Voters in Denver recently approved a ballot measure that frees up $68 million for the city to spend on infrastructure, removing mandatory furlough days affecting nearly 1,000 Teamster city workers.
Called Measure 2A, this lets Denver spend tax money collected under the current rates, allowing the city to improve police and fire protection, repair roads, and restore public library hours. The additional public funds will end Denver’s budget deficit and put furloughed city workers back to work.
As part of “Yes on 2A,” a coalition of city residents and groups in support of the initiative, Denver’s Local 17 played a huge role in the measure’s passage.
Local 17 Secretary-Treasurer Mike Simeone said Teamster members will now get back 5 unpaid furlough days. And he said the support from the International Union was crucial.
“We couldn’t have done it without DRIVE,” the union’s political action fund. “With the help of Joint Council 3 and DRIVE, we were one of the largest contributors to the ‘Yes on 2A’ effort. Now we have a big seat at the table with the city to represent our members.”
This victory by Local 17 shows why so many city workers have chosen to be represented by the Teamsters. While the local does not have a formal collective bargaining agreement with the city of Denver, more than 800 city workers voluntarily pay dues because they see the power of Teamster representation.
And the benefits of 2A will also be felt well beyond the ranks of Local 17. According to the Denver Post, “Denver has struggled the past several years with an out-of-balance ledger, forcing cuts, furloughs and service reductions. The city has had to slice $540 million over the past five years because expenses exceed revenues from sales and property taxes…The extra $68 million that the city will be allowed to keep will go to hire 100 more police officers and firefighters, repave 300 lane miles of roads and restore library hours that had been reduced as a cost-cutting move.”
If it seems sensible that the city of Denver should be able to spend tax revenue on public services, that’s because it is. But since 1992, local governments in the state have had to abide by a state-mandated spending cap under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
The conservative-backed TABOR law prohibits spending revenues that exceed the rate of inflation and population growth. Thanks to Measure 2A, Denver can spend its “TABOR surplus” on replacing 1,000 public service vehicles and providing $7 million for child services. An additional $1 million will also go toward property tax credits for low-income senior citizens.
As Local 17 wrote on Facebook, “Now all city employees can join Teamsters Local 17 and say in a loud voice, IT PAYS TO BE UNION AND IT IS THE TEAMSTERS, WE BELIEVE, THAT MAKE OUR WORKPLACE BETTER!”