“Right To Work” Issue Not So Black And White For Attracting Businesses

    Facts are already floundering in a debate over a proposed change to Colorado’s labor law, but the issue isn’t so simple when it comes to wooing companies to do business in the state.

    In June, a so-called “right to work” initiative was proposed to be on the state ballot in 2008. Such a measure would restrict union shops from collecting employee dues and weaken the formations of labor unions in general.

    Recently, state Rep. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch) has stepped into the fray as a supporter for the proposal, saying that companies are reluctant to move to Colorado due to the state’s current labor law. But a representative for one of the state’s largest business organizations doesn’t see it the same way. “There’s so many more factors that determine if a company is going to succeed, or move, or expand here in Colorado.” says Bill Ray with the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies on behalf of businesses in the legislature and works to attract new companies to the state.

    In a June issue of the Colorado Statesmen (no link to the article), Harvey was quoted as saying that the top two questions he hears are “Does Colorado have a business property tax and is Colorado a right-to-work state?”

    “Different kids of businesses have different kind of concerns,” Ray says, noting that there’s no universal checklist to determine if companies will come to Colorado. “A call center or a hotel might be concerned with labor law, but a high-tech company that employes primarly engineers, that’s really not going to be on their radar screen.”

    As far as the law goes, the Metro Chamber of Commerce also sees no problem with current labor regulations.

    “Where we are works great for us. We have no desire to swing the pendulum in either direction,” says Ray. “It’s not an impediment to growing a business here in the state of Colorado.”

    Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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