Hundreds protest Colorado Dem Gov’s vetoes of pro-worker bill
Colorado AFL-CIO/X (formerly Twitter)

DENVER —Steaming at what they called a gubernatorial double-cross, an estimated 500 unionists and allies rallied at the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver to vow to continue fighting for three pro-worker bills Democratic Gov. Jared Polis vetoed.

HB1260 would outlaw mandatory attendance at so-called captive audience meetings, as well as outlawing corporate punishment for failure to show up. The sessions are a common tactic the corporate class and its union-busters use to subject workers to anti-union harangues and outright lies during organizing drives.

The harangues often contain labor law-breaking threats, such as staff cuts and plant closures, formally called engaging in unfair labor practices. HB1260 would not only outlaw bosses’ mandatory attendance orders at meetings on political—read “anti-union”–and religious meetings, but would penalize employers who still force workers into them.

At least five other states have banned firms from forcing workers to attend captive audience meetings and legislation to do so in Illinois is headed for the desk of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The second, HB1008, would have curbed wage theft in the construction industry, by holding prime contractors liable if their subcontractors didn’t pay workers the correct wage—including prevailing wages—or overtime pay.

And the third measure earmarked “clean energy” money for retrofitting heating-ventilation-air-conditioning systems in the state’s public schools, especially in rural areas. The coronavirus pandemic exposed how outmoded, and unhealthy to adults and kids, those systems are.

Polis’s vetoes are not expected to affect the outcome of this fall’s election in now-blue Colorado, where Democratic President Joe Biden, who won the state handily four years ago, leads Republican Donald Trump. But they could affect Polis’s future. He’s term-limited and must leave in two years.

“The end of the school year report cards are going up,” state AFL-CIO President Dennis Dougherty declared at the rally. “Jared Polis, you got an ‘F.’ But here’s the thing: There’s two more years of report cards left. You’ve got a chance to do right by Colorado workers.”

One Denver-area Communications Worker later said if Polis, the state’s first Jewish governor and first openly gay governor, has ambitions for higher office, alienating his strongest supporters, in organized labor, is not the way to go about it.

His comment was borne out by the fact that 18 state legislators joined the crowd. So did Secretary of State Jena Griswold—who defended Colorado’s unsuccessful try to throw Trump off the state ballot

for violating the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment–State Treasurer Dave Young and Democratic Chair Chad Murib.

As if the Trumpite-dominated state Republicans didn’t have enough problems with voters, they issued a statement the same day as the rally urging their members to pull all their kids out of Colorado’s public schools. The GOP charged Democrats “are using the schools to turn more kids trans.” Polis had signed a new law telling schools to use students’ preferred names.

The Colorado law is the opposite of the anti-trans “bathroom bills” which Republicans push nationwide and enact in red states.

Polis had promised to sign all three pieces of labor legislation, passed by wide margins in the now-solidly Democratic legislature. But he waited until lawmakers adjourned for the year to cast his vetoes, killing the measures for the year. Polis said in a statement all three bills had holes, though he agreed with their aims. The workers didn’t believe that.

“Governor Polis turned his back on us,” responded a big banner atop the state capitol’s steps above the crowd. Many of the workers, from 20 unions including the Colorado Education Association, sported T-shirts declaring “Polis failed workers.” A Teamsters truck with that phrase circled the Capitol.

State AFL-CIO President Daugherty declared Polis vetoed the measures “under the cover of darkness.” He accused the governor of “being a relic of Colorado’s corporate past.”

“Statement from Governor Polis to Colorado Politics. ‘Governor Polis is committed to fighting hardworking Coloradans.’ Currently, we couldn’t agree more. That’s why 500 people rallied today at the capitol #coleg #copolitics” the state AFL-CIO tweeted.

House Majority Leader Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, sponsor of the three bills, promised the crowd the party would bring the three pieces of legislation back next year.

The measures “would have protected some of our most vulnerable people from having their hard-earned money stolen by unscrupulous contractors and would have prohibited retaliation against workers who don’t want to participate in required anti-union, political, or religious meetings,” she said in a written statement.

“These bills were top priorities for labor advocates and would have made a real difference for many workers in Colorado, predominantly people of color,” Duran added. “But the fight does not end here.”

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.