Push to organize state employees continues

The organizing of more than 22,000 state government workers into employee partnership unions in June has provided labor with a major membership boost in Colorado; another 10,000 remaining state workers may also soon vote on whether to unionize.


Colorado WINS, a labor alliance that represents 22,500 newly unionized state employees, has indicated an interest in organizing the remaining workers, whose occupations include state judges, auditors and teachers. The push to organize Colorado’s 32,000 state employees is the largest union campaign in the country, according to union organizers involved in the effort.

 

“We think that the immediate future is that there are other employees that haven’t had the opportunity to vote yet, so we’re anxious to just to do that,” Bob Lawson, executive director of Colorado WINS, told the Colorado Independent after the five worker groups each voted by more than 80 percent to unionize on June 11.

 

Union organizers who want to organize state employees are required to submit a petition to the state division of labor requesting an election for classified worker groups that are categorized by occupation.


So far, five such groups have voted to join Colorado WINS; there are four remaining groups who have yet to vote, including state workers specializing in financial services, professional services, teaching and temporary work.


Each group consists of the following occupations, according to the state department of personnel and administration:

Financial services – includes accountants, auditors, investment officers and budget analysts


Professional services – includes pilots, administrative law judges, chaplains and park managers


Teachers – includes teachers and teacher aides


Temporary aides – includes temporary workers for the state

In November, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter issued an executive order allowing state workers to form employee partnership unions that negotiate workplace issues. The employee partnerships are not legally allowed to strike or to enter into binding arbitration, according to the order, and employees are not required to join a union or pay dues. Still, the order outraged the Republican Party and many GOP officeholders, who accused Ritter of, among other things, going through the back door with his executive order rather than working through the Legislature.


Colorado WINS is composed of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the Colorado Association of Public Employees/Service Employees International Union (CAPE/SEIU); and the American Federation of Teachers.

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 erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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