Below is the text from an op/ed published in the Pueblo Chieftain. You can access the original article here:
Public employees deserve our support
In only a matter of weeks, nearly everything about life has changed for Coloradans in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
It’s brought untold hardship and tragedy to countless families in our state, yet it’s also shown us that we’re all in this together. This crisis has revealed how much we depend on each other– whether it’s for day-to-day needs like groceries, help with critical benefits like unemployment, or lifesaving services like emergency response and healthcare.
There are still countless people who are going to work every day– unseen by most of us– to make sure our communities continue to operate throughout this crisis and that our families get what they need.
They are epidemiologists and disease specialists who are working around the clock to study the virus and test as many people as possible.
They are the staff keeping facilities like state hospitals, veterans homes, and correctional facilities open 24/7, despite the risk to themselves and their families, to ensure that our communities are safe.
They are keeping our water and air clean, maintaining our roads, and providing support to unemployed workers and small business owners affected by the economic downturn.
Colorado’s public employees are doing work that will help us get past this crisis. But the truth is, public employees’ response to the pandemic is complicated by the fact that years of budget cuts have thinned staff, depleted critical equipment, and created unsafe working conditions. We can do better by the people of our state, the people who are answering the call in this crisis and keeping us safe.
By giving these essential workers what they need to support their families and as well as our communities, we will be better prepared for the future, come what may.
That’s why we have sponsored legislation that will give state employees the freedom to negotiate a contract with the state -– finally giving them a seat at the decision-making table. We rely on our state employees for so many things, yet right now we don’t give them a chance to collaborate with us on what would make our state operate better.
It seems appropriate that Public Service Recognition Week is falling in the midst of this extraordinary time. The best way we can recognize the people keeping Colorado running for all of us is to pass House Bill 1153, to ensure public employees have a voice in their jobs and the services they provide.
In the end, this pandemic should be an enduring lesson in the ways that we all depend upon one another. We’re stronger when every family and every community has what they need. This is an opportunity for the state and the people of Colorado to lead by investing in what’s important to all of us: our state’s future.
This guest editorial was cowritten bystate Rep. Daneya Esgar and Sen. Leroy Garcia, both Pueblo Democrats.