investment returns.

Source: "California's Stern Rebuke," The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120873771821130001.html


Scott Dilley (sdilley@effwa.org) is a labor policy analyst at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington.

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