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Bill introduced to allow collective bargaining bill for Colorado county workers

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Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Colorado's Democratic lawmakers introduced a long-awaited bill Monday night that seeks to expand collective bargaining rights for county workers.

Senate Bill 22-230 would give county employees the right to organize a union and collectively bargain for wages and benefits. However, the bill would not allow county workers to strike if a deal cannot be reached, according to its text. 

“County workers kept Colorado running through some extremely difficult years of pandemic disruptions and health and safety hazards,” Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, one of the bill sponsors, said in a statement. “These tens of thousands of unsung heroes have more than earned what nearly every private sector and state worker already enjoy – the right to organize and negotiate for fair and safe workplaces.”

The bill has been a hot topic of debate at the Colorado State Capitol for weeks even though it hadn’t been introduced yet. Several counties are opposing the legislation that they argue will be costly for taxpayers, while the Colorado Municipal League has said it "opposes any state attempt to interfere in the decisions of local governments regarding employment."

A fiscal analysis by Weld County estimated the proposal would cost the county at least $30 million a year, while in El Paso County officials said it could cost $25 million annually.

El Paso County Commissioners Board Chair Stan VanderWerf said in a statement that adding collective bargaining as another bureaucratic layer is "as unnecessary as it is expensive."

"This proposal will force El Paso County to spend money it doesn’t have to administer a program it doesn’t need," he said. "And it will be at the expense of the citizens who rely on our services to keep them safe."

In February, over 100 county officials signed on to a letter opposing any legislation “mandating” collective bargaining, saying such proposals would impose a “significant, unfunded mandate” on state taxpayers.