Colorado AFL-CIO decides to stop donating to Colorado Democratic Party

Moratorium till May 2022 highlights a rare rift between the two

The Colorado AFL-CIO has decided to stop donating to the Colorado Democratic Party and committees that help elect Democrats to the Colorado General Assembly, which one expert said is a “rare step” for organized labor.

The unusual crackdown means a union that represents 130,000 Colorado workers and donates more than $100,000 every election year has put a moratorium on its own donations until the following May, from the 2022 primary and general election. First leaving yourself time to re-enter politics is sending a message.

“At a time like this, the labor movement and the Democratic Party need to be close partners to meet this moment and address (economic) issues,” Colorado AFL-CIO executive director Dennis Dougherty wrote in an email to fellow union leaders this week. should work as is.” .

“But instead of connecting us to lift us out of the clutches of poverty, we have been excluded from caucus discussions about policymaking in favor of bringing business and opposition groups to the table, disregarding as allies and afterthought has been removed,” he said.

Dougherty did not cite specific laws or statements that led to the rift. The union leader, who reached the phone on Wednesday, declined to comment or answer questions about his email.

Union membership peaked nationally between 2019 and 2020, but only after decades of decline, coupled with a decline in the political power of organized labor. Ryan Lamare, a professor of labor relations at the University of Illinois, said unions are often dissatisfied with the Democratic Party, but tend to be associated with a party that is more aligned with them than Republicans.

“Unions usually don’t take such a concrete step,” Lamare said. “What they do is express their dissatisfaction out loud, to say, ‘Here’s what we want’ or ‘Here’s how we want you to improve things.’ They usually don’t go so far as to formally withdraw financial support for the party… it is quite a rare step.”

It is important to note the timing of the Colorado AFL-CIO, he said.

“The unions are very strategic with what they do and have taken the time to send a message to the Democratic Party in Colorado,” Lamare said, “but not necessarily sending them a message that is downplaying electoral aspirations.” Party.”

The Colorado AFL-CIO has donated nearly $500,000 to Democratic candidates and left-leaning causes the past three election cycles. The majority of the funding went to issuance committees rather than candidates, as committees could legally receive far larger donations. In 2020, it gave $27,300 to an issue committee emphasizing paid family leave and $25,000 to an issue committee opposing state income tax cuts, among other donations.

It is unclear whether the union will stop donating to release committees. Dougherty’s email states that the union will not contribute directly to party political action committees that assist Democratic candidates for the legislature, party events “or any other channel/events”. Dougherty also declined to clarify on Wednesday.

It is also not clear whether the rift has expanded or will expand to other unions. Dougherty’s email called on fellow labor unions to join the Colorado AFL-CIO in stopping donations, but several large unions in Colorado declined to comment or did not respond to requests Wednesday.

Of the $128,400 donated by the union in 2020, only $2,500 went to the candidates. Deneya Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat, received $1,200. When asked about the AFL-CIO’s decision on Wednesday, Esgar did not address it in his statement.

“The Southern Colorado Union is strong,” the statement said. “My door is always open to our partners in organized labor, and I stand with them in our fight to promote workers and protect their rights. We are proud of what we have been able to achieve together.”

The union publicly expressed dismay at Statehouse Democrats as recently as last month, calling on the five Democrats who voted SB21-176, which would have made it easier for workers to file harassment claims.

“Activists in Colorado elect Democrats to stand up for racial and economic justice,” the union tweeted on June 8, claiming that the bill “would be good for Colorado workers and racial justice” but was “triggered by five Democrats in the House.” Was killed in the Judiciary Committee.” In 2020, the union donated to two of the five Democrats who voted to abolish the bill and supported four of the five.

One of the groups the Colorado AFL-CIO will stop supporting is the House Majority Project, which works to elect Democrats to the Colorado House. Chris Kennedy, the Democratic state representative for Lakewood, said House Democrats “will continue to see the AFL-CIO, their allies and other labor organizations as important partners with the House Majority Project.”

Colorado Democratic Party President Morgan Carroll said in a statement that the party will “always stand in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters.” Colorado Republican Party Chair Christy Burton Brown said hers is “the real party of the working class.”

Burton Brown wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, “We will work with all people to empower them to move forward, choose their own path forward, for job and career growth, industry and trade schools.” to be supported and to advance our own American dream.”

Staff writer Saja Hindi contributed to this report.

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