Labor pulls an ace from sleeve
By Tom McGhee, Staff Writer
Friday, March 9, 2007
The national AFL-CIO threatened Thursday to recommend that the
Democratic Party move its 2008 national convention from Denver
unless Gov. Bill Ritter makes good on campaign commitments to
The AFL-CIO's executive council said it will push for the
reintroduction of pro-labor legislation vetoed by Ritter and
vowed to get a commitment from him to sign it.
"We intend to pass the legislation again and secure a clear
commitment from the governor to sign it," the unsigned statement
from the organization's executive council said.
"Union members and working people will make up more than a
quarter of the delegates to the Denver convention," the
statement said. "Unless we can be assured that the governor will
support our values and priorities, we will strongly urge the
Democratic Party to relocate the convention."
The union could have a hard time getting the convention moved,
however. Denver was chosen after the Democrats ruled out other
cities, and New York City, which also made the short list, said
it was unable to raise the money needed for the event.
Some local unions have supported the political convention
because it is likely to provide jobs that benefit their members.
And organized labor, which has seen its membership dwindle in
recent years, is no longer as strong as it once was. The
decision to pull out of the AFL-CIO by a group of seven large
unions in 2005 has diminished labor's ability to speak with a
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center
for Politics, said Democrats aren't going to be eager to move
the convention. It would make the party look too beholden to
labor. But he said labor has enough influence to force the
"My assumption is they will work it out. But if it absolutely
can't be worked out, and if labor says this is extremely
important to us, then it is possible the Dems will move it," he
The AFL-CIO will send a high-level delegation that will probably
include its president, John Sweeney, to talk to Ritter, said
Keith Maddox, a national AFL-CIO official. He didn't provide a
Ritter's spokesman, Evan Dryer, said the governor welcomes the
dialogue and is confident that his conversation with the
delegates will not be confined to a dispute over the vetoed
"He feels badly that labor feels badly about what happened,"
Dryer said. "When the AFL-CIO sends a top-level delegation, the
conversation will be comprehensive and wide-ranging. He fully
intends to continue working on issues that are important to
working families, such as health care, job creation and pension
Ritter broke from his party and ignored a campaign pledge when
he vetoed House Bill 1072, which would have eliminated one of
two votes needed for unions to negotiate all-union shops. The
bill sparked an outcry from business interests, who said it
would hamstring the state economically.
At the time, Ritter said he didn't object to the bill itself but
rather to the way both sides handled it.
He said that proponents made "no effort to open a dialogue,"
that opponents were "neither respectful nor civil" and that his
signing the bill would look to voters like an endorsement of
Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic
Development Corp., said the unions' position on the bill seems
"I would hope that we could sit down at the table without
staking out such stringent positions," he said.
The AFL-CIO's Maddox said he didn't know whether a revamped HB
1072 would be introduced during this legislative session or next
year. Rep. Michael Garcia, the Aurora Democrat who carried the
original labor bill, couldn't be reached for comment.
Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said no one from the
AFL-CIO had contacted him about the statement.
After Ritter vetoed the bill, Romanoff created a labor-business
council to work on issues important to both. The council holds
its first meeting today.
"There are times when labor and business are going to disagree.
I am very optimistic about our proposals for progress," Romanoff
The AFL-CIO's threat to ask the Democrats to move the
convention, which would reap millions of dollars for Denver and
increase the city's national profile, is "very potent," said
Gary Chaison, professor of labor relations at Clark University
in Worcester, Mass.
"If they make that threat very publicly," he said, "they are
going to have to live up to it."
Staff writer Tom McGhee can be
reached at 303-954-1671 or