‘Right-to-work’ battle officially goes to court

Opponents of a "right-to-work" ballot measure, also known as Amendment 47, have filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court claiming that petitions for the initiative were collected illegally and fraudulently.

Members with Protect Colorado’s Future, a labor-backed committee that is opposing the amendment and supporting two counterproposals that would make corporate executives liable for any fraud that happens in their companies and make employers give a reason when workers are fired, submitted the suit late Wednesday night.

Under the “right-to-work” measure, collective-bargaining rights for labor would be significantly weakened by making it illegal for unions to negotiate agreements with businesses that collect dues or agency fees from non-member employees who also enjoy the union-fought benefits in the workplace.

Federal law already prohibits "closed shops" or compulsory union membership in the workplace.

The legal complaint names Secretary of State Mike Coffman as a defendant, along with Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, who initially sponsored the amendment.

According to the suit, the crux of the issue is the way petition signatures were gathered to put the initiative on the ballot.

"It appears from our analysis that in the effort to qualify Amendment 47 for the ballot those involved in that process broke the rules and engaged in massive and pervasive fraud on every single step of the initiative process," said Jess Knox, executive director of Protect Colorado’s Future, whose group conducted an analysis of the signed petition documents that were submitted to the secretary of state’s office for approval earlier in the month.

Among other claims, the suit alleges the following:


– That petition collectors illegally gave false information about their addresses and residency.

– That petition signatures were taken illegally under false pretenses.

– That four notaries that were used to certify that petition collectors were allowed to gather signatures were not commissioned by the State of Colorado, as required by law.

– That petitions were not properly numbered for tracking purposes under state law.

In response to the allegations, Kelley Harp with A Better Colorado, the committee supporting Amendment 47, issued a statement saying “if any of the claims are true, what the lawsuit purports to show is clearly not up to par with the high standards of this campaign,” and claiming that “the unions don’t want workers deciding for themselves whether or not to join a union, and now they don’t want voters deciding public policy issues.”

Stay tuned for more information.

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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