2022 Leg Session, Featured, Gold Dome, Local, Politics, Sherrie Peif, Special Districts

Proposed bill ties hands of local governments in collective bargaining; expands public-sector union power

DENVER — A longtime advocate of teachers’ unions has drafted a legislative bill that would establish rigid state standards over how local governing bodies negotiate their employees’ salaries, benefits and working conditions, as well as significantly increase the influence of public-sector unions.

Daneya Esgar

“Public Employee Collective Bargaining,” which currently has the support of only one legislator, Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, would force all public governing bodies in Colorado to “recognize the exclusive representation as the sole representative of the employee organization upon request of a majority of employees authorizing such representation.”

There is no number attached to the bill yet, as the legislative session does not start until 2022, and the bill does not need to be finalized until early January. However, the 41-page bill that concerns the “expansion of public employees’ rights to collective bargaining through representation by an employee organization,” was filed in draft form on Nov. 10, and would remove local governments’ ability to determine on their own how to negotiate salaries with their employees.

The bill is similar to one Esgar floated last session that was supported mostly by the Colorado Education Association (CEA), but that was never introduced after multiple employers named in the bill came out in opposition to it.

The bill vastly expands union presence in the government sector and would create massive influence for those unions, undermining employers’ ability to negotiate and budget as they see fit, many who are following the bill’s progress told Complete Colorado.

“The legislation would tie the hands of public employers, including schools, when it comes to personnel issues,” said Rob Moulton, founder of the Education Alliance of Colorado, a coalition of public schools and parents representing nearly 20,000 students across nine school districts. “For charter schools, which depend on the ability to make individual personnel decisions based on the needs of students and communities, that could be very problematic.”

Esgar did not return a request from Complete Colorado for comment.

The bill gives all “public employees of any county, city and county, municipality, school district, library district, fire authority, special district, local government, political subdivision of the state or a local government, public college, public university, other state or local educational institution or office of a state public defender,” the right to organize a union and utilize collective bargaining and would require the employer to:

  • Provide the exclusive representative with contact information for all public employees in the bargaining unit.
  • Provide the exclusive representative access to employee orientations.
  • Allow an employee organization to communicate with employees at employer-sponsored events.
  • Make payroll deductions to the exclusive representative as authorized by a public employee.

Further restricting local governments as employers, the bill calls for “exclusive” bargaining rights to be granted to one union, and all “existing collective bargaining agreements remain in place,” only until expiration, unless they are “exclusive.” Then they remain in place unless they are modified or decertified.

“We are concerned about this bill not only because of the way it could force unionization on public employers like schools, but because of the broad authorities it seemingly grants to unions, like sending information through school email systems, access to school facilities, access to employee contact and other information, automatic deduction of union dues through payroll, and attendance at school events or functions,” Moulton said. “These items all used to be union privileges to be negotiated in individual collective bargaining agreements. Now they would be union rights mandated in state statute. It’s very one-sided in favor of public-sector unions.”

Collective Bargaining 11-10-21 by Simply Sherrie on Scribd

“Exclusive Representative,” under the bill means an employee organization recognized as the sole representative of all employees.

The bill outlines that any other employee organization may file a written request to also be an exclusive representative, but they must provide a “showing of interest that at least 30 percent” of the original bargaining unit wish the additional organization. However, that request can still be denied based on a list of criteria outlined in the bill that an arbitrator must find to make the additional bargaining unit appropriate.

The clause would pit unions representing the same sector against each other, such as the CEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) among many other organizations in the education establishment.

It is unclear how the bill would impact employees who choose not to unionize. Colorado is often described as a hybrid, or modified right-to-work state, where employees are not required to join unions, even if their employer recognizes one.

Complete Colorado will continue to follow this bill throughout the legislative process



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