Chamber vote on ‘right-to-work’ long time in coming

Is it really a surprise that the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, which bills itself as the largest business organization in Colorado, would vote against a contentious measure seeking to restrict the way unions organize in the state?

The Denver Post published an article late on Thursday analyzing the chamber’s recent vote to oppose a “right-to-work” ballot measure, titled Amendment 47, that would ban contract agreements between unions and employers where workers are required to pay fees covering union collective bargaining costs as a condition of employment.

In the report, the chamber’s decision is described as being “odd,” but it should come as no surprise to those who have been following the chamber’s position on the issue.

It was nearly a year ago that former chamber spokesman Bill Ray refuted claims that “right-to-work” was somehow an integral part of persuading businesses to move to Colorado, stating that "Where we are works great for us. We have no desire to swing the pendulum in either direction.”

What the chamber did end up opposing was an array of ballot proposals submitted by the United Food and Commercial Workers union in reaction to “right-to-work,” including measures to require employers in the state to pay a living wage to workers based on the federal Consumer Price Index and a proposal that would change the state tax code by five percent, increasing commercial property taxes .

Chamber leaders were concerned about how such labor-backed measures would affect small businesses. The group subsequently registered an issue committee called Coloradans for Responsible Reform to oppose the proposals in April.

However, supporting “right-to-work” was not on the committee’s agenda even after it was approved for the 2008 ballot. To watchful observers this was a likely indication that the chamber was not going to back the "right-to-work" measure that was partially the catalyst for the UFCW’s proposed counter-ballot questions that the business advocacy group also opposed.

UFCW has since retracted two of its counter measures following a recently revealed negotiations with the chamber and Gov. Bill Ritter.

The chamber is addressing the issues that it views as most important to the business climate in Colorado, and “right-to-work” doesn’t appear to be one of them.

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

Comments are closed.