Ritter schmoozes with AFL-CIO
By Steven K. Paulson, AP
Monday, April 23, 2007
Denver - Gov. Bill Ritter met today with AFL-CIO
President John Sweeney and promised to work with him to resolve
problems with organized labor leading up to the Democratic
National Convention next year.
Ritter, a Democrat, said he and Sweeney discussed the lack of
union workers at area hotels, problems over contracts with stage
hands and the temporary use of union labor at the main
convention venue, the Pepsi Center.
They also discussed Ritter's decision to veto a bill that would
have made it easier to form union shops. Ritter said he made no
commitments, other than to continue talks with organized labor.
"We made a commitment to having the conversation going forward,"
Ritter said after the meeting.
Sweeney said that "a number of labor issues" arise over the
staging of a national political convention, "and so, many of our
local unions here have issues that they wanted to raise and
which they are raising and we will be working on from now until
Denver's bid for the 2008 convention nearly collapsed because
the leader of the stagehands union balked at signing a pledge
not to strike if the convention were held at the Pepsi Center,
where the work force is not unionized.
A compromise was negotiated to staff the Pepsi Center entirely
with union labor for the duration of the convention.
The AFL-CIO threatened to recommend the Democratic Party move
its 2008 convention from Denver after Ritter vetoed the labor
bill. Ritter said he was satisfied with the bill, but not with
the process that led to its passage, arguing the debate should
have been broader.
Business leaders had complained they were excluded from the
Sweeney declined to say what the union would do if agreements
aren't reached on the outstanding issues, including the hiring
of union stagehands for the convention and signing a contract
with the Hyatt Hotel, the main hotel for delegates.
"I really am very optimistic that not just the hotel issue, but
that many of these issues that relate directly to the
convention, that every effort will be made to resolve them and
I'd like to focus on that and not talk about what if," Sweeney
Sweeney also spoke with reporters about his decision to dump two
leaders of the Colorado AFL-CIO, saying he did it to heal a rift
in the office that was interfering with organizing and that he
wanted that out of the way before the next political campaign.
Sweeney removed Colorado AFL-CIO President Steve Adams and
Secretary-Treasurer Paul Mendrick after Adams sought help from
the national office in resolving internal disputes.
"It's public knowledge there has been a lot of divisiveness, and
I made the decision that we had to do some restructuring and
that we had to unify the affiliates in the state federation as
quickly as possible or else we were going to see all of this
work that the fed has been doing really declining," Sweeney
The national AFL-CIO assumed control of the state office in
January, but Sweeney said he wants to return the unit to state
control as soon as possible.