One State Worker Embraces Collective Bargaining; Many Co-workers Unmoved

What do state employees think about Gov. Bill Ritter’s executive order to bring collective bargaining to the workforce?Kathy Zampini has worked for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for six years, but it was only a few months ago the state employee decided to join the Colorado Association of Public Employees/Service Employees International Union (CAPE-SEIU), for a variety of reasons.

“It’s just so important for employees to be able to speak without feeling intimidated,” she said. “A lot of my co-workers have given up answering any kind of [state] surveys, or sending in any kind of evaluations because it’s just considered a waste of time. I feel we often have suggestions but we never hear any feedback about any surveys that were done. I think a lot of us have some ideas for improvement that are very good ideas.”

Another issue for Zampini was the turnover rate in her department, which she describes as very high.

“I think it’s a major problem in our department and my understanding is that it’s not just our department, it’s statewide,” she said.

But now that Gov. Ritter has issued an executive order that would accept employee union negotiations, Zampini said her co-workers have mixed-reactions.

“I do think there might be some misconception. I do feel there is some apathy,” she said, noting that she feels state workers are more apathetic than mistrustful. “I do think there are state employees who don’t involve themselves, who don’t really understand what this can do for us and for the state.”

According to Zampini, there’s not as much support as she’d like to see, and workers aren’t enthusiastically asking for labor representation.

“I’m ecstatic about it,” she said, bringing up how the issue has been portrayed by the media. “I just wish that other people could understand what the Governor is doing and what the order actually does do. The negative feedback that the Governor’s been getting and that we have been reading is demoralizing.

“It doesn’t allow collective bargaining really,” she added. “It doesn’t allow us binding arbitration, it doesn’t allow us to strike, and I’m not against that. We’re state workers, we’re public workers, we need to be on the job.”

Coupled with politicization of the issue are feelings of isolation, Zampini said.

“I’m trying, I’m out there really trying, and I would really like to see some positive change, and I do care about the people I serve. I care about the customers I talk to everyday,” she said. “I feel like I”m being segregated from the population of Colorado. Why? I live in Colorado. I pay taxes.”

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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