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In another sign that Denver's potential labor issues are not getting closer to being resolved, Teamsters union leader James Hoffa Jr. said to Colorado Governor Bill Ritter that if key labor issues for the 2008 Democratic Convention aren't worked out, "it could blow up":
Teamsters union leader James Hoffa Jr. joined the debate over Denver's selection as host for the Democratic National Convention by confronting Gov. Bill Ritter at a Washington dinner and promising the issue could "blow up" next summer if Colorado doesn't become more labor-friendly.You would at least like to see some conciliatory talk going on, some sense of finding a common ground. I'm sure it will happen at some point, but not yet.
"We're very upset about it," the International Brotherhood of Teamsters president said of the Democrats' decision to stage their convention at the nonunion Pepsi Center. In an interview Monday, Hoffa also mentioned Ritter's veto of a law that might have made it easier to organize unions in Colorado. "All of labor is upset," Hoffa said.
Hoffa said it is "ironic" that the Republicans are planning their convention in heavily unionized Minneapolis-St. Paul. "Maybe we should flip it and let the Republicans come to Denver," he said.
Hoffa expressed his displeasure personally to Ritter on Saturday night in Washington at the annual Gridiron Club Dinner, where politicians mingle with the media. He said he told Ritter that if he and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper didn't work out some key issues, the convention could be plagued with protests and picket lines.
"It could blow up," Hoffa told Ritter.
Hoffa said he agrees with the president of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney. Last month, the AFL-CIO said it would ask the Democratic Party to move its convention to another city if a law like the one Ritter vetoed wasn't enacted.
"The governor is confident that all of the issues can be worked out and that we will have a successful convention in 2008," said Ritter's spokesman, Evan Dreyer.
It is not unusual for labor to use the leverage a national Democratic convention brings, observers say. At the 2004 convention, national Democrats helped mediate a labor dispute between police and the city of Boston that stopped a picket line and gained the police a new contract and big raise.
But this time Democrats tried to craft an agreement meant to get past the Pepsi Center's nonunion status. So far unsigned, the agreement would promise that only unions would be hired to do the work at the Pepsi Center in exchange for a promise by unions not to protest.
The Democratic National Committee said Monday that it remained optimistic that differences could be solved. "Labor is an important partner," said DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton. "We will continue to address concerns and work with all of our partners toward a mutually acceptable agreement and successful convention."