Skip to comments.Dean on mission to Denver (trouble with labor groups)
Posted on 04/11/2007 2:09:29 PM PDT by veronica
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean will fly to Denver today to try and put out a political fire that has led labor groups to threaten to withdraw support from the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
In urgent meetings with union leaders and members of the convention host committee, he will attempt to take action to head off the threat that Democratic delegates attending the convention next year will have to cross picket lines to get in.
The dispute, which tarnishes Deans first visit to Denver since the party selected the city to host the convention, arises from labors fury over what it sees as a betrayal by newly elected Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter.
Ritter vetoed pro-union legislation just weeks after Democrats selected Denver as the conventions host city. His decision outraged and surprised national and local unions, whose members believe they were influential in Ritters successful election last fall. The veto led to suggestions by national leaders of the AFL-CIO and Teamsters that the convention be moved, and it provoked a confrontation in Washington between Ritter and the Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa.
Ritters veto was disappointing and set back relations between labor and the governor, one labor source said, particularly since Ritter had said on Feb. 9 that he would support the measure in one of his first actions in office. The DNC announced on Jan. 11 that Denver had beat out heavily unionized New York City as the site of the 2008 Democratic convention.
Labor unions were extremely angered, said Mike Feeley, a former minority leader for Democrats in the state legislature. They felt he was not only wrong to veto the bill, but that he had given a commitment to them.
The bill Ritter vetoed would have made it easier to form a union under Colorado law, which currently requires a second election with a super-majority to ratify an all-union agreement. The new bill would have waived that requirement.
Ritter decided to veto the bill after Colorado business groups lobbied him. In a Feb. 9 statement, he explained his veto by criticizing the rhetoric surrounding the measure and cited the unwillingness of people on both sides of the issue to compromise. At the same time, he described the requirement for a second super-majority election to be undemocratic.
Ritters office did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.
Dean, who will be making his first appearance in Denver since it was selected as the host city for the convention, is expected to meet with organized-labor officials and members of the Denver host committee, which includes Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) and local and state political leaders. The committee also includes Ritter, but committee leader Elba Wedgworth said he is not expected to be in Denver that day due to a scheduling conflict.
Dean will meet with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, according to AFL-CIO Political Director Karen Ackerman. She said the Ritter veto had complicated relationships labor had in Denver, but described Dean as very helpful and eager to resolve any and all of the labor issues that have arisen in the state.
Feeley said that strikes at the convention are certainly a risk, but he predicted that an awful lot of effort would be put in to prevent such an outcome. He said Dean was personally involved as part of an effort to ensure that Democratic delegates will not have to cross picket lines to get into the convention.
One labor source predicted Dean would carry the message that labor groups unhappiness with Ritter should not be taken out on the Democratic Party, the city of Denver, or the convention.
But that message is complicated by the fact that Denvers selection as the host city for the 2008 Democratic convention was already somewhat controversial with unions. Denver was selected only after unions made a deal not to strike at the Aug. 25-28 convention if union members were hired to work during the convention at the non-union Pepsi Center. Kroenke Sports, which owns the Pepsi Center, agreed to have union members work the convention if the host committee picked up the charge.
However, one small union representing stagehands rejected the deal, and consequently it was never signed by any unions. Although Wedgworth insisted Ritters veto has not complicated efforts to finalize the agreement, others said it seems to have re-opened the debate over Denvers credentials.
In Denver, Democrats selected a city that contrasts on labor issues with Minneapolis-St. Paul, which will host the 2008 Republican convention. Hoffa told the Denver Post last week that it was ironic that Republicans were planning their convention in the heavily unionized Twin Cities. He added: Maybe we should flip it and let the Republicans come to Denver.
Hoffa also confronted Ritter over his vote at the Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington late last month. In an interview with the Post, Hoffa said he told Ritter that if he and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper didnt work out some key issues, the convention in Denver would be plagued by protests and picket lines.
Deans visit will include a rally highlighting the selection of the Mile High City as host to the convention. It was picked to increase the Democratic Partys profile in the Mountain West, a region of the country where Democrats have had some success in recent years, including the elections of Ritter and Salazar.
Salazar is one of only four Democrats who have not cosponsored the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for labor unions to form nationally and thus represents labors No. 1 priority in this Congress. Salazar sponsored nearly identical legislation last year, and is the only Democratic cosponsor from last year who is not a sponsor this year.
Representatives of the Colorado AFL-CIO met with Salazar over the weekend to discuss his position but received no commitment from the senator, sources said. Still, one labor source expressed confidence that Salazar might vote for the bill on the Senate floor even if he does not cosponsor it.
This source also said Salazar may be trying to position himself as a possible mediator between labor, business and Ritter over the convention. If so, Salazar might not want to complicate those talks by taking a current position on the Senate labor bill, which business is working hard to defeat, the source said.
Salazars office did not respond to calls from The Hill about his position on the labor bill. The other three Senate Democrats who are not cosponsors are Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.).
Fights over labor are typical fare for national Democratic conventions, and one labor source downplayed the fact that the labor agreement on Denver has not been finalized. This source noted that an agreement was not signed until a week before the 2004 convention in Boston, and that picket lines were seen during the 2000 convention in Atlanta.
Wedgworth said the host committee believes the issue will be resolved and hopes that Dean will announce a convention chief executive officer during his visit. She said she does not expect the agreement to be finalized this week, but believes it will be finished well before the convention.
A group called RE-create 68 is already planning to protest Deans visit and rally. It is also planning protests for the convention, but it does not mention the labor issues as a reason on its website.
Have conservative/Christians pleased the Lord!???
Dr. “Demento” Dean need not worry. The labor groups will not abandon the Democrat party unless the Communists run a candidate.
Hoffa told the Denver Post last week that it was ironic that Republicans were planning their convention in the heavily unionized Twin Cities. He added: Maybe we should flip it and let the Republicans come to Denver.
Please do. Our city would end up better for the trade.
RE-Create ‘68? Oh the glory days! No showers for months, fighting The Man! Aren’t those folks living in McMansions in suburbia now??
YeeeeeeeeeHaaaaaaaaaa! Let the games begin!
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
This whole affair seems to indicate Ritter is still a junior varsity politician. As titular party leader, he should have been able to work behind the scenes with his legislative leaders to make sure he would never have had to veto a bill to turn Colorado into a closed union shop state. Of course, the newbie Dim leaders in the legislature should never have put Ritter in that situation. Neither group seems ready for prime time.
It is fun to watch the jv’s fight in public.
Hopefully it lasts thru their convention.
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