Colorado media continue to mislead on labor bill


In reporting on the state Senate's final passage of a bill that would revise a Colorado labor law, numerous Colorado media outlets continue to provide false statements and misinformation about the measure.

In their coverage of the state Senate's final passage of House Bill 1072, a proposed revision of the Colorado Labor Peace Act, Colorado media continued to report false and misleading statements that echoed the conservative talking points of the bill's opponents.

On its 5 p.m. February 5 broadcast, KUSA 9News uncritically reported Colorado Sen. Josh Penry's (R-Fruita) statement that "[e]very major newspaper" has said the Democratic-backed legislation "is bad for Colorado's economy." In fact, while The Denver Post published editorials (here and here) opposing the bill, the newspaper objected on the grounds that not enough labor-business dialogue had preceded legislative action on the bill -- not because it would be "bad for Colorado's economy."

Furthermore, several Colorado newspapers again have uncritically repeated some variation of the assertion that HB 1072 would enable "closed shops" in Colorado. "Closed shops" -- in which workers are forced to join a union as a condition of employment -- are illegal under federal labor law.

A February 6 article in The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported HB1072 is "[a] bill making it easier to establish a closed union shop in Colorado." Similarly, the sub-headline of a February 6 Rocky Mountain News article by April M. Washington read: "Measure could pave way in state for closed shops." And in the News' February 5 "Speakout" guest op-ed section, Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, warned: "If House Bill 1072 becomes law, economic developers will have to address the 'closed shop' issue." Clark made the same statement in a column that appeared in the February 4 edition of the Boulder Daily Camera. Additionally, a February 6 editorial in The Pueblo Chieftain misleadingly suggested that the bill would "require people to join an organization they may disagree with simply to gain and hold their jobs."

However, as Colorado Media Matters noted, the "closed shop" argument is an outright misrepresentation of the bill. In its overview of U.S. labor and employment law published by the Bureau of National Affairs, the American Bar Association (ABA) noted that closed-shop agreements are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Colorado Media Matters also has documented numerous instances in which opponents of the bill have baselessly asserted that if passed, HB1072 would damage Colorado's economy and business climate, largely without providing examples of businesses that might choose states other than Colorado for location or expansion as a result of the bill. In contrast, the Greeley Tribune reported on February 6:

Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, the bill's sponsor, said Republicans and business leaders who oppose the bill did not have any proof that it would negatively impact Colorado's economy.

"It's so frustrating," she said. "They keep talking about the business community is concerned. ... Well, they may be concerned about it, but no one has offered any evidence."

From the February 5 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m.:

ADELE ARAKAWA (co-anchor): It would be easier to set up an all-union workplace under a measure approved today by the state Senate. On a party-line vote, the majority Democrats in the Senate approved a bill to eliminate one of two worker elections currently required to form an all-union shop. In such a shop, every worker is required to pay fees to the union regardless of whether they join. Republicans and the state's business community say the measure will cost Colorado jobs; it's a charge denied by the Democrats.

[begin video clip]

SEN. JENNIFER VEIGA [D-Denver]: The real issues impinging on economic development in Colorado is health care and our educated work force and our roads and infrastructure. Not once in my 11 years down in this office have I heard that labor relations is a factor in economic development.

PENRY: Objectively, those in the business community have uniformly, across the board, without exception, said this is bad for Colorado's economy. And they're not alone. Every major newspaper, to the best of my knowledge, has said the same thing.

[end video clip]

ARAKAWA: Governor Bill Ritter has not committed to signing the measure into law. However, he did tell KOA radio today the bill is, quote, "not a big deal." Colorado is the only state in the country to require a second election to determine an all-union shop.

From the February 6 Gazette of Colorado Springs article, "Senate OKs union bill; GOP warns Ritter," by Ed Sealover:

DENVER -- A bill making it easier to establish a closed union shop in Colorado passed the Senate on Monday on a party line vote, prompting Republicans to warn Gov. Bill Ritter that signing it would endanger his political future.

From the February 5 Rocky Mountain News "Speakout" contribution, "HB 1072 undermines Colorado's competitive standing," by Tom Clark:

If House Bill 1072 becomes law, economic developers will have to address the "closed shop" issue. And for our audience, corporate leaders, the response will be considerably more difficult and costly. That's if we even get the chance before Colorado is passed over in favor of Arizona or Texas.

House Bill 1072 is a solution in search of a problem. Coloradans will much better understand the "problem" when potential employers bypass the Centennial State for our "right to work" neighbors. When this happens, this "solution" will have forced Colorado into an unnecessary and unwarranted competitive disadvantage.

From the February 6 editorial in The Pueblo Chieftain, "Veto in Order":

We're not here to say that workers don't or shouldn't have the right to organize, if they see fit. But we don't think it's good state policy to require people to join an organization they may disagree with simply to gain and hold their jobs.

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