Much ado has been made out of the 11th-hour deal that pulled four labor union-sponsored initiatives from the Colorado ballot. As opined by the editors of the Rocky Mountain News:
On Thursday, labor peace was restored in Colorado. At least until the 2009 legislature convenes.
The announcement that two labor-backed groups would remove Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57 from the November ballot – and in return business groups would fund a joint business-labor campaign to defeat Amendments 47, 49 and 54 – is a positive development. The state’s economic health was in the crosshairs of the labor measures, a couple of which probably had a good shot at passage.
There’s no doubt that the “economic health” and well-being of Colorado families and businesses is safer as a result of these four measures being off the ballot. Union leaders may have believed these measures would benefit their members and other workers. But they never believed that workers’ economic bottom line was more important than maintaining and increasing their own power.
The “bread-and-butter” initiatives were mere negotiating chips for union leaders in the proverbial smoke-filled backroom. The initiatives they oppose are the non-negotiable ones – a proposal that ends the coercive payment of workers’ fees to union leaders and a proposal that denies union leaders and other politically active special interests access to government payroll systems for dues collection.
If we are to assume that union leaders believe their own rhetoric, then this week’s backroom deal placed their own personal coffers and lobbying power ahead of working class welfare.
On the other hand, union leaders may not actually believe their four ballot initiatives would have ultimately been a benefit to their members and other workers. In that case, their political extortion was just the final act of a grand cynical ploy that played workers – indeed, all Colorado voters – for the fool.
Consider it a matter of priorities. What if union leaders – at least in the government sector – didn’t have automatic access to workers’ paychecks but had to ask them directly for financial support (which Amendment 49, the Ethical Standards initiative, would effectively create)? Would that affect their priorities? In light of recent events, it’s an important question to ask.