‘No’ on Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57

We would prefer to write nothing about these labor-backed amendments. We had hoped that a deal still being negotiated in Denver would lead to the proponents of these four measures pulling them from the ballot this week.

However, since that agreement hasn’t yet borne fruit, we think it imperative that voters understand the business-stifling nature of these amendments and be prepared to vote “No” on all of them.

Colorado has become ground zero in the battle between labor and business this year. In addition to these four ballot measures, there are three proposals on the ballot — Amendments 47, 49 and 54 — opposed by labor organizations. We’ve already endorsed Amendment 49, and we will deal with the other two measures
later. For now, we’ll focus on what’s wrong with these four measures.

AMENDMENT 53: This proposal would change Colorado statutes to hold a business executive criminally liable if his business fails to perform a duty required by law — such as meeting environmental rules — if the executive knew the rules weren’t being met.

But under state and federal laws, executives already face prosecution if they commit criminal acts to help their business avoid the law. This measure would make them criminals if they had even a hint that their employees weren’t fully meeting requirements of the law. It would make any business owner or executive think twice about moving operations and jobs to Colorado.

AMENDMENT 55: This proposed constitutional amendment may be the most devastating of the four. It would make it far more difficult for private businesses to fire or lay off employees, even to meet changing economic circumstances.

Private employers are already prohibited from firing workers based on race, gender, religion or age. And most businesses make sure they have good cause for dismissing a worker, regardless of the circumstances.

But 55 would only allow seven specific reasons for dismissal, including incompetence, gross insubordination and conviction for a crime. In an economic downturn, the business would have to document that it is hurt by adverse economic circumstances in order to lay off workers. There is no provision to cut jobs to improve efficiency, automate operations or to compete with other businesses.

This would severely discourage new businesses from moving here, knowing they could not adjust their workforce as they need. It would also encourage existing businesses to hire more part-time or temporary workers to avoid the amendment’s provisions, thus hurting the very people it is supposed to protect.

Additionally, according to the Legislative Council’s Blue Book analysis of ballot measures, Amendment 55 would lead to an estimated 3,750 lawsuits each year and cost the state an extra $2.7 million per year. That’s bad business for Colorado businesses, for employees and taxpayers.

AMENDMENT 56: Another constitutional amendment, this one would require any business with 20 or more employees to provide health insurance for employees and their dependents, or pay into a state insurance authority the measure would create. It would also limit the amount an employee would have to pay for health insurance to 20 percent of premiums, 30 percent for dependents.

In other words it would enshrine in the Constitution not only the requirement to provide insurance, but what portion the business must pay. That’s micro-management of private business that deserves no place in the Constitution. And it would be yet another discouragement for businesses interested in locating here.

AMENDMENT 57: This is a statutory amendment that would give workers injured on the job the right to seek damages in court as well as through the worker’s compensation system. But the worker’s comp system has worked well to balance the rights of workers with those of employers. There is no need to create a dual system that will be infinitely more cumbersome and costly for workers, employers and the state itself.

All of these amendments were put on the ballot for one reason: in retaliation for Amendment 47, the right-to-work amendment. But they don’t help workers. Those who put them on the ballot, led by Ernest Duran, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local No. 7, seem to ignore that fact. The measures are job killers that will substantially worsen the business climate in Colorado. We urge “No” votes on Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57.


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