Compulsory Union Dues Challenged in Colorado

Lawmakers in Denver Hear the Case for a State Right to Work Law

Until recently, Robert Blackwell, an employee of the Pueblo, Colo.-based company Colorado Fire Sprinkler, was a victim of a scheme to force workers into union membership without their consent.

Right to Work activist Jon Gorham: “Good unions don’t need forced dues, and bad unions don’t deserve them.” Credit:  Colorado House Republicans

In 2018, thanks in part to free legal representation he received from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the National Right to Work Committee’s sister organization, Mr. Blackwell secured the freedom to keep his job without joining or bankrolling a union. 

Unfortunately, up to 190,000 other private-sector workers in Colorado today are still being corralled into unions, because it is one of 23 states without a Right to Work law.

Colorado’s lack of Right to Work protections means lost opportunities for career advancement as well as less personal freedom.

For example, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, from 2007 to 2017, employment at majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign firms skyrocketed by 44.4% in the five western Right to Work states (Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming).

That’s a nearly 26% greater gain than Colorado’s.

Right to Work Often a Key Factor When Job-Creating Site Decisions Are Made

Area Development magazine’s surveys demonstrate that anywhere from 50%-80% of site selection consultants and business leaders consider a state Right to Work law to be either “important” or “very important” in their site decision-making.

As compelling as such data are, the fact is that grassroots support for the Right to Work is driven primarily by moral concerns, not economics.

Other private organizations are responsible for selling their services before individuals use them and must pay for them.

It is time for freedom of association to be applied to union membership.

Today’s Right to Work activists recognize what Abraham Lincoln recognized back in 1858, when he observed, in an Illinois speech rejecting the notion that slavery is morally or politically acceptable when imposed by a popular vote:

“I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruit of his labor, so long as it in no wise interferes with any other man’s rights . . . .” 

In Colorado, a Right to Work bill (H.B.1169) was introduced at the commencement of the 2020 session. On February 25, it was heard in the Committee on State, Veterans and Military Affairs.

The legislation was sponsored by Reps. Kim Ransom (Douglas County) and Patrick Neville (Littleton), along with Sens. Bob Gardner (El Paso County) and Vicki Marble (Fort Collins).

These prime sponsors were joined by 19 additional sponsors in the Colorado House and three additional Senate sponsors.

“No Coloradan should be compelled to pay dues to an organization he or she does not believe in,” the National Right to Work Committee expressed in a letter from Mark Mix in early February.

The Committee is assisting state-level activists in their efforts to make Colorado America’s 28th Right to Work state.

“Without Right to Work protections, there is little incentive for union officials to offer a good service” to the rank and file, explained Colorado Citizens for Right to Work Executive Director Jon Gorham in his public testimony.

 “The fact is, good unions don’t need forced dues, and bad unions don’t deserve them.”

Politicians Choose Forced Unionism Over Worker Freedom

Besides being morally right, standing up for each worker’s freedom to do as he or she pleases with the fruit of his or her labor is politically smart. Opinion polls show the vast majority of Americans in every region of the country agree forced unionism is just plain wrong.

This year’s Right to Work bill was defeated in a committee vote on February 25.

In the process, however, nine of Colorado’s 65 state representatives had to go on the record for worker freedom or forced dues. That will make it far easier for concerned citizens to hold them accountable in the future.

Right to Work supporters will never give up until victory is won.

In other states like Indiana and Oklahoma, Big Labor politicians blocked bills like H.B.1169 for years before state bans on forced unionism were ultimately adopted.

With more politicians going on the record this year, Colorado has a better chance to be the next.