Colorado’s state employees’ union and Gov. Jared Polis have agreed on a new contract that promises the more than 30,000 people who work for state government across-the-board raises, a minimum-wage hike and more paid time off.
This is a first for the state, as the union, Colorado WINS, only recently won collective bargaining rights. That was a result of a 2020 bill Polis signed after scuttling a similar proposal the year prior.
The union, Colorado WINS, said that over 99% of members voted to ratify the contract. Polis supported it, too, and the two sides held a press conference Thursday at the Governor’s Mansion in Denver to mark the agreement.
“Every Coloradan should be able to live (in) and enjoy our great state of Colorado,” Polis said Thursday, flanked by union leaders. “We aren’t just saying that we value our workers; we’re showing it.”
For most of the past decade and even now, state workers in Colorado have been underpaid — at times, vastly so — compared to private-sector workers. The average base salary for a state worker is now 6.5% lower than the prevailing market, according to a Department of Personnel and Administration report released in September. That means someone qualified for a $70,000 state job could expect to fetch close to $5,000 more for comparable work in the private sector.
Skip Miller, president of the union, said at Thursday’s event, “Decades of underfunding have hampered our work, but we’re proud to make progress with this first contract.”
The contract includes 3% across-the-board raises for all state workers in 2022, 2023 and 2024, plus a new $15 minimum wage that applies to the more than 700 state workers who’ve been making less than that. Under the agreement, workers will also get more paid time off, including an additional state holiday on Juneteenth and four weeks of paid family leave, up from two weeks.
The contract also calls for the creation of an “equity, diversity and inclusion task force to make recommendations that improve the workplace for all employees and improve access to public services for all Coloradans,” the union said.
Aspects of the contract that affect state budgeting, like the agreed-to raises, are still subject to approval by the legislature. But Rep. Julie McCluskie, a Dillion Democrat who chairs the Joint Budget Committee, said she believes the committee and the Democrat-controlled legislature will generally support the agreement.
“We really believe in supporting our state workers, and we’re excited,” she said. “Overall I see it as a positive step for us in the state.”
This content was originally published here.