Our View: Right to work doesn’t work
October 26, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Unfortunate is not a strong enough word to describe the labor-versus-business battle that found its way onto the Colorado ballot this fall. We don’t think any of the measures proposed by either side are worthy of amending our state constitution, and we urge a “no” vote on amendments 47, 49 and 54.
Amendments 47, 49 and 54 are the remnants of the pitched battle, after labor and union leaders agreed to drop amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57 from the ballot in exchange for help defeating the so-called “pro-business” amendments, with 47 at the top of the list.
Voters should be outraged that the state ballot and taxpayer dollars have been squandered as a result of the fight. We certainly don’t think the best interest of residents was in mind with any of the measures.
When measured by its merits – as all ballot initiatives should be – Amendment 47 falls short. Amendment 47 would prohibit requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment, including partial dues that help cover the cost of bargaining salaries and benefits for employees who choose to not be union members.
It must be noted that federal law prohibits compulsory union membership, and state law requires approval of 75 percent of workers before an all-union workplace can be established. Even in all-union workplaces, individual workers still have the option of declining union membership and paying partial fees for the cost of representation at the bargaining table.
Unions are far from perfect, and we could support steps that would improve union accountability. But we’re not convinced problems in the current system necessitate a constitutional amendment such as this.
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Additionally, Amendment 47 may be premature given the uncertainty of card check legislation proposed at the federal level. The outcome of November’s presidential election may well determine whether the card check legislation is enacted into law and how the balance between labor and management shifts.
Voters should reject Amendment 47.
As with 47, amendments 49 and 54 would legislate by constitutional amendment, a power we think should be reserved for only the most significant and pressing issues facing the state. Paycheck deductions and campaign contributions from certain government contractors don’t meet that standard.
Amendment 49 would prohibit certain paycheck deductions for state and some local government employees. More specifically, the amendment appears to be aimed at paycheck deductions for union dues and fees for other organizations.
Supporters say Amendment 49 reduces conflicts of interest between elected officials and politically active groups such as unions that use government payrolls to collect money from their members. Supporters also say the measure protects employees from unwanted deductions from their paychecks.
More concerning to us, however, is that Amendment 49 interferes with the labor-management process between state and local governments and their employees. Payroll deductions can be a valuable way for governments to provide benefits to their employees and remain competitive with the private sector. Furthermore, we don’t think a ballot measure should take away the authority that state and local governments have to decide their own rules with payroll deductions.
Finally, there is Amendment 54, a constitutional measure that would prohibit certain government contractors, including labor organizations, from making campaign contributions during the duration of their contract.
Amendment sponsors say their measure promotes civic trust and government transparency, and while we support those worthy goals, Amendment 54 doesn’t deserve voter approval. Not only does Amendment 54 fail to live up to the high standard that should be required of amendments to our constitution, it attempts to fix a problem we’re not convinced exists.
Campaign contributions already are a matter of public record, meaning transparency exists in the current system. In addition to adding another layer of bureaucracy, Amendment 54’s broad scope could have unforeseen consequences. That its provisions extend to the extended family members of government contractors is one such example.
On a ballot weighed down by a shameful battle between labor and business groups, Amendments 47, 49 and 54 don’t live up to their billing. Vote no on each.