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Colorado AFL-CIO lays out agenda for helping working families to legislature

January 25, 2017 Updated: January 25, 2017 at 1:39 pm
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Senate Democratic leader Lucia Guzman of Denver speaks at the Colorado AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention in 2015. (Colorado Senate Democrats)

The state's largest labor organization, the Colorado AFL-CIO, wants legislators to pass equal-pay laws, keep jobs from going overseas and fight Republican efforts to do away with the state health exchange.

"Our hard-working families deserve a fair day's pay for a fair day's work," executive director Sam Gilchrist said at a Capitol announcement. "They deserve safety in the workplace and access to affordable healthcare."

A handful of Democrats joined the AFL-CIO's presentation: Sen. Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs and Reps. Jeff Bridges of Centennial, Edie Hooten of Boulder and Dan Pabon of Denver.

Girlchrist urged legislators to oppose Senate Bill 3 to repeal the Colorado health benefit exchange, a result of Obamacare, which President Trump and Republicans in Washington are also seeking to repeal.

Senate Bill 3 will be heard by the Senate Finance Committee at 2 p.m. on Jan 31.

Gilchrist told a story about having asthma as a child, requiring repeated hospitalizations including for two months after a collapsed lung. More than $500,000 in medical bills bankrupted his family. His parents lost their home and cars and were forced to borrow money from relatives to get by, work odd jobs.

"It ruined my family for over 10 years," he said.

His father worked for an insurance company, but their policy didn't cover pre-existing conditions, such as asthma.

"Health care is one of the most fundamental rights we have, and you should not lose everything for your family, all the things you work hard for, because you have to go to the hospital or your child has to go to the hospital or your spouse has to go to the hospital," Gilchrist said.

"It's unconscionable to me that our legislature actually has a bill on the docket to repeal our health exchange."

The AFL-CIO is supporting a bipartisan bill to curb construction defects lawsuits to help keep contractors and subcontractors out of litigation and hold down insurance costs.

"One area we're not willing to compromise on is mandatory binding arbitration," said Kjersten Forseth, political and legislative director for the AFL-CIO of Colorado. "

The labor organization also is backing legislation to create the Colorado Secure Savings Plan to allow private-sector employees to make automatic payroll deductions for an individual retirement account.

The bill failed last year, but Democrats are expected to offer it again this session.

The AFL-CIO also supports more transparency for schools run by corporations and parental leave for school activities, as well as measures to keep employers from leaving the state.

Gilchrist said Colorado union leaders also will keep a close eye on President Trump, especially on healthcare.

"We will continue to monitor our new president's actions, as well as those of the Congress and encourage our Colorado members to support good policies at the federal level that align with our mission," he said.

He said that AFL-CIO's approximately 130,000 members in Colorado also would hold state lawmakers accountable.

"We are calling on the Colorado legislature to buck any federal trend that seeks to re-enact trickle-down economics by passing state laws that help working families and increase economic prosperity for all Coloradans, not just the wealthy few," Gilchrist said.

Trickle-down is the economic theory popularized by President Reagan that proposed giving tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations with the idea it will benefit lower wage earners.

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