Historic Contract is Second Major Win for Colorado’s Essential Workers in Less Than Two Weeks Following $15 Minimum Wage for Homecare Providers
DENVER — Today, Colorado WINS members celebrated the historic, first agreement for a contract between state employees and the State of Colorado. The agreement includes major wins to address low pay among state employees — who, on average — make more than 16% less than their peers outside of state government. The low wages and decades of underfunding have resulted in an exodus from state service leaving nearly 20% of jobs vacant and making it difficult to provide critical public services to Colorado communities.
“State employees have been working every day to help Colorado’s families pull through this pandemic even though the state has paid many of us wages so low that it makes it hard for our own families to survive,” says Skip Miller, President and state employee in Higher Ed. “This historic first contract shows what we can do when we work together. It is an important step forward toward protecting, respecting, and paying the people who provide essential services in Colorado and for the communities we serve every day.”
Colorado WINS members fought to pass the Colorado Partnership for Quality Jobs and Service Act in 2020, which gave state employees the right to negotiate a contract with the state for the first time. This was a major step in rewriting the rules to ensure that every Coloradan can improve their lives by forming a union, no matter where they work.
State employees are on the frontlines caring for patients and veterans, providing access to critical services like rental assistance and unemployment insurance, and keeping Colorado running. In order to keep state employees in the jobs they love, WINS members negotiated for wages and benefits that allow employees to provide for their families while serving their communities including annual wage increases, a $15 minimum wage for all state jobs, funding to prevent increases in health care costs and a strong policy to combat discrimination and promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
“This contract is an important step forward for Colorado state employees like me who have been struggling with low wages, understaffing, and underfunding even as we’ve been helping others through this crisis,” said Jessica Mathis, a Rehabilitation Counselor for CDLE in Greeley, Colorado. “I have to work two jobs just to get by and there are state employees that have to rely on food banks to feed their families. We love the work we do and love helping Coloradans, but we need to be paid fairly and staffed correctly to ensure we can provide quality services and resources.”
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of another major win for essential workers in Colorado. Last week, the state’s Joint Budget Committee approved a $15 an hour minimum wage for the state’s home care workers, the majority of whom are women, many of them Black, Latinx, API, Native American, and immigrant women. Care workers, who provide essential care to older adults and people with disabilities across our state, have been organizing with Colorado Care Workers Unite (CCWU) to fight for better wages, working conditions, and a union voice so they can take care of themselves as they take care of our state’s most vulnerable residents.
“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a step in the right direction for our state’s care workers. $15 an hour will help us keep up with the rising cost of living and allow us to provide even better care for our clients. Today’s victory shows that when workers fight together, we win — and we’ll continue to make our voices heard until workers have a seat at the table to help make decisions about how we make this a care industry that works for all,” said Sandra Sherwood, leader with CCWU and a care worker of over 40 years in Penrose, CO.
In the coming weeks, state employees will vote on whether to ratify the contract agreement.