Colorado state workers can now bargain for pay, benefits

Thousands of Colorado state employees will now be able to negotiate their pay, benefits and workplace conditions after Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill expanding their union powers Tuesday.

One day after the legislative session ended, Polis signed House Bill 1153, which passed earlier this month and was sent to his desk last week.

The bill will allow the employees to collectively bargain through their union. Previously, Colorado was one of 14 states where state employees couldn’t negotiate their pay and benefits. Polis expressed his support for the bill when it was announced in January after opposing a similar bill last year.

Colorado Workers for Innovative and New Solutions, the union representing more than 31,000 state employees, called the bill a win after a 12-year fight to allow collective bargaining with the state, helping to address issues of systemic inequality for workers who have traditionally been excluded from the right to organize.

“I think this law is at the heart of a commitment to achieving racial and economic justice … where all workers have the right to form a union,” said Colorado WINS President Skip Miller.

Polis signed the bill Monday afternoon in an online ceremony.

“This step we’re taking today is one step in ensuring that our state employees are treated with the dignity and respect that you deserve, and that the state will continue to value this shared partnership to be able to make sure that we can deliver state services efficiently and support the men and women who are helping to deliver them,” Polis said on Tuesday.

Sponsors of the bill say the legislation will help the state attract and retain workers and recognize their status as essential workers.

“It’s even more important in the time of COVID when our state employees didn’t have a choice of not going to work during this time,” said Sen. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat and one of the bill sponsors. “They were the ones showing up to work everyday to keep our state running and are going to continue to.”

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