As our union membership is steadily growing, so is the number of trained Union Stewards. In 2015 alone we trained nearly fifty Stewards and in 2016 we have planned trainings on performance reviews, union strategy, and bringing new workers into the union, among others. Additionally, as a union, we will train and elect more than 100 new Stewards this year.
As a union Steward you know your chief responsibility is to build a united, organized, and involved membership in your workplace. Your job is to explain what being in a union means, and sometimes that means showing, instead of telling (by, for instance, being a worker’s representative during meetings with management).
In 2016 we will grow the power of our union by recruiting, training and electing new Stewards across departments and facilities. To help with that, we are creating a Steward’s blog that will be housed on our website.
Each month, we will also send updates with new articles to the select group of union members who have chosen to be the pillars of strength for Colorado WINS: folks like you who are or want to be Union Stewards.
This blog will give you some in depth information about topics that, for one reason or another, we are unable to cover in the main Steward training.
This month we are starting with some information about Colorado’s legislative session, which started on Wednesday, Jan 13. Many of the policies that affect state workers must be approved by the legislature, which means that being involved in state politics is key to understanding how key decisions are made about our jobs.
The Committee on Political Education (COPE) is a group of active members, including many Stewards, who work to exert their rights as voters, taxpayers, and public servants. As COPE contributors, members influence the political process by talking to their legislators about issues that affect state workers. The COPE Summit is the first step to setting up a viable legislative strategy. The second step is Lobby Day, which this year will take place on Monday, March 21.
This year’s budget fight will not be an easy one. With the state’s significant budget shortfall, there is no raise proposed for state workers. In addition, we will be fighting hard to make sure state employee take home pay is not impacted by rising healthcare premium costs.
So far, the Governor’s budget proposal is protecting the bottom line of employee paychecks (to that effect, $16.3 million from the General Fund has been allocated for the state’s PERA contribution and covering increases in healthcare costs). But many big players, including hospitals, private prison companies and K-12 and higher education, are facing cuts and we know they will put up a fight to protect their bottom lines as well. We must be ready to defend our healthcare costs with a tenacious grip.
We will also discuss the underlying pitfalls of the current budget crisis: TABOR (a 1992 constitutional amendment which restricts the state’s ability to invest in public services and state employees) and large employer subsidies through taxpayer-funded safety nets (in other words, employers who do not pay a living wage to their workers who then in turn depend on state services such as Medicaid, food stamps, etc.).
We hope that 2016 will be a good year for state workers. We will have the opportunity to win back local and federal seats for champions of public workers, set a forward-looking political and organizing agenda for years to come and recruit and develop new Stewards to strengthen our union.
Colorado WINS Steward
Social Worker at Colo. Mental Health Institute at Pueblo