American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are celebrating the state legislature’s passage of a bill that grants collective bargaining rights to over 28,000 state employees.

Under The Colorado Partnership for Quality Jobs and Services Act, state employees can collectively bargain with the executive branch of state government for wage contracts, benefits, and better work conditions.

However, they are not permitted to strike.

This is the first public-sector bargaining law in Colorado history.

AFT President Randi Weingarten and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry believe the act to be necessary and timely.

According to their joint statement, the collective bargaining act protects essential workers during COVID19. They argue that these people need more protection because they face a higher risk of infection by continuing to work in public.

“The vote by the legislature today means these essential workers are finally on a path to winning a seat at the table to negotiate for the resources they need to do their jobs and keep our communities safe and healthy,” said Weingarten and Henry in their joint statement. “When the people who are closest to delivering services to the public have a voice, the entire community benefits.”

They also believe that the act is an equalizer for employees of all racial and economic backgrounds.

“If the coronavirus pandemic has shown us anything, it’s how much our communities rely on the important work public employees do every day, and how important it is to protect all workers,” said Weingarten and Henry.

Colorado WINS, a union of state employees, also issued a statement on the passage of the bill.

“State employees have always put the interests of their communities and Coloradans at the forefront of their work. With this bill, they will have a chance to have productive discussions with policymakers about how we recover from the pandemic, both in terms of health and safety and economically,” said Hilary Glasgow, Director of Colorado WINS, in a news release. “Frontline state employees are experts at their jobs — they work directly with and for Coloradans by taking care of our most vulnerable populations, keeping our roads safe and maintained, ensuring our air and water are clean, administering unemployment and other benefits, and so much more. State workers provide the human infrastructure that keeps our state running, in good times and in bad. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication to our state should be front and center in any discussions about how to change or improve state services. With this bill, it will.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign the bill into law.

This post was updated with a statement from Glasgow.