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More state workers will be able to unionize as a result of legislation passed in the 2020 session of the General Assembly. Thousands of Colorado teachers rallied at the statehouse for more education funding on April 27, 2018.

House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, is walking away, at least for this session, on a major effort to unionize public employees.

The collective bargaining bill would have allowed any public employee, whether county, municipal, special district, higher education faculty or school employee, to join a union and engage in collective bargaining.

An April 6 working draft obtained by Colorado Politics said public employees would be allowed to unionize, collectively bargain, communicate with unions and other public employees, participate in the political process, have exclusive representation at formal discussions on grievances or personnel policies and practices, and be able to post information on unions in the employer’s facilities.

Joining a union, under the draft, is optional. Each bargaining unit could be as small as an individual campus, for example. Home rule cities — and there are 104 of them with authority to manage their own affairs under powers granted in the state Constitution — are not exempt.

The bill never got introduced, and Tuesday, Esgar said she intends to keep working on it after the 2021 session ends with an eye toward introducing it next year. 

"We're continuing to do the important work that needs to be done when it comes to stakeholding such a big policy," she said, and making sure to listen to all folks the bill would impact. "We were hopeful that we'd get to that point of introducing it this session, [but] I don't know that we've been able to reach all corners of the stakeholder table."

Esgar said she will work hard during the interim to complete that work, adding that "I didn't want to introduce a piece of legislation that couldn't be implemented in the way we intended." 

The bill was backed by AFL-CIO and the state teachers' union, and opposed by local governments. 

The Colorado Municipal League represents the state's 270 cities and towns in Colorado. Kevin Bommer, CML's executive director, told Colorado Politics last month that there is no possible change to the bill that would move them from opposed to a neutral position.

The General Assembly should be making employment decisions for state employees, not local governments and their employees, he said. It's the purview of city councils, working in collaboration with labor and local voters, who should decide whether to allow it.

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