All those Colorado days of sunshine ☀️ are about to get even sunnier. Gov. Jared Polis recently announced his support for a bill that would enable state workers, for the first time to negotiate with the state over pay, benefits, and working conditions.
When state workers are able to negotiate with their employer just like other workers do everyone ends up benefiting. When state workers earn more they spend those raises in their local communities.
Colorado’s 28,000 state workers make Colorado run. They care for veterans and those with disabilities, maintain the safety and use of state roads and bridges, protect the quality of drinking water and air, provide stewardship to public lands, and keep prisons and communities secure—just to name a handful of essential services.
With a Masters of Public Health, 32-year-old Cassie Geremaia, a Colorado native, fights to make healthcare more affordable for the average resident. She feels strongly that everyone should have access to quality medical care regardless of their economic situation.
In remarks she made at the Colorado State Capitol with Gov. Polis and the bill’s sponsors, she relayed, “When I was young, my mom and I lived in a car, sometimes staying with family, but only temporarily. Through Section 8 housing our situation got better. Eventually, we moved to Parker, which offered me a better education but also showed me the differences between my life and that of wealthier families. The realization that health depends on where you live and your access to resources deeply impacted my choice to serve the State of Colorado.”
Cassie’s early childhood experiences “made me want to give back” and “help improve services for Coloradans,” but she also acknowledges concern for her own financial future, considering “over $100,000 in student debt and with costs of living and health care constantly rising.”
Especially in expensive cities like Denver, state workers are indeed seeing their living standards erode as costs go up. The The Denver Post reported that some state workers now take on second jobs and do things like rent out their homes on Airbnb to make ends meet.
“That’s why [it’s so important] to celebrate our move forward with collective bargaining for state workers,” Cassie says. “Everyone has a right to come together with one voice to stand up for their rights, safety, and economic well being.”
Across the country, momentum is building for state workers. By the end of spring 2020, over 50,000 state employees will have won the right to form a union in less than 12 months—20,000 in Nevada, 2,000 in Delaware in June 2019, and 28,000 in Colorado when the legislature acts.