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Colorado collective bargaining bill signed into law

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs one of the biggest expansions of collective bargaining rights for public workers in recent memory. (Photo credit: Office of Colorado House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar.)
By Nick Voutsinos ·

A new Colorado law represents one of the most significant expansions of collective bargaining rights to public service workers anywhere in the nation in recent years.

On Friday, flanked by working people, Gov. Jared Polis signed SB22-230 into law in Pueblo. With the stroke of a pen, over 36,000 essential county workers across the state gained the right to bargain collectively over the terms and conditions of their employment.

“All across the nation, workers are fighting tooth and nail to get a seat at the table – and they’re winning,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “We see it in Starbucks coffee shops. We see it in cultural institutions, and now we’re seeing it in Colorado where county workers will have the freedom to negotiate to improve their lives and strengthen the public services they provide. This momentum is undeniable. Workers everywhere know their voices have value, and we must back them up by making it easier to unionize.”

“The work county employees put into getting SB22-230 passed cannot be overstated. Even after working full-time delivering essential services, they banded together, called their state representatives, testified before legislative committees, and won,” said Connie Derr, executive director of AFSCME Council 18 and an AFSCME vice president. “Now, these everyday heroes can make an even greater difference for their families and their communities.”

Colorado county governments are facing severe turnover issues, with many spending millions to address numerous vacancies. Studies show that, when workers have a protected voice on the job, they are more likely to stay on the job. That’s because having a seat at the table means workers can better collaborate with management to address shared challenges.

For Colorado county workers, it means they can finally work with management to identify the reasons staff are leaving and collaborate on solutions.

“We work on the front lines with members of our community daily. We understand what’s needed to improve the work we do – both for workers, but also for the people who depend on us. That’s why this bill is so essential; it gives us a chance to make our voices heard.” said Josette Jaramillo, a child welfare worker for Pueblo County and president of AFSCME Local 1335 and the Colorado AFL-CIO.

Prior to the passage of this bill, only four of Colorado’s 64 counties granted their workers collective bargaining rights. Adams County was one of those counties. Public service workers there have enjoyed a productive relationship with county management and have seen progress on numerous workplace issues, such as staff safety, retention and pay.

"Since unionizing, my colleagues and I are now empowered to advocate for ourselves and the children we serve,” said Heather Burke, an Adams County child welfare worker and president of AFSCME Local 3927.

“We feel more confident and supported on the job knowing that when we have issues or are frustrated, we have an established process to sit down, talk about them and work to find a solution with management,” she said. “This also helps us deliver better services to our community. I am so overjoyed that other county workers across the state will now have the freedom negotiate just like we do.”

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