The Colorado Dept. of Transportation has been buzzing with union activity in the past few months.
After a reorganization at CDOT that created a hostile work atmosphere, workers felt like they lacked a meaningful voice when it comes to changes in their department. Current members decided that the best way to find that voice is by joining together and electing Stewards to represent them and their interests in discussions with management.
“People need a place to go and a person to talk to who has a little bit more knowledge of what WINS is about,” said Braden Weber, a CDOT Member and Steward in Empire Junction Patrol 41. “I take questions from people out in the field like “Is this a grievable offense?” or “How do I deal with my supervisor if he’s on me like this?” And I take those [questions] and give suggestions and solutions on how to proceed with their complaint or their grievance or tell them if it’s not something that’s grievable.”
The Steward Majority Drive is a direct result of members taking a leadership role in building their own union, a union they want to have a distinct CDOT character. While the focus will be on building strength at the patrol level, teams are talking to potential members throughout the department about building up majority workplaces and electing Stewards.
The Steward Majority Drive was initiated in March, following extensive conversations with existing CDOT members frustrated by low growth in membership. Members established regular statewide conference calls to keep others informed of their successes in building membership and structure.
“We’re hoping this summer to actually get the ball rolling a whole lot better,” Weber said.
As individual work areas achieve majority membership they can elect one of their own to represent them in a CDOT Organizing Committee formed of elected Union Stewards. The ultimate goal is to achieve majority status in CDOT as a whole, moving from that position of strength to the creation of a new Partnership Agreement with CDOT.
“The immediate goal is to stop retaliation, to stop people being miserable showing up to work. Everybody has the right to come to work and be happy and not fear that the next day or the next hour they’re going to have to go down and answer for what they did, especially if it was nothing,” Weber said. “The long term goal is to get enough members so that we actually have the ability to go and fight for our rights just like State Patrol, Corrections. That is our ultimate goal.”
Right now, there are a dozen patrols at or near majority which are working on elections or have already elected their Stewards. After an election, members are tasked with reaching out to neighboring patrols to engage them in building majority membership. Stewards attend quarterly trainings that give them technical knowledge of both State Personnel rules and organizing skills.
As membership in CDOT grows, member leaders are holding regular monthly meetings, which focus on workplace issues, building membership and prioritizing issues that are broadly and deeply felt. The Steward Majority Program is gaining steam and CDOT workers are engaged in building a union that distinctly represents their needs.