Numerous labor unions protested Tuesday outside of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment office as part of the Unemployed Workers National Day of Action. Protesters spoke about working conditions and poverty during COVID-19 before marching to Sen. Cory Gardner’s office to demand change.
Unions and groups present included Unite Here, United Food and Commercial Workers, Service Employees International Union, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Denver Area Labor Federation and the Democratic Socialists of America.
“Our members have been working through this pandemic to put food on the tables of community members,” said Melissa McCollister, UFCW political liaison. “We’re just hoping that they can receive what they deserve for doing that.”
McCollister said the goal of the national day of action is to pressure the Senate into passing the HEROES Act, providing a second stimulus package, increasing weekly unemployment benefits by $600 and implementing hazard pay for essential workers.
“Actions like this all over the country, people standing collectively, will eventually make an impact on the moving of this bill,” McCollister said.
The protesters chose to gather outside of the CDLE to call out the organization for allegedly helping employers to punish workers by taking away unemployment benefits.
“We’re not going to stop fighting for what is ours,” said Larson Ross of DSA.
Ross said he and several coworkers were fired from their jobs at Ku Cha House of Tea in Fort Collins for organizing for safety conditions. He said after being fired, many of the employees went on unemployment until Ku Cha House of Tea appealed to CDLE, getting several of the employees kicked off of unemployment and asking them to repay the money they’d received from state and federal unemployment.
“Workers should have a right to help determine the safety of their workplaces,” Ross said. “If they don’t have a right to do that … no worker in this country is safe.”
After several speeches, a banner was revealed displaying 1,000 red houses painted to represent a fraction of the 400,000 Coloradans currently at risk of eviction. The group carried the banner to Gardner’s office, eventually entering the building and asking to speak with him.
Neither Gardner nor his aides addressed the protesters who were soon forced out of the building by security.
Mariah Wood, an organizer with Unite Here, announced that they would be back if Gardner does not pass the extra $600 unemployment and issue hazard pay.
“Do your job so that we can do ours,” said IATSE President Max Peterson of Gardner.
Gardner’s office did not respond to requests for comment.