Sunday, January 07, 2007

Jim Taylor vs the Democratic Convention

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Jim Taylor's issues with Denver's bid to host the 2008 Democratic Convention is starting to strike some nerves, as seen in the comments below. Here's an overview from Time:

The talk of Denver is how the 2008 Democratic Convention, which would be a perfect showcase for this newly left leaning region, may be thwarted by a local labor leader so passionate he once picketed a Bruce Springsteen concert. That concert was being held in the city's Pepsi Center, and Jim Taylor, head of Local No. 7 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, thought that the Boss shouldn't perform in an arena that refused to sanction unionized workers. The Pepsi Center still doesn't have union labor — and it is the proposed site of the Democratic Convention

Denver is the current favorite for the convention because the only other serious candidate, New York City, seems to be making only a half-hearted bid.
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Nevertheless, Denver's effort to win the '08 convention has been stalled because of Taylor's refusal to rule out demonstrations at the convention if he is not allowed to organize at the Pepsi Center.
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Debbie Willhite, executive director of the Denver 2008 Host Committee, says, "[Taylor feels he] should be able to get into the Pepsi Center to be able to organize. Pepsi Center is privately owned. He's trying to get some leverage." Taylor ' s protestations have also highlighted the way Republicans will profit from a Democratic convention in Denver. The Pepsi Center is is owned by Kroenke Sports Enterprises, a.k.a. Stanley and Ann Walton Kroenke. She is the niece of Sam Walton, the conservative Republican who founded Wal-Mart. The couple, residents of Columbia, Mo., have contributed generously to individual Republican campaigns as well as to the Republican National Committee. Denver Mayor Hickenlooper, while acknowledging the Kroenkes' Republican ties, defended the choice of the Pepsi Center, saying the enterprise "showcases our unique spirit of collaboration."

Taylor and Local No. 7 are the only labor hold-outs to a deal. Says Willhite: "Mr. Taylor let me know from early on that he had some issues about the Pepsi Center. After Denver's labor federation voted to support the convention, we thought that took care of that, and all the unions would be supportive. But as we got down to the final parts of the package, one of them being a labor agreement signed by the unions that would be involved in the build-out and actual conduct of the convention, Jim said he couldn't sign it. We're now working with Mr. Taylor and other union officials to come to an agreement that Mr. Taylor will be able to sign." National labor leaders are reportedly leaning on him hard. "Jim's not talking to the press," said Taylor's office.

Hardly anyone wants to lose out on a convention that could generate hundreds of jobs and more than $150 million for the local economy. Denver officials hope to have everything straightened out by the end of the month. But first it has to get Jim Taylor to bend.
And the Denver Post has more:
In 1999, a gleaming new Pepsi Center was about to open, and concert promoter Barry Fey delivered union leader James Taylor's bid to win work for his stagehand union to the arena's managers. Union members assumed they would win the contract for the venue, which replaced McNichols Arena, where the union was entrenched, said Jeffrey Fey, Barry's son and a former member of Local No. 7 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Instead, a nonunion company - Phoenix-based Rhino Staging - was chosen.

The outcome still rankles Taylor, said Barry Fey. "He believes he was done wrong, that he had as good a bid. He really believes he should have got it," Fey said.
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Those who have worked with him say Taylor, 58, is an old-school labor leader who is willing to go out on a limb for his members and is willing to compromise in dealing with employers. "A union can be very disruptive, and that's not him at all. We have been like partners," said Barry Fey, who has worked frequently with Taylor.

There doesn't have to be a loser here. There are smart people working this issue, and they need to find a way to resolve this for both the good of Denver's bid and the good of Denver's labor movement.

9 comments:

Matt Pizzuti said...

It's sort of ironic that unions originally formed so that that workers, in large numbers, could stand up against their bosses and show how necessary they are. They would demand better pay and reasonable work hours by striking, proving that their employers can't make money without laborers, so they'd better start treating labor with respect.

Now, we have one union leader acting alone, and in doing so, people are starting to question whether he is really necessary. You could just hire somebody else to do the same job, people argue, and it doesn't seem like he's going to achieve anything by taking this stand. I question whether unions can function when you have one renegade demanding more or different things than everybody else.

I am not necessarily against Taylor for making such a stand, I just hope it doesn't prevent the Democratic Convention from coming to Denver, and I don't think it's worth the stakes, for Taylor or anyone else. Perhaps in princple Taylor has a point, but he has unrealistic expectations of Denver's bid comittee - and he seems to keep changing his reasoning anyway.

