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Qwest, execs try to ease ballot battle
The talks aim to remove four union measures in return for help fighting Amendment 47.

By Andy Vuong
Denver Post
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Denver-based Qwest and Colorado Concern, an alliance of top business executives, are trying to quell a battle between business and organized labor over competing November ballot initiatives.

"We're engaged with a variety of parties to best resolve these important, complicated issues," Qwest spokeswoman Jennifer Barton said Wednesday.

At issue are four labor-backed ballot measures that business interests say could drive companies from Colorado and devastate the state's economy.

The proposals are considered countermeasures to the business-led Amendment 47, an initiative aimed at making Colorado a right-to-work state where workers could not be forced to pay union representation fees as a condition of employment.

Business, union and political leaders met Tuesday night to discuss a proposal in which labor would withdraw its measures in exchange for financial support to fight the right-to-work initiative.

Colorado Concern chairman Walter Isenberg has been actively involved in the negotiations, according to a source familiar with the situation.

While Isenberg wasn't at Tuesday's meeting, Dan Ritchie, who serves on the executive committee of Colorado Concern, was in attendance, the source said.

Through an assistant, Ritchie referred calls Wednesday to Isenberg, president of Sage Hospitality Resources, a hotel-management and development company.

Isenberg didn't return calls seeking comment.

"Since 1986, Colorado Concern has maintained a commitment to promoting sustainable business growth and advancing the economic well-being of Colorado," Isenberg states on the group's website.

Among other things, the labor-backed measures seek to mandate companies with 20 or more workers to provide health-care coverage and limit a businesses' ability to fire workers except for "just cause," such as incompetence or substandard performance.

Others working on reaching a compromise include Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter; U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo.; and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president Joe Blake, who also serves on the executive committee of Colorado Concern.

A deal wasn't reached in Wednesday's discussions.

Previous efforts by business and political leaders to pressure Amendment 47 backers to pull the measure have failed.

Andy Vuong: 303-954-1209 or avuong@denverpost.com

http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_10492803