What do I need to know about the Protections for Public Workers Act?


In a landmark move to safeguard the rights of public employees, Colorado recently enacted the “Protections for Public Workers Act.” This legislation is a significant stride towards extending the rights of public workers at hospitals, universities, public schools, and other quasi-governmental entities. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the key provisions of this Act, its similarities with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) Sections 7 and 8, and the importance of protecting and promoting workers’ rights.

JESPA Member Hannah Mauro testifies alongside a fellow CEA memberin favor of SB23-111 The Protections for Public Workers Act

Enacted on June 6, 2023, the Protections for Public Workers Act empowers employees in various public sectors to engage in activities similar to those protected under NLRA Section 7. While the Act doesn’t explicitly provide for representation elections or mandatory collective bargaining, it grants public employees several rights, including the right to engage in protected, concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, the right to organize and join employee organizations, and the ability to discuss terms and conditions of employment. This marks a crucial step towards extending these rights to employees of political subdivisions, expanding their avenues to voice concerns, and ensuring a more equitable work environment.

Mirroring NLRA Sections 7 and 8: The new Act closely mirrors the principles outlined in NLRA Sections 7 and 8, albeit with some differences. Much like NLRA Section 7, the Act grants employees the right to engage in protected, concerted activities for mutual aid and protection, allowing them to join together to address workplace issues and advocate for better conditions. Similarly, like NLRA Section 8, the Act prohibits employers from interfering with employees’ rights and from retaliating against employees who exercise these rights. However, one crucial distinction lies in the Act’s lack of obligation for representation elections and collective bargaining agreements, setting it apart from NLRA Section 8.

Examples of Protected, Concerted Activity: The Act extends protection to a range of actions aimed at improving working conditions and advocating for employee rights. Some examples include:

  1. Employees discussing wages or seeking fair compensation.
  2. Addressing concerns related to workplace safety and violations.
  3. Voicing grievances about unfair treatment, harassment, or workload.
  4. Forming, joining, or assisting employee organizations to advocate for their interests.
  5. Participating in meetings with management to negotiate terms of employment.
  6. Organizing and engaging in peaceful collective actions, signing petitions, picketing, and even strikes* to protest unfavorable conditions. *public employees have a “qualified” right to strike. Participation in a lawful strike can lead to strike leaders facing retaliation, which would be illegal.
  7. Distributing information about labor laws, employment rights, or organizing efforts.
  8. Supporting colleagues’ concerns and demonstrating solidarity.

The Significance for Workers and Union Members:

The Protections for Public Workers Act is a beacon of hope for workers seeking a fair and supportive work environment. By granting employees the freedom to collectively voice their concerns, the Act will help workers organize without as much fear, and gives them recourse for intimidation and retaliation!  This Act empowers us to hold employers accountable. This Act reinforces the importance of collective action and strengthens the foundation of unions in safeguarding workers’ rights.

The Colorado Protections for Public Workers Act represents a vital step towards ensuring the well-being and rights of public employees. The Act paves the way for improved working conditions, fair treatment, and a more just workplace for all. As we continue to advocate for workers’ rights, this Act stands as a testament to the progress we can achieve when we unite and strive for a better future together.

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