In Win for All Coloradans, State Employees Granted Right to Collectively Bargain
More than 28,000 state employees will have a say in how public services are delivered to Coloradans
Denver, CO – Colorado legislators today recognized the value public sector unions provide for our state by recognizing the dedication and contributions of state employees to Colorado’s economy, wellbeing and safety. The Colorado House today passed House Bill 20-1153, granting state workers the right to collectively bargain over their wages, benefits, and workplace safety.
By giving final approval to the Colorado Partnership For Quality Jobs And Services Act, Colorado legislators are recognizing the basic right of public employees to have a say in their workplace. The bill, which has had strong support from the Polis administration since being introduced, will now head to the Governor’s desk for a signature.
“This is a long fought win that will be life-changing for state employees, but our right to collectively bargain will benefit all Coloradans because we will finally have a way to address issues we see on the front lines of delivering public services,” said Skip Miller, president of Colorado WINS, the state employees union. “We will be able to have a voice in decisions that affect our everyday work, which benefits more than 5.7 million Coloradans. Especially now, it’s important to recognize that unions help level the playing field for workers and lift up our communities by fighting for higher wages, safer working conditions, and ensuring that no one, whether they are black, brown, or white, gets left behind.”
By passing the bill, Colorado legislators have recognized that the ability to join a union, no matter where you work, is the best way to create family-sustaining jobs and begin fixing a rigged economy that has been exploiting workers, especially black and brown workers, across the nation. This bill will allow state employees to address a number of issues they’ve been highlighting for years: high turnover rates, inadequate staffing, forced overtime, low morale. Since it has been estimated that turnover cost Colorado taxpayers $48 million in FY 2017/18 alone, this bill could lead to significant savings for taxpayers at a time when the state budget is in a fiscal emergency.
When signed into law, HB 1153 will allow state workers to be part of the discussions about the most effective policies to help the state recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“State employees have always put the interests of their communities and Coloradans at the forefront of their work. With this bill, they will have a chance to have productive discussions with policy makers about how we recover from the pandemic, both in terms of health and safety and economically,” said Hilary Glasgow, Executive Director of Colorado WINS. “Frontline state employees are experts at their jobs — they work directly with and for Coloradans by taking care of our most vulnerable populations, keeping our roads safe and maintained, ensuring our air and water are clean, administering unemployment and other benefits, and so much more. State workers provide the human infrastructure that keeps our state running, in good times and in bad. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication to our state should be front and center in any discussions about how to change or improve state services. With this bill, it will.”
Colorado is the largest employer in our state, and state workers live and work in all 64 Colorado counties. They have been particularly crucial in the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, by working as public health experts, direct care workers, law enforcement officers, benefits administrators, and more.
“Throughout this pandemic, thousands of state employees like me have gone to extraordinary measures, often risking our own health without the personal protective equipment we need, to deliver essential services. But still, we keep our state running,” said Zan Steele, a registered nurse at Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo. “Our state budget is in crisis and state employees aren’t just facing cuts to their salaries. We are facing a reality in which programs we have dedicated our lives to are defunded, discontinued, or severely reduced. These cuts will have consequences for Coloradans across our communities, and frontline state employee voices will be crucial in forging a path out of this crisis.”
The COVID-19 crisis has fundamentally shifted what, and who, we regard as essential. Public employees have proven time and time again that Colorado won’t successfully recover from this pandemic without frontline voices being heard.