As many of you saw in the press, the Denver Metro Chamber sent a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to the Denver City Council this past month.
We engaged in this action because some of you expressed concern that members of the council were making public accusations and sending letters alleging unlawful labor practices to companies doing business in Colorado. We were surprised when we heard this from you and knew we needed to get more information.
The Chamber is often on the front line questioning elected officials about process and policy—this was no different.
In this case, we found a pattern of behavior that was disturbing. It was clear that that the disrespectful treatment of a business, that was before the Denver City Council for approval of a proposed contract, was part of a union strategy to put public pressure on that company so the union (SEIU, Service Employees International Union) could organize the workers. (You can see the interactions in this meeting by clicking here.)
We also found examples where two other members of the Denver City Council took entire letters drafted by SEIU or specific paragraphs drafted by SEIU and then put that language on their own letterhead as an official communication from their offices.
It’s important to highlight that this issue is really confined to a few members of city council. As a matter of fact, one council member described the situation as: “SEIU was putting a gun to [the head of the company] to obtain something”.
Another member of council stated that the labor status of a company “wasn’t in the purview of municipal government”.
We agree with both of their analyses. By the way, the workers at one of these companies have now held their first election to be represented by SEIU and won, so soon the company and the union will enter negotiations.
Of the 139 documents we reviewed, only a couple of them spoke positively about the companies involved—and it was only AFTER the vote was taken to unionize the workforce that the company was praised for their handling of the issue.
Even more interesting to us than what we found in the documents were the other companies that contacted us after the first reports of the CORA surfaced in the newspaper. Stories were shared about companies being pressured to unionize their workers or to require their sub-contractors to unionize or to ensure the union was NOT de-authorized in their organization. And, one of the companies who received this pressure is a non-profit organization.
Please know this: the Chamber has members whose workforce has unionized and we have members whose workforce has not. We don’t tell our companies what the most competitive strategy is for their success—we know they will figure it out with their workers.
We took this action to better understand what was prompting such harsh treatment of some businesses in Colorado and to communicate our belief that a fair and balanced approach should be taken by Colorado’s elected officials in such situations.
Our request to those Denver City Council members who engaged in these activities is simple:
1. We know you can do better than what we saw here. The success of our region requires all of us working together.
2. Serve as role models for how you expect people to be treated when there is disagreement.
These few rules should ensure that nobody seeking to work with Denver would have to endure what we saw earlier this year.