When witnesses testified about being in untenable situations before legislative committees on which Cliff Bryan served in the mid-’80s, the folksy appliance salesman-turned-state representative from Loveland often said, “It seems like we’ve put these people between the fire hydrant and the dog.”
Colorado voters find themselves in the dog’s direct line of fire this fall as unnecessary and competing citizen initiatives have found their way onto our ballot. It started when some business interests, frustrated with a legislature controlled by Democrats and a Democratic governor, began work to ask voters to restrict the ability for workers to be required to pay union dues if they didn’t want to join the union. The so-called “right-to-work” proposal has been tried numerous times in the legislature over the years, but (even in years when Republicans held huge legislative majorities) it never got much traction. Given the fact that union members make up less than 10 percent of all workers in Colorado, the case could never be made that coerced payments to unions was much of a problem here. Proponents have gotten their initiative certified for the ballot, and it will appear as Amendment 47.
In response to the “right-to-work” proposal, organized labor announced that it was considering six of its own initiatives. By their own admission, the proponents didn’t particularly want to pursue the proposals but advanced them in hopes that they could be used as leverage to get right-to-work backers to withdraw their proposal. The right-to-work folks would not back down, and four of the six labor proposals are now on our ballot as well.
Amendment 53 would hold a business owner criminally liable if his or her company did not carry out a statutorily required duty and the owner knew. Amendment 55 restricts companies’ decisions to discipline or fire employees and creates a new private right of action when such actions take place. Amendment 56 would require all employers with 20 or more employees to provide health insurance and pay for the vast majority of it for employees and their dependents, and Amendment 57 would let injured workers sue their employers outside the workers compensation system.
These five amendments taken together would substantially change the economic environment in which we operate. While each can be debated separately, if they all pass, our ability to attract and retain good jobs for Coloradans will be jeopardized.
But in this case, the process is way more important than the actual proposals. We’ve all been put squarely between the fire hydrant and the dog, and unless an agreement can be forged to take the proposals off our ballot, the only way we can stop it from happening again is to vote against them all.
Vote no on Amendments 47, 53, 55, 56 and 57.
Greg Romberg of Evergreen is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm.