On Thursday, two Colorado unions hosted a “telethon” on Facebook Live featuring testimony from frontline healthcare workers.

But instead of raising money, as you would in a normal telethon, organizers from Colorado Workers for Innovative and New Solutions (WINS) and Service Employees International Union Local 105 (SEIU 105) were raising their voices, encouraging concerned Coloradans to call Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is notoriously difficult to reach.

“Right now, Congress is debating a fourth coronavirus relief bill,” said David Fernandez, an SEIU 105 organizer who hosted the livestream. “Today we’re going to be making calls to ensure that all working people are put first. Not more bailouts for corporations and the wealthy.”

Lack of Support on the Front Lines

“I’m asking Cory Gardner to support workers and not to support the corporations that fund his campaign,” said Amanda Martin, a health care assistant at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

“It’s really difficult to be a caregiver right now,” she said. “You can’t be taking care of others if your basic needs are not met, and that’s what I continue to hear from essential workers.”

Martin said that many frontline healthcare workers have gone through the crisis without the support and flexibility they need from their employers.

“We need access to paid family leave for folks who need to have time off, we need to have essential workers getting essential pay,” Martin said, and “that folks need to be paid hazard pay to be working in these environments.”

Martin wasn’t the only frontline healthcare worker upset with Colorado’s hard to reach Republican senator.

Little Help for Mental Health Care Workers

For the past 16 years, Rana Gonzales has worked for the state of Colorado providing mental health care to underserved populations.

“Now’s the time for you to show you’re invested in the citizens of Colorado and invested in state workers that serve Coloradans,” she said, calling out Gardner. “I ask that you use that $500 billion to support the vital services that mental health workers provide so they can continue to serve those in need.”

Gonzales was happy and honored “to serve the citizens of this great state, and my dedication has only increased during this time.”

But she said much of the government has not stepped up to the occasion in the same way she and her co-workers have. Gonzales worries that the resources she and her counterparts need and deserve have been usurped to bail out corporations.

“The state workers that have dedicated their lives with those diagnosed with a mental illness during this unprecedented time should be invested in,” Gonzales said. “Not the big corporations.”

Gonzales did point out that per Gov. Jared Polis’ proclamation from last year, May is mental health month in Colorado. Mental hygiene has been a concern in Colorado since well before the coronavirus given that the state has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

Despite this, Gonzales said government healthcare workers have lost out to big corporations in most of the recent coronavirus-related legislation.

“We strive to give our all to Coloradans – not big corporations,” Gonzales said. “We want the citizens of Colorado to live their most optimal life. Big corporations don’t.”

Cardboard Cory

At the beginning of the telethon, Fernandez said a “special guest” would be making an appearance.

About halfway through the event, Fernandez brought the notorious cardboard cutout of Gardner dubbed “Cardboard Cory,” which organizers often bring to events to field questions from constituents, onto the Zoom call.

Then, one of the organizers called Gardner’s office on speaker phone from within earshot of the webcam and, as expected, was rerouted to his voicemail inbox.

The telethon inspired many concerned Coloradans to call Gardner’s office. Although at least one caller did get to speak with one of Gardner’s aides, most of these citizens didn’t make it past the voicemail.

“Hi, this is Cory Gardner, your senator from your great state of Colorado,” the senator states on his automated voicemail message. “Press one to share your thoughts with me and leave a comment.”