Colorado’s state employees union is celebrating after announcing Wednesday that it reached an agreement with the state on a contract it says will boost pay and address worker shortages caused by “low wages and decades of underfunding.”

“State employees have been working every day to help Colorado’s families pull through this pandemic even though the state has paid many of us wages so low that it makes it hard for our own families to survive,” said Skip Miller, president of the Colorado WINS union in a Wednesday morning statement. “This historic first contract shows what we can do when we work together. It is an important step forward toward protecting, respecting, and paying the people who provide essential services in Colorado and for the communities we serve every day.”

Colorado WINS (Workers for Innovative and New Solutions) was created by an executive order issued by then-Gov. Bill Ritter in 2007. But prior to the 2020 legislative session, WINS couldn’t negotiate binding collective contracts.

During that session, Democrats pushed through House Bill 1153, known as the Colorado Partnership For Quality Jobs And Services Act, which allowed state workers to negotiate wages, benefits and workplace safety. The bill from Majority Leader Daneya Esgar and Senate President Leroy, both Pueblo Democrats, as well as Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, passed along party lines in both chambers before it was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis with then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s backing.

Provisions from the contract package WINS announced on Wednesday include:

  • An across-the-board 3% wage increases each year starting start in July with subsequent 3% raises in 2023 and 2024
  • A $15 minimum wage for all state jobs
  • A commitment from the state to cover the first $20 million of any health insurance premium increase over the next three years
  • Improved accrual rates for annual leave based on time of service
  • A doubling of family leave time
  • Paid time off for Juneteenth
  • New requirements in order for the state to change lengths of shifts or time off
  • A new workplace discrimination policy and a equity, diversity and inclusion task force charged with improve the workplace and public access to state services

Along with Miller, Department of Labor and Employment rehabilitation counselor Jessica Mathis called the new contract “important step forward for Colorado state employees like me who have been struggling with low wages, understaffing, and underfunding even as we’ve been helping others through this crisis.”

“I have to work two jobs just to get by and there are state employees that have to rely on food banks to feed their families," Mathis said. “We love the work we do and love helping Coloradans, but we need to be paid fairly and staffed correctly to ensure we can provide quality services and resources.”

The contract now goes before union members, who are set to review it and vote on its ratification.

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