Advocating for Unions For All, Colorado State Employees Score Huge Win To Unrig the Economy For Colorado’s Working Families
Denver, CO – After a 12-year fight to win the right to join together in a union, more than 28,000 Colorado state employees will finally be able to negotiate with the state to improve their pay, benefits, workplace safety and efficiency. During a digital bill signing, Governor Jared Polis authorized the Colorado Partnership For Quality Jobs And Services Act, which ensures state employees have a seat at the table when the state makes decisions about their jobs and livelihoods.
As the state’s largest employer, Colorado and Governor Polis are sending a strong message to employers across the state that it’s time to level the playing field and give workers a fighting chance in this economy. Every worker, no matter where they work, or what kind of job they perform, should have the opportunity to join a union and negotiate with their employer.
“This could not have come at a better time, as some politicians and the wealthy few who back them try to use the pandemic to bolster calls for cuts in essential services like healthcare and education,” said Skip Miller, President of Colorado WINS. “Now we have a seat at the table so we can fight to ensure that all state employees — whether we’re white or Black, Latino or Asian, Native or newcomer — have a voice in important decisions that impact our jobs, our families and the essential services we provide every day. This law will make a tangible difference in the lives of state employees across Colorado where they live and work by increasing our power to make positive changes and empower our communities.”
State employees are planning to use their newly gained rights to advocate for safer workplaces, better delivery of services, and racial and economic justice in state employment. Studies have shown that union membership helps close the racial pay gap. Through their unions, black and brown workers have been able to negotiate for policies like wage transparency, fair and clear processes for promotions, and others that help workers who have been discriminated against to achieve equity.
The signing has been lauded as a step toward turning the tide on decades of systemic inequality by presidents of Service Employees International Union and American Federation of Teachers. Colorado WINS is a joint affiliate of both national unions.
“Colorado state employees from all races and backgrounds stuck together for over 12 years to win the right to their union and make life better for their families — staying in the fight even as they go to work every day to protect our communities during this profound health and economic crisis,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “Now it’s time for politicians everywhere to follow the lead of Governor Polis by making it easier for all working people to come together in a union, no matter where they work or what industry they’re in.”
“Today, amidst nationwide public health, economic and racial justice crises, we can celebrate a victory: Governor Polis signed historic legislation to give a voice at work to state employees in Colorado—a voice that will enable them to negotiate with their employer over the issues that impact their daily lives, their families, and the essential services they provide to the people of Colorado every day,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “This was a decades-long battle for state employees in Colorado, and we’re proud to have made it over the finish line with Colorado WINS and SEIU, and with Governor Polis, Senator Garcia and Representative Esgar’s leadership. Today is a reminder that elections matter, and when elected officials support workers and their voice at work, entire communities win.”
By passing the bill, Colorado legislators gave state employees an opportunity to bring their voices to discussions on how our state can recover from the global health and economic crisis.
“By signing this bill into law, the Governor is showing support for the right of workers to come together to negotiate with their employer. Especially now, when a world-wide pandemic has highlighted our reliance on public employees, we must make a commitment as a state to listen to front line workers who are getting us through this crisis,” said Hilary Glasgow, Executive Director of Colorado WINS. “State employees have provided support for struggling Colorado families during this time by testing people, caring for the sick and vulnerable, processing unemployment benefits, and keeping our state running. They will now be able to take that first-hand experience and knowledge to decision makers to improve how state services are delivered.”
Colorado’s state employees have been essential in helping the state get through the pandemic, working on the front lines of service delivery.
“As a nurse at a group home for the developmentally disabled I’ve been working directly with the populations most at risk of getting the virus by virtue of living in a residential facility,” said Dana Van Voorhees, a nurse at Grand Junction Regional Center. “We have been putting our families at risk and our lives on the line because we are dedicated to providing the best services to the Coloradans who depend on us. This law will give us an avenue to bring our ideas, expertise, and frontline experience to make sure decisions about our jobs are not being made without us.”
This is not only a huge win for Colorado, this is a huge win for working people across the country. Public employees around the nation have been winning the freedom to form a union, with Colorado joining Nevada and Delaware in passing collective bargaining in the past year.