March is Women’s History Month. It’s also the month on which falls Lobby Day for Colorado WINS, the union representing Colorado’s 30,000 state employees.
As president of Colorado WINS, I’m proud to represent the state’s hardworking public servants, and I’m proud to be a union woman and a leader in a movement that fights for better pay and working conditions for all of our public employees. In unity there is strength.
Colorado’s public servants are truly a cross-section of our state. Colorado WINS represents workers from all parts of Colorado helping all kinds of Coloradans get ahead. We are corrections officers, child support enforcement workers, juvenile justice counselors, caregivers for our veterans and the developmentally disabled and protectors of Colorado’s natural resources.
And we never close — many of our employees work holidays and overnights to protect public safety and public infrastructure.
I started my career with the state in 2001, and through hard work and determination have moved up to a level three Psych Tech at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo. I have been active in Colorado WINS since 2007, first helping to secure the Health Care Services Vote during our authorization phase and then recruiting members every day since. It’s a priority of mine to ensure adequate staffing at CMHIP for the safety of patients and workers alike.
So as we mark Women’s History Month, we should also commemorate the long and strong history of women in the labor movement. I’m honored to be part of that sisterhood.
From Esther Petersen to Dolores Huerta to Mary Kay Henry, women have been at the forefront of fighting for worker rights, for basic economic fairness and for safe working conditions at places like CMHIP.
It’s encouraging that the numbers of women in the labor movement are growing in both percentages and clout. In 2014, more than 45 percent of all union members were women, a share that jumped from just one-third in 1984, according to a recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
I’m also glad to be part of a union movement that’s instrumental in insuring equal pay for women and working families. One of the best things you can do as a woman to ensure equal pay is to join a union — the pay gap is half that for union women as the rest of the workforce. Furthermore, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research Study, “Among full-time workers ages 16 and older, women represented by labor unions earn an average of $212, or 30.9 percent, more per week than women in nonunion jobs … . Hispanic women represented by labor unions have median weekly earnings that are 42.1 percent higher than those without union representation.”
This matters because equal pay and fair wages are critical for the economic well-being of Colorado’s working families as a whole. When women are paid fairly and receive better benefits, it lifts up everyone in the middle class. When women do well, communities benefit.
Through my years of service to Colorado, I have seen good times and tough ones. Some days I didn’t think I’d make it, but for the dedication to the patients I serve, the dedication to public service all of workers share and the hope that through this union we will make a difference. Our challenges are great, but our opportunities are greater.
And that’s why I’m proud to be a union woman.