On Monday afternoon in the Denver City and County Building, city council members and public employees gathered in support of a ballot measure that would extend collective bargaining rights to all non-supervisory City and County of Denver employees. 

Currently, Denver only grants collective bargaining rights to the city’s fire and police departments. This measure would give voters this fall the option to extend these rights to librarians, solid waste collectors, social workers, and more. This event is a part of the Stronger Denver campaign for collective bargaining.

Denver Council Member Shontel Lewis was one of the event’s speakers. Flanked by librarians and other city employees, she emphasized that without the right to unionize, Denver’s public employees are at risk of low wages and substandard working conditions. 

“Oftentimes, intimidated and unprotected, our city employees can be exposed to unfair treatment and unjust working conditions,” she said. “The largest change to come from approving collective bargaining for our city employees would be that they have the ability to advocate for themselves.”

Denver Council Member Shontel Lewis speaks in support of ballot measure that would grant Denver’s city employees the right to collective bargaining. Photo courtesy of Stronger Denver.

Eyklipse Baca, an assistant at the Denver Public Library, seconded Lewis’s sentiment in a statement.

“Collective bargaining gives us a seat at the table to address all our issues – for us in the library and for all our fellow city workers,” Baca said. “My goal with collective bargaining would be to get a better life for me and my coworkers and everyone who works in this city.”

Last month, Denver labor leaders sent a letter in support of the measure to Denver Mayor Mike Johnston and council members, raising the point that collective bargaining is already a right for most workers around the country. The letter was signed by Teamsters Local 17 President Ed Bagwell and Denver Fraternity of Police President Mike Jackson. 

“This change is long overdue,” the letter reads. “Collective bargaining would give these crucial public servants a shared voice if they choose to exercise it. It will make our great city better for the workers and the people they serve.”

The measure is scheduled for a final vote at City Council on July 8. If successful there, it will appear on Denver voters’ November ballot.