3 unions organize into giant of labor
Some observers expect the group of public employees to dominate
bargaining efforts. By John Ingold
Friday, November 16, 2007
Three of the largest public employee unions in Colorado are joining forces to woo state
workers, creating a labor behemoth that some observers believe
will dominate the effort to organize state employees.
Calling itself Colorado WINS, the group, announced Thursday, is
made up of the American Federation of State, County and
Municipal Employees; the Colorado Association of Public
Employees/Service Employees International Union; and the
American Federation of Teachers.
Combined, the three groups already claim about 4,500 active
state workers as members and more than 17,000 active members
overall in Colorado.
"SEIU and AFSCME are the two 800-pound gorillas," said Colorado State University
professor Raymond Hogler, a labor expert. "If those two
have joined forces, I don't think any other union would
seriously challenge them."
Thursday's announcement came in the wake of Gov. Bill Ritter's
executive order earlier this month granting about 32,000 state
workers the right to form bargaining groups. Prior to the
order, state employees were able to join and pay dues to unions,
but the groups' bargaining authority was much more limited.
Leaders of Colorado WINS, or Workers for Innovative and New
Solutions, said they hope the coalition will provide a unified
voice for workers and eliminate some of the competitive scramble
expected among various unions for state workers' support in the
coming weeks and months.
"Nobody at the state wanted to enter into some kind of labor
union battle," said Dave Growley, a member of CAPE/SEIU who
works in the state's information technology department.
"The whole idea on this thing is to work together so all of our
voices are blended together and we're all on the same page of
But state Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said he thinks such a
powerful union will work against the state's best interests and
intimidate employees who don't want to unionize.
"A super union would have even more strength and flex," he said.
"And those workers who are not a member of it will have even
less of a voice and feel even greater pressure to be forced into
Labor groups looking to represent state workers have already
begun distributing fliers and mailings in the hopes of winning
support. In addition to Colorado WINS, leaders of the
Colorado Federation of Public Employees and the United Food and
Commercial Workers said Thursday that they expect to vie for
State officials said other unions, such as the Teamsters and the
Communications Workers of America, have also expressed interest.
Ritter's spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said state department leaders
are currently discussing how to handle union promotion in the
"The first priority is to maintain the integrity of the
workplace, that the people's business is conducted without
disruption," Dreyer said.
Hogler, the CSU professor, said the Colorado WINS announcement
fits in with two trends in the labor movement. First, he
said, unions are working together more, to eliminate the harmful
effects of infighting. Second, he said, unions are
increasingly targeting public employees as organization efforts
in private companies -- such as Wal-Mart -- become more
"They concentrate on public employees because they're more
responsive to unionization," Hogler said. But, Hogler
cautions, this doesn't mean an organized state workforce is a
Under Ritter's executive order, 30 percent of employees in any
of eight occupational categories must first petition for
representation by a particular labor organization. The
units will then hold elections, and a particular union must get
more than 50 percent of the vote to be the designated
representative for the category.
Employees will always have the option of voting for no
I believe there are a lot of individualists," Hogler said.
"They may not want representation by anyone. So it's a
contest for hearts and minds."
John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or