The Association of U S West Retirees



Ritter schmoozes with AFL-CIO
By Steven K. Paulson, AP
Denver Post
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 the convention."

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 discussions.

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 said.

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 said.

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.