Colorado Initiative 76 (2008)

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The Just Cause Initiative, or Initiative 76, was certified for the November 2008 ballot as Amendment 55, but the sponsors struck a deal to withdraw the measure on Oct. 2, 2008, in exchange for business leaders joining forces with them to oppose Amendment 47 (the Right to Work Amendment) and two other measures they label as anti-union (Amendment 49 and Amendment 54).

If approved, the amendment would have required Colorado employers to establish and document just cause before firing or suspending any full-time employee.

Government entities and non-profit organizations, as well as private employers who employ fewer than 20 full-time employees, are exempt from the requirement. Filing of bankruptcy by the employer or documentation of specific economic circumstances that directly and adversely affect the employer are included in the amendment's definition of "just cause."

This measure is a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment.

The official ballot title reads:

An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning cause for employee discharge or suspension, and, in connection therewith, requiring an employer to establish and document just cause for the discharge or suspension of a full-time employee; defining "just cause" to mean specified types of employee misconduct and substandard job performance, the filing of bankruptcy by the employer, or documented economic circumstances that directly and adversely affect the employer; exempting from the just cause requirement business entities that employ fewer than twenty employees, nonprofit organizations that employ fewer than one thousand employees, governmental entities, and employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that requires just cause for discharge or suspension; allowing an employee who believes he or she was discharged or suspended without just cause to file a civil action in state district court; allowing a court that finds an employee’s discharge or suspension to be in violation of this amendment to award reinstatement in the employee's former job, back wages, damages, or any combination thereof; and allowing the court to award attorneys fees to the prevailing party.

Supporters

Protect Colorado's Future, a coalition of advocacy groups, is the proponent of this initiative, as well as a very similar proposal, Initiative 62.

Protect Colorado's Future had raised more than $1.5 million by the beginning of May 2008 to support its ballot measures and to oppose the Right to Work Initiative. The biggest single contribution, $500,000, came from the Service Employees International Union. A Teamsters local contributed $250,000.[1]

Opponents

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has expressed strong opposition this and several other measures being proposed by the Protect Colorado's Future coalition.

The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry said it was opposing both of the "just cause" proposals—Initiative 76, as well as Initiative 62—that would "take away from employers their ability to suspend or terminate workers except in certain, narrowly defined circumstances."[2]

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce launched a group called Coloradans for Responsible Reform, which is raising money from business interests to oppose this initiative as well as numerous other initiatives that they see as anti-business.[3]

The National Federation of Independent Business of Colorado announced May 1, 2008, that it has joined Coloradans for Responsible Reform in the effort.[3]

The board of the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously July 7, 2008, to oppose this measure—as well as several other ballot initiatives backed by organized labor (Initiatives 73, 74, 75, and 92). Donna Evans, CEO of the chamber, said the initiatives, if passed, "would damage business, especially small- and medium-sized business."[4]

The Colorado Economic Leadership Coalition came out Aug. 11, 2008, against the proposed amendment, as well as several other labor-backed counter-measures and the Right to Work Initiative. The coalition, which is the public policy arm of the Economic Development Council of Colorado, said they believe the amendments will make it hard to recruit businesses to Colorado and threaten to destabilize 66 years of business-labor peace in the state.[5]

"These initiatives are economy-killers and will lead to increased prices, unemployment and legal paralysis," the coalition said in a presentation to members. "The 22 economic development corporations across the state can simply close up shop. No business is moving to Colorado if these measures pass."[5]

The Colorado Ballot Initiatives came out against the proposed amendment, as well as the other anti-business and anti-union initiatives.[6]

Club 20, which represents the interests of western Colorado's 22-county region, announce its opposition to the measure in mid-September 2008.[7]

Business leaders join labor

Just hours before the Oct. 2, 2008, deadline for withdrawing measures from the November ballot, labor unions leaders announced that they would be pulling four controversial measures from the ballot in exchange for business leaders signing on as active opponents of Amendment 47, including $3 million to help fund the opposition campaign.[8]

Attempts to strike a deal, led by Gov. Ritter, began early in the campaign but fizzled when Amendment 47 proponents refused to end their campaign and filed signatures to place it on the ballot. However, in mid-September, union and business leaders showed renewed interest in negotiating a deal to avoid the clash at the ballot-box.[9]

Colorado Concern, a new alliance, was a key player in the latest talks about the terms under which labor groups would pull their four measures if business leaders help them fight the Amendment 47 and two other measures they see as anti-union. Present at the negotiations for Colorado Concern were Walter Isenberg of Sage Hospitality Resources, Denver Performing Arts Center Chairman Dan Ritchie, and Oakwood Homes' Patrick Hamill.[9]

Talks broke off without a deal on Sept. 16, 2008, at the governor's mansion. But they resumed later in the week.[9]

Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce President Joe Blake attended the two meetings in mid-September and sits on the Colorado Concern board. But he said then that the Chamber will not spend any of its own resources to fight the three measures opposed by organized labor.[9]

In an address Sept. 17, 2008, at the chamber's annual membership lunch, Blake steered clear of talk about a compromise, instead calling on the audience to defeat the four proposals sought by unions. Blake later expressed pessimism that a compromise could be reached that would lead to the withdrawal of the measures.[9]

