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Historic Bill Grants Educators and All Public Employees Workplace Protections

Posted on: May 3, 2023
Posted By: CEA Communications
Posted in: Press | Uncategorized

Lauren Stephenson
Director of Communications
Colorado Education Association
(303) 968-5573

May 3, 2023

Historic Bill Grants Educators and All Public Employees Workplace Protections
Safeguards Will Boost Teacher Retention, Workplace Safety

DENVER, CO – Today, Colorado’s public workers were finally granted the same workplace protections that private sector workers have enjoyed for over 90 years. With the passage of SB23-111, the Public Employees’ Workplace Protection bill, all public employees are legally safe from retaliation, harassment, and other workplace threats.

Amie Baca-Oehlert, high school counselor and president of the Colorado Education Association, testified in support of this historic legislation. On its final passage today, she said, “On behalf of CEA’s 39,000 public school educators, I am thrilled to see that our legislative leadership listened to the hundreds of Colorado teachers who lobbied, emailed, texted, and called them this session. Finally, we will be able to advocate for ourselves, for our colleagues, and for our students without fear.”

During legislative hearings for SB23-111, educators from JeffCo to Woodland Park to Saguache shared their stories of unsafe workplaces and retaliatory actions. Just this year, Colorado educators (like David Graf of Woodland Park and Kevin Walek of Mountain Valley) have been retaliated against for “offenses” such as speaking at a school board meeting, advocating for innovative curriculum, or asking for safe staffing levels in their classrooms.

The Public Employees’ Workplace Protection bill aims to shield public workers from these harms by granting all public employees rights similar to those of Colorado’s private sector employees. SB23-111 gives public workers the right to do the following without employment repercussion:

  • Discuss or express their opinions about workplace issues, and discuss their rights as workers, when discussing and addressing their concerns
  • Organize, form, join, or assist an employee organization*, or refrain from organizing, forming, joining, or assisting an employee organization
  • Engage in protected, concerted activity for the purpose of mutual aid or protection
  • Fully participate in the political process while off-duty and not in uniform, including speaking with members of the public employer’s governing body on any matter of public concern, or on the terms and conditions of employment

Said Baca-Oehlert: “Without the protected right to advocate for ourselves and our students, our educators have often felt demoralized and disrespected, and increasingly, they are dropping out of the profession. The passage of SB23-111 shows our educators and all of our public workers that our legislators hear their concerns and understand their integral role in Colorado’s success. We’re grateful for the leadership of bill sponsors Senator Robert Rodriguez, and Representatives Brianna Titone and Steven Woodrow, as well as the entire Democratic Caucus. Colorado educators and all public workers who provide such critical sertices to our communities, eagerly await being granted the respect and legal protection they deserve when Governor Polis signs this bill into law.”

*As defined by this bill, “employee organization” means an organization independent of the employer in which public employees may participate and that exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of acting on behalf of and for the benefit of the public employees concerning public employee grievances, labor disputes, wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. “Employee organization” includes any agents or representatives of the employee organization designated by the employee organization.

About the Colorado Education Association
The Colorado Education Association is the voice of 39,000 educators, working together in a strong union to ensure all students get the exceptional public schools they deserve, in every neighborhood across the state. As Colorado’s largest labor union, CEA works collectively with all education stakeholders to ensure Colorado’s standing as an excellent state in which to learn, live, work, and raise a family.

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