‘Right-to-work’ gets trampled in Colorado

Firefighter Joel Heinneman, who appeared in anti-47 ads, takes the stage to speak to fellow opponents of 'right-to-work.' (Photo/Erin Rosa)
Firefighter Joel Heinneman, who appeared in anti-47 ads, takes the stage to speak to fellow opponents of 'right-to-work.' (Photo/Erin Rosa)
On Election Day, Colorado voters tossed out Amendment 47, a contentious “right-to-work” measure that sought to restrict the way unions organized in the state. It has been more than three decades since such a proposal was actually defeated on the ballot.

At an event at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver — separate from the Democratic bash that was taking place around the same area — hundreds of union supporters gathered to watch the results come in, whooping and hollering as the fate of Amendment 47 began to appear more dismal.

The measure, which was backed by number of business groups including the state chamber of commerce, failed with a “nay” vote of at least 55 percent, according to the most recent polling results on the early morning hours of Wednesday.

“God bless Colorado and God bless Colorado voters,” yelled UFCW Local 7 president Ernest Duran with the No on 47 campaign over a microphone shortly after the results were announced at approximately 9 p.m.

The proponents of Amendment 47 with the group A Better Colorado also released a statement after the results, stating that “The outcome, we feel, was unfortunate, but we are comforted in knowing that we took a principled stand and fought for it until the end.”

Former Democratic state lawmaker Mike Cerbo, who helped to fight the proposal as head of the Colorado AFL-CIO union coalition, said he thought the measure failed because voters “didn’t see a need for Amendment 47.”

Not only did numerous unions unite in opposition to Amendment 47, but they also drew upon a unique alliance between major business leaders and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, raising millions to defeat the measure after labor agreed in October to pull four other proposals that would have regulated business practices.

At the time of the arrangement, businessman and Oakwood Homes founder Pat Hamill called the partnership “an unprecedented campaign” in Colorado politics.

Said Littleton firefighter Joel Heinemann, a campaign supporter who claimed Amendment 47 would have weakened the bargaining rights for public servants in the state, “Today the voters showed me and my fellow firefighters that they support us.”

Amendment 47 was first proposed for the ballot in the summer of 2007 and was initially sponsored by Aurora city councilman Ryan Frazier.

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.