Open Letter -Protecting Public Workers: Concerns Over PROPWA Rulemaking


As the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) engages in rulemaking over the Protections for Public Workers Act (PROPWA), the Jeffco Education Support Professionals Association (JESPA) Executive Board expresses deep concerns about ongoing retaliation faced by its nearly 4,000 Education Support Professionals (ESPs). ESPs, encompassing roles from paraprofessionals to food service workers, interpreters to bus drivers, custodians to secretaries, mechanics to maintenance skilled trades workers, are essential contributors to the success of students in school districts like Jeffco. JESPA serves as their collective voice, advocating for workers’ rights, fairness, and improved working conditions.

JESPA strongly urges the CDLE to safeguard workers’ rights and uphold the original intent of PROPWA, which was enacted to protect public employees from retaliation for engaging in protected activities. JESPA members in Jeffco Public Schools have faced repeated retaliation for their union activities, speaking out on matters of public concern, and advocating for their students.

Instances of retaliation include maintenance employees facing intimidation and interrogations after raising concerns about district policy violations, and preschool teachers advocating for safe learning conditions experiencing being forced to work off the clock and unfair treatment. Food service leaders and paras advocating for healthy school meals and a living wage also faced intimidation and investigation.

The Need for Transparent Recourse: These instances highlight the urgent need for a transparent and effective channel for recourse when retaliation occurs. The CDLE’s rulemaking on PROPWA is a crucial opportunity to ensure the Act’s intended protections are fully realized. Without such safeguards, ESPs remain vulnerable to intimidation and reprisals, compromising their ability to ensure the safety of both themselves and the students they serve.

As rulemaking