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Adams County workers ratchet up pressure to secure first contract

By Kathleen Cancio ·

On Sept. 25, 2019, health and human services employees at Adams County, Colo., gained the ability to collectively bargain through AFSCME Council 18. Yet, more than a year and 13 bargaining sessions later, the unit still has not secured its first contract due mostly to the county’s unnecessarily prolonged contract negotiation process.

Last week, Adams County employees decided to push the issue. The unit’s bargaining team held a day of action on April 21, during which supporters were asked to contact Adams County commissioners to urge them to honor their collective bargaining resolution and work with the bargaining team to secure a strong contract for county workers.

Proud of what they were able to accomplish so far, the bargaining team has made significant progress in securing a strong contract, including the creation of labor management committees and a “just cause” disciplinary process with a grievance procedure that includes final arbitration by a neutral third party.

However, the county insists on maintaining control over the ability to determine employees’ pay and cost of health benefit contributions. This even though, per a resolution authorizing collective bargaining that the Board of County Commissioners themselves passed, the county is legally required to negotiate over such issues.

“It’s very frustrating that after all these meetings, we’re farther from a resolution – all because the county insists on maintaining control,” said Michelle Champagne, a foster care recruiter and a bargaining team member. “We’ve shown up, we’ve done our part. It’s a mutual obligation.”

In September 2019, about 600 county workers – social caseworkers, Head Start teachers, community support specialists, and more – joined more than 12,000 public service workers in New Mexico and Colorado who are members of Council 18. The workers won the right to negotiate with the county to improve employee retention and caseload amounts, establish a bilingual pay policy, foster a diverse workplace that supports a better work-life balance, and much more.

To support the Adams County health and human services bargaining unit, click here to sign the petition to demand Adams County Board of County Commissioners uphold its collective bargaining resolution.

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