Groups Fight Political Battle Over Amendmets 47, 49, 54

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

With just days before the election, groups across the state are working hard to get their message across to voters, battling it out over Amendments 47, 49, and 54. 11 News takes a look at what both sides have to say about these labor union related initiatives.

Jim White is the director of West Central Colorado Uniserv, a group that represents teachers in Mesa County and most of Western Colorado. He says throughout the years, the group has been able to get teachers better working conditions, planning times and meeting times -- but now three amendments on the November ballot could hurt those efforts.

"We see all three of these as being issues that deal with personal choice and removing that personal choice," said White.

State Senator Josh Penry, (R) Fruita, says amendments 47, 49, and 54 are about personal choice -- the workers choice to support or not to support the unions.

"All three of them together, will draw reasonable lines to make sure the unions don't have too much power over our economy and too much power over state government," said Penry.

Amendment 47 would make it so workers would not have to join or pay any dues to a union as a condition of employment. Supporters say all Americans should be able to choose who they want to associate with and the amendment would help keep labor unions in check.

"If unions are doing a good job then people will want to pay dues," said Penry.

Opponents say an amendment to the Constitution is not necessary, because in most cases workers already have that choice. They add most unions don't charge non-members association fees for negotiations -- but in smaller areas, that may be the only way to improve workers jobs and rights.

"Non-members benefit just like the dues paying members from what's negotiated," said White.

Amendment 49 would change rules about public employee paycheck deductions, so labor unions would not be able to collect their dues from those deductions. Opponents say the amendment takes away the worker's choice on how to spend money they've earned. They say with all the organizations that would still be able to collect paycheck deductions, the amendment unfairly targets unions.

"I question why it's not okay to book keep for the education association, but it is okay for private businesses and public service organizations," said White.

Supporters say under the current system, union paycheck deductions are done at the taxpayer's expense -- and that needs to change.

"If unions want to deduct money straight out of paychecks, that's fine, but the unions should pay for it," said Penry.

Amendment 54 sets new rules when it comes to government contractors and other groups like unions making political contributions. Supporters say the amendment is aimed at cleaning up the government and limiting the reach of special interests.

"It prohibits certain sort of sweetheart contracts between large campaign givers and donors, predominately in this case, labor unions," said Penry.

Opponents say it hurts the union's ability to support candidates and issues that will improve the pay and working conditions for the groups they represent.

"Amendment fifty-four would remove us from the political arena totally," said White.

Now, it's about the voter's personal choice, and both sides say they will continue the battle to push voters' decisions in their favor.

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