EL PASO COUNTY — El Paso County is suing the state about a Colorado law that allows county employees to form unions. The law is set to take effect in July.
El Paso County commissioners have been vocal in their opposition since Senate Bill 22-230 bill made its way through the state legislature last year. It applies to counties with more than 7,500 people.
County commissioners call this an "unfunded mandate,” meaning they will have to pay millions out of local taxpayer dollars to acquire the proper staff to conduct the contract negotiations. They also worry the unfunded mandate would jeopardize service to citizens.
Today, county commissioners, along with support from Fremont and Elbert counties agreed this is over-reach, and that they should not be involved in negotiating all county employee contracts.
“I am asking the state legislature, if they wish to do something, use state taxpayer dollars, do not use local money. We've got roads to fix. We've got public safety to address and we need to ensure those are fully funded,” said Stan VanderWerf, El Paso County Commissioner, District 3.
“Here we have ended up with a very unclear policy that is causing a lot of problems for counties,” said Carrie Geitner, El Paso County Commissioner, District 2. She added that many county employees have already been approached about wanting to join a union.
“The bill was signed into law and almost instantly, union representatives began harassing and intimidating our county employees to join they're failing organizations lurking outside of county buildings, confronting them at their homes, leading some to considering filing harassment reports to law enforcement,” said Geitner.
News5 also reached out to one of the bill's sponsors, Daneya Esgar, who is a former state representative from Pueblo. Esgar called the lawsuit disappointing. She says a number of amendments were made to the bill to help counties. She also added that county employees deserve to have a stake at the table when it comes to pay for the important work they do.
According to the fiscal note on the bill, this law will cost a county like El Paso County more than $2 million dollars for staffing costs.
Last year, more than 170 elected county officials from all across Colorado signed a letter asking Governor Polis to veto the bill. In 2019, Colorado Springs voters also voted down collective bargaining privileges for Colorado Springs firefighters.
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