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Opinion Columns

Opinion: It’s time for a CU union

In 2020, we have an opportunity to dramatically reshape our workplaces while building the strongest political coalition in this state’s history.  

CU students, staff and faculty have begun to unite and speak out against the abysmal levels of state funding provided to the university, the systematic erosion of competitive compensation and benefits for employees and the increases to tuition and fees.

John Kelly

This unity is the foundation for the broad-based coalition necessary to stand together and advocate for real reform by unionizing the state’s largest employer. 

Whether it’s cuts to salaries or reductions in needed benefits, the staff and employees at the University of Colorado have often been the first to carry the cost of slashed budgets.

Janet Ruppert

These measures have forced tens of thousands of workers in our community to move farther away, spend less in our local communities and pay more than 100% of their monthly income in order to survive.

You may not work at the university, but if you live on the Front Range, you’ve seen the impact of these policies and how it’s shaped our entire community.

More people in Colorado are renting than ever before and workers throughout Boulder County are moving farther and farther away as housing prices begin to rise, perpetuating the cycle of unaffordable housing.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Every success in advancing workers’ rights at CU has been the result of employees themselves courageously uniting together and demanding immediate action.

CU Boulder Staff Council and the Committee on Rights and Compensation (CRC), CU’s Graduate Student Union, have been leaders on campus on issues of inequality.

It was not until Staff Council pushed for a comprehensive policy on paid-parental leave that the university finally adopted this basic measure for employees on all four campuses.

Organizing through the CRC, graduate workers have secured a much-needed 19.8% raise for TAs, and recently, dental care, parental leave and a reduction in fees.

These wins, achieved by putting continuous pressure on the administration through official channels, as well as walkouts, rallies, and coordinated actions at official university governance meetings, illustrate the power of collective action. 

If we are going to seriously address income inequality, the severe lack of affordable housing, or the rise in costs of childcare and health care, then we need to organize at work.

We need to have the courage to seize the power we have as employees, stand up for each other and demand what we deserve — a safe workplace, fair and equitable compensation and treatment as legitimate stakeholders in the decision making process.

It’s time for a CU Union that includes not only graduate students, but also staff, faculty and employees across the four campuses to ensure our rights as workers and advocate for quality public higher education in our state. 

John Kelly is co-chair of the University of Colorado Boulder Staff Council and a candidate for state Senate in District 17. Janet Ruppert is a second-year Ph.D. student in Information Science at the University of Colorado Boulder and board member of the Committee on Rights and Compensation.

Rising Sun