Guest Columns

DURAN: PROMISES MADE, PROMISES BROKEN

Ritter is no friend of Colorado workers

As a fifth-generation Coloradan and someone who saw promise in citizen Bill Ritter when I attended law school with him, I can tell you that today is a sad day in Colorado history. Gov. Bill Ritter has proven he cannot be trusted.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local #7, which includes the workers at Kaiser Permanente, JBS, Swift Beef Packing, Butterball Turkey, Colorado Premium, Culinaire, Pepcol, Darling International, Gino Morena, Mission Foods, City Market, Safeway, Albertson’s, King Soopers, and independent barbers and cosmetologists, was the first organization to endorse Ritter’s candidacy for governor. The workers we represent did so because he made the following promises, in writing, to the workers, in his 2006 candidate questionnaire:

Question: Why do you believe that it would be in the best interest for the members affiliated with this organization to endorse your candidacy?

Ritter: I come from a background of hard work and self-sufficiency. I started working construction at age 14 to help support my family and later became a member of Local 720 as a pipe layer. My father was also a member of the Operating Engineers, and I learned first hand the value of union membership, not just on wages and benefits, but also in key areas like worker safety and training. My personal experiences shape my belief that organized labor should pay a significant role in Colorado. I also share your concerns that organized labor has lost too much ground in the workplaces recently in terms of wage, benefit, workplace safety and collective bargaining
issues.

Question: Will you support and do all in your power to pass an amendment to the Colorado Labor Peace Act that would repeal the second organizing election needed to have a union security clause in the contract of a workplace that has voted in favor of a union?

YES X     NO

Please explain:

Ritter: The 75 percent supermajority requirement is overly punitive to workers and does not reflect democratic values. If workers agree they want to join a union, they should not face artificial barriers to prevent them from having the right to unionize.

Other statements in writing, from candidate Ritter:

• “I will always be a supporter of workers.”

• “As I mentioned earlier, my priority always lies with workers and improving worker conditions around the state, particularly in the area of wages.”

• “...my sympathies and interests lie with the workers.”

In addition, I personally met with Gov. Ritter during the last two years, and he gave me his word of honor he would sign the lockout/unemployment legislation (House Bill 1170). Pursuant to his request, I even met with business leaders to discuss this legislation.

As the workers are painfully aware, Ritter, in violation of his promise to Colorado workers, vetoed the Peace Act legislation (House Bill 1072) and the unemployment/lockout legislation (HB 1170). And, despite strong support in the Legislature, the law was not changed when this governor vetoed statutory changes to eliminate the very provision in the Colorado Labor Peace Act he said was “undemocratic.”

Suffice it to state, candidate Ritter, contrary to what he is saying now, agreed with the policy underlying these pieces of legislation — but he was not willing to put that policy agreement into action.

Others can debate the merits of this legislation. The point is, Gov. Bill Ritter cannot be trusted by any worker in Colorado.

This is a sad day in Colorado history.

Ernest L. Duran Jr. is president of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local #7.