A source from Colorado Concern said Sept. 24, 2008, that they had pledges of $2 million from business interests toward the $6 million the union leaders say is necessary to convince them to withdraw the four anti-business ballot measures. That money would be used in the campaign to defeat Amendment 47 and two other measures the unions see as anti-union.[10][11] Amendment 47 supporters say they have no intention of dropping their proposal.[12]

Denver Metro Chamber President Joe Blake was asking companies that contributed to the chamber's issue committee, which was formed to oppose the labor-backed measures, not Amendment 47, to shift their money to fight the pro-business measures.[10]

Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association and executive vice president of the Metro Denver Automobile Dealers Association, told Blake his members would not finance the fight against Amendment 47. "Although it's not finalized yet, my belief is that we would not allow our money to be forwarded to a campaign that would be opposed to what we would call the pro-business ballot measures," Jackson said.[10]

The metro Denver auto group has given $500,000 to the chamber's issue committee, while the state auto group has contributed $100,000 to the Amendment 47 right-to-work campaign.[10]

Coloradans for Responsible Reform said Sept. 26, 2008, that it would proceed with TV commercials opposing the union-backed measures (Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57), since a deal for their withdrawal was not yet at hand. The campaign suspended the ads two weeks previous while business and union leaders worked on a deal.[12]

Todd Vitale, manager for Coloradans for Responsible Reform, said fundraising efforts slowed down during the negotiations.[12]

"Our research indicates that once voters learn about the real impact of these measures, they will vote them down," Vitale said.[12]

Vitale said his campaign had raised $1.6 million, compared to more than $6 million raised by organized labor to fight Amendment 47 and support the measures they are sponsoring.[12]

On Sept. 30, 2008, Walter Isenberg, chairman of Colorado Concern, announced that a deal between labor and a coalition of business leaders to pull four union-backed initiatives had fallen through.[13]

"A lot of progress was made over the last few weeks," Isenberg said in a released statement. "Unfortunately, we were unable to come up with a proposal to which union leaders would agree, and we have simply run out of time."[13]

The statement said there will be "no deal" with labor leaders, and business leaders will instead focus their financial resources on fighting the four union-backed ballot measures.[13]

But Jess Knox, a spokesman for Protect Colorado's Future, said there's "still time on the clock" and that a deal could still be worked out, noting that they "still have two days to pull this off."[13]

The group of business leaders reportedly had raised $3 million to oppose Amendment 47, short of the $5 million union officials reportedly wanted businesses to raise to fight Amendment 47. But Knox insisted the effort wasn't "just about money."[13]

"This is about running a joint campaign, and there are some complex details," Knox said.[13]

The deal was finally worked out during late-night meetings and announced Oct. 2, 2008, the deadline for removing measures from the ballot. Because the ballots are already being printed, the measures will still appear there, but no votes for the measures will be counted.[8][14]

Status

The Secretary of State's office certified the measure as Amendment 55 for the November 2008 ballot on Aug. 22, 2008.[15][16] Supporters submitted 130,000 signatures on Aug. 4, 2008.[17]

The measure survived a challenge from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, which appealed the language of the initiative before the Title Board, arguing that the initiatives did not constitute single subjects and would hurt Colorado businesses. The Title Board approved some minor rewording of the ballot language but refused to invalidate the proposal.

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has since appealed the Title Board's ruling to the state Supreme Court. "We redrafted them to take as many of their arguments out of play as possible," said Mark Grueskin, the attorney working for Protect Colorado's Future. But the Chamber was not satisfied, continuing to call the titles "misleading and confusing."[18]

See also

External links

References

  1. Rocky Mountain News: "Initiative's foes raise $1.5 million," May 1, 2008
  2. Denver Business Journal: "CACI throws support to right-to-work ballot measure," March 27, 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 Denver Business Journal: "NFIB backs anti-initiative campaign," May 1, 2008
  4. Denver Business Journal: "Colorado women's chamber opposes labor's initiatives," July 7, 2008
  5. 5.0 5.1 Denver Business Journal: "Colorado Economic Leadership Coalition opposes labor, union measures," Aug. 11, 2008
  6. Colorado Ballot Initiatives Reference: "This is without question the most damaging proposal on this year's ballot" (dead link)
  7. Delta County Independent: "Club 20 takes positions on 11 of 18 ballot measures," Sept. 17, 2008
  8. 8.0 8.1 Denver Channel 7 News: "Labor Unions To Pull Ballot Measures," Oct. 2, 2008
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Rocky Mountain News: "Talks to resume to avert labor ballot battle," Sept. 18, 2008
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Denver Post: "Money tight as business pursues labor ballot deal," Sept. 25, 2008
  11. Rocky Mountain News: Opinion: "FOX: Labor-issues impasse at the precipice," Sept. 26, 2008
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Denver Business Journal: "Ballot issues' TV ads back on," Sept. 26, 2008
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Denver Business Journal: "Business-union pact: A dead deal?," Sept. 30, 2008
  14. Denver Post: "Ballot talks have evolved," Sept. 23, 2008
  15. Rocky Mountain News: "'Just cause' initiative certified," Aug. 22, 2008
  16. Denver Post: "Just Cause measure certified for ballot," Aug. 22, 2008 (dead link)
  17. Denver Post: "329,000 signatures for two union measures," Aug. 4, 2008
  18. Rocky Mountain News: "Labor's initiatives challenged," April 11, 2008