Labor Organizing In Colorado: Alternative Strategies

Last week Colorado Confidential reported on local labor elections and the unions that won them.

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, there have been 17 elections since 2003, and 12 of those were won by unions.

But not every victory comes down to a government supervised election. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is one of the fastest growing unions in the country, and has agreements with 25 companies in the Denver-metro area alone.

One way they have accomplished such gains is by negotiating what they call “master contracts” with businesses across metropolitan markets.

Since SEIU focuses on organizing sub-contracted entities (e.g. janitors) that are beholden to larger employers, master agreements serve to discourage retaliation against unionized workers.

For instance, wages are not increased until a significant number of companies operating in the market have signed an agreement, skirting any competitive disadvantages. 

Last year SEIU gained over 500 new members when they successfully negotiated an agreement with contractors in three local counties.

With such a gain in a state that is not typically known for labor representation, alternatives to union elections are certainly paying off in Colorado. 

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at

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