The legislative session is now in full swing and, unlike last year, there is a raise proposal on the table this year.
We’ll have to talk to members and potential members about:
- The gap in salaries between the private and public sector. We know that state worker salaries are nearly 6% behind private sector wages and the longer the state waits to close this gap, the larger and more expensive it will become.
- Budget realities of the next fiscal year. The Governor proposed a 2.5% increase for state workers. It’s not nearly enough to bridge the gap to 6%, but it’s a start, especially in a budget year with a bleak economic forecast during which most state departments are taking a cut.
- Rising Health/Life/Dental premiums. In his budget, the Governor remained committed to keeping the state funding of H/L/D premiums at current levels (the state covers 80% of total premium costs). We know premiums will go up, but we don’t yet know by how much. We will need to make sure healthcare remains affordable across Colorado and doesn’t offset raises for state employees. Healthcare premium rates should be announced either in late March or early April, with open enrollment period usually running from mid-April to mid-May.
- Getting motivated to fight for a raise, together. This is what a union is all about: coming together so our voices stand out above the static of other interests jockeying for money from the legislature. We will not only have to fight to get what we deserve, we will most likely have to get defensive, to make sure the Governor’s proposal is not cut.
Deepen your skills and engage your coworkers
How can you get ready to tackle these issues, be informed so you can share facts with your coworkers, and stay motivated until the session ends? Here are a few ideas:
- Become part of the Rapid Response Team. You’ll get a text message or email as soon as breaking news on the fight for a raise happens. This way you can stay informed and pass the information on to your colleagues.
- Attend Lobby Day and encourage others to do the same (Denver, Monday, March 20). We hold Lobby Day just before the JBC passes the full budget and healthcare premium increases are announced, so it will be a critical time to show legislators that state employee wages are critical to the infrastructure of our state.
- Attend a training near you to develop new skills. In Denver, we’ll host the Roots of Power training on Saturday, Feb. 25. This training will give you tools that will help you motivate your coworkers to become engaged. In Pueblo we have a training about the yearly PMP evaluations coming up on March 9 (training takes place at 10:30 am and is repeated at 5:30 pm to help accommodate different members’ work schedules).
And all the while, we need to focus on growing our union by recruiting new members to join our ranks. The only way to win this raise, and make sure it’s not diminished by competing interests, is to grow our strength by growing our numbers.