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Heather Burke, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3927, and a full-time social caseworker for Adams county division of children and family services, fought with her co-workers to win collective bargaining rights before the bill’s passage, winning a first contract in August 2021, which included important safety protections for workers on the job.
“From the start, we noticed a difference,” said Burke. “We went from this culture of fear to this culture of being able to speak up and ask for help or give suggestions without fear of retaliation.”
The bill, although a compromise from a previously proposed bill that would have granted the right to strike to about 250,000 public sector workers throughout Colorado, was hailed as one of the most significant expansions of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers in recent years. It goes into effect next year.
“All across the nation, workers are fighting tooth and nail to get a seat at the table, and they’re winning. We see it in Starbucks coffee shops. We see it in cultural institutions, and now we’re seeing it in Colorado, where county workers will have the freedom to negotiate to improve their lives and strengthen the public services they provide,” said the AFSCME president, Lee Saunders, in response to the bill’s passage.
“It stung a little, especially coming from my own county,” said Josette Jaramillo, president of the Colorado AFL-CIO and AFSCME Local 1335, who has worked as a caseworker in Pueblo county’s department of child welfare for 17 years. She has been fighting for years to secure collective bargaining rights for herself, her co-workers, and other public sector workers throughout Colorado.
“The services that county workers provide are vital to our community, especially our most vulnerable neighbors. This just gives us an opportunity to have a voice on the job and to talk about how we can improve the workplace of the workers, as well as the services that we provide to our communities,” said Jaramillo.