But what is starting to bother me more than anything is that Taylor completely refuses to speak for himself to journalists. Leslie Moody, another labor leader, speaks on his behalf in almost all circumstances. If Taylor is going to take a position which has such a wide-ranging effect, I think that we are all entitled to an explanation, from his own lips, about his reasoning. I would be a lot more confident that this despute is legitimate if Taylor explained it himself and the specifics didn't keep changing all the time. Since Taylor won't speak, others are speculating on his behalf: first it was that the committee hadn't paid enough attention to unions throuought the process, then it was that Denver itself is anti-union, then it had to do with the staff to run the convention being non-union, then it was about the Pepsi center itself being non-union, then it was the Pepsi Center's ties to the GOP, then it was that the committee should hold the convention at the Convention Center... there might be a general theme in that, but I want to hear something specific, concise and consistent, otherwise it makes me suspect that Taylor is just angry or bitter about something.

Anonymous said...

I don't get why Taylor gets a veto over the convention anyway. He's just one guy, same as you or me. Why don't the rest of us get to veto a convention location?

Taylor doesn't even represent anyone related to the convention. Which is perhaps what this is all about -- he thinks he SHOULD be representing the workers of the Pepsi center, but he doesn't. So if he doesn't represent anyone, why does his opinion on the convention location matter any more than anyone else's?

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Anonymous said...

In response to the comment above, Taylor gets a say because, while the Pepsi Center is not unionized, Taylor's unionized workforce will be the workforce in the Pepsi Center doing stagehand work, not the non-union Pepsi Center employees.

Of course, that makes it more ironic -- this is a bid that will mean money and work for Taylor's constituents in IATSE; yet, Taylor seems to be cutting off his nose to spite his face and working to lose work opportunities for the employees he purports to represent.

Corinne said...

I saw this quote by Leslie Moody today:

"Labor has invested a lot in swinging this state in a Democratic direction," Moody said. "We feel we're being told that labor needs to roll over on this one, and that's not the way labor and the Democratic Party ought to interact."

I don't recall anyone saying that.

Matt said...

She says "We feel" like we're being told to roll over. I think what they're saying is, OK, we're not signing this without getting something back - what can I get for my union? The problem is that I don't think the DNC or the local host committee are capable of negotiating anything that's meaningful to the union. The only ones who can solve this are the national unions, who will have both side's interests at heart.

Anonymous said...

I see. Well, the fact that the Dems have granted Taylor's stagehands a job doesn't give him the right to attempt to throw the whole thing.

Let's face it. Taylor's being a real jerk here. The Dems try to help him out by hiring his unionized stagehands instead of the non-union Pepsi center, and the guy acts like he's king here, trying to dictate to Dean where the convention should be held.

They ought to just cut Taylor out of the loop completely and contract with Stan Kroenke and his non-unionized stagehands.

Matt Pizzuti said...

Anonymous, I suspect that most of what you're saying comes out of frustration with Taylor more than an actual opinion. It would be extremely inappropriate for Democrats to punish union workers for what Jim Taylor is doing. They aren't at fault for Taylor's position. Rewarding Stan Kroenke isn't wise either.

The problem with Taylor's power play is that he actually does have a lot of power, because if Taylor refuses to sign on and union members were to actually strike the Democratic Convention, the result would be a disasterously touchy situation for everyone involved in the 2008 convention. Of course the media would be right there in force to hone in on the drama, right in the middle of the Democrats' official launch of the 2008 campaign. Democratic delegates would have to choose between crossing a picket line, which many will surely vehemently refuse to do, or shunning the convention. It would be a lose-lose situation for the Democrats and a PR disaster that they CANNOT risk.

That's why people are ultimately so frustrated with Taylor. If he were really an entity that could be easily ignored, the committee would gloss over the situation and move forward with the convention in Denver. But if Democrats piss Taylor off now, who knows if his bitterness would be enough to cause him to act out during the convention. It would be the political equivalent of a suicide-bomb, leading to Taylor's own self-destruction and taking out a lot of people with him in the chaos.

Anonymous said...

Jim Taylor is not doing this for the power, and he doesn't care about the fame. That is why he isn't talking to reporters, he wants to make it a non-issue for the party he has donated most of his life to. There has to be more to this story. Where is Stan Kroenk? Why hasn't he said he is willing to negotiate with Taylor? Maybe because him and his important republican family have too much to gain on this problem. The media needs to attack his lack of action instead of creating a situation that has Jim Taylor as the ultimate fall guy for the Democrats' own mistakes. Democrats should side with Taylor on Principle, not hang him out to dry.