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WINS members won Step Raises in bargaining. Here’s what you need to know.

November 17, 2022

State employees successfully won Step Raises in bargaining and ratified them into our contract. We aren't done yet, though!

On October 13, 2022, we concluded our negotiations with the State of Colorado to rebuild the State’s broken pay system. But that doesn’t mean that the work is finished. Find more info about Step Raises and the new Pay Plan here.

Why we’re fighting for steps

State employees continuously risk our health, relationships, and our very lives to provide necessary services to Coloradans. From Correctional Officers in Limon to Administrative Assistants in Grand Junction, we’ve all been asked to sacrifice to keep our state functioning. We’ve continued to do so through decades of deterioration within our departments.

Our salaries remained all but stagnant for over 20 years: As of 2020, State wages lagged behind the private sector by 16.4%. Many people have been forced to leave their careers at the State just to make ends meet for their families. The result? A vicious cycle of poor working conditions and high turnover, that places evermore pressure on the state employees that stay.

Rather than fixing the staffing problem across the board, Departments have tried a patchwork of rising starting salaries and short-term incentive pay to fill the growing gaps in staffing. This means most long-time employees’ salaries are left behind, creating rampant pay compression.

Combine this with the flaws of Pay Per Performance (or Personality, as many of us call it), and we have a recipe for unequal pay across and within State jobs. Long-time employees are passed by new hires. Men often make more than women with the same experience. The same is true for people of color. At all levels of State employment, personal biases including nepotism, racism, sexism, and more have infiltrated our performance assessments.

This is why, since Step Raises were removed in 1998, state employees have been fighting continuously to bring them back. We know they improve employee retention, because Step Raises give us a future of reliable salary increases we can count on. They make the State of Colorado a competitive employer in our current job market, too. BUT! Step Raises also fight pay inequity by using an objective metric (years of service in job series) to recognize experienced employees.

What we won

This fall, we fought hard to win a new Step Raise system in negotiations with the State. Two separate items emerged from bargaining:

The New Agreement

The 2022 Tentative Agreement is what we formally bargained with the State of Colorado. This Agreement, now that it has been ratified by members, is part of our 2021-2024 Partnership Agreement. The Agreement we won implements Steps in two phases:

The full 2022 Agreement and Pay Plan can be found here.

The New Pay Plan

The new Pay Plan released by the State was NOT formally bargained for, but it was crafted with some input from our bargaining team. We stand by our Partnership Agreement, and the law, which states that “The Parties shall bargain over wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.” The State, on the other hand, maintains that they have no obligation to negotiate this Pay Plan with us.

However, this current situation is not without its benefits. It has become increasingly clear that this Pay Plan has been based on incomplete data from the State. Had we ratified this Pay Plan into our Partnership Agreement, we would be stuck with these errors until 2024. As it stands, we still have the opportunity to fix the flaws we see in the plan.

You can find the proposed Pay Plan, as well as instructions on how to interpret it, here.

If you, or anyone you know, finds flaws in how this Pay Plan addresses your position, contact us at In the coming months, we must organize ourselves to push back against the shortcomings of this Pay Plan.

What we need to do next

Members ratified the 2022 Tentative Agreement with 99% approval, thus incorporating the phases listed above into our 2021 Partnership Agreement. This, on its own, does not seal the deal.

Now, we must win funding for our Partnership Agreement through the State Legislature. We would not have the right to even bargain a Partnership Agreement without the State Legislature, and the work members did to persuade them of its importance. We must do the same now, or there will be no funding for Step Raises.

First, members of our Committee On Political Education (COPE) vetted candidates for all our state midterm races. The only candidates that received our endorsement were the ones who agreed to vote in support of our Step Raises. Now, members across the state are preparing to hold our State Legislature accountable for funding our contract. You can join them here.

When the 2023 State Legislative Session begins, it will be up to us to work with legislators on the measures that impact us as state employees. Foremost among these measures is the Governor’s budget that contains our Step Raises. If the Legislature vetoes our funding, we will be forced to renegotiate our Agreement with the State.

Regardless of what the future holds, we also need to begin preparing to renegotiate our Partnership Agreement for 2024. The Agreements we’ve won thus far are unprecedented for a union of our size, and as our strength has grown we’ve seen improvements each time.

We weren’t yet strong enough to win Step Raises back in 2021, but just a year later, here we are! With every state employee that joins the cause, our voice gets louder. The results of our bargaining in 2024 will depend on our strength as a union. When we invest in our futures together, we can win things that seem impossible from where we’re standing today.

As a member-led organization, it’s up to all of us to organize our workplaces into a strong united union. Click here for some resources on how to do just that! You can also email to get in touch with your designated union organizer.