State employees in Colorado have learned that the best way to be heard is to speak with one voice. So, when members of the AFT-affiliated Colorado WINS came together to push for a salary increase after four years without one, they got their message across.
In late July, the Colorado Legislature approved a 2 percent raise for state employees. (Some state workers are expected to get an increase of as much as 4.4 percent.) Colorado WINS members visited lawmakers' offices, sent postcards, made phone calls, and did whatever else they could to convince the governor and legislators that state workers deserved—and needed—a pay increase.
"It's been tough. Not only did we not receive any kind of increase at all, but at the same time our healthcare [cost] was actually increasing," says Skip Miller, an information technology professional for the state and a Colorado WINS member. "It was a double whammy on state employees."
Brian Tanner, director of special projects for Colorado WINS, says the additional income that state workers will receive as a result of the pay increase "will be reinvested in the communities where they live and work. This is especially important in some small, rural communities where the state is the largest employer."
The union and its members were also able to persuade the Legislature to end the requirement that state employees pay 2.5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, and to deep-six a plan that would have forced state employees to pay a larger share of their healthcare and dental benefits.
Colorado WINS has seen its membership grow since the salary increase and legislative victories. "This has helped people to see the value of a strong union," Tanner says.
September 12, 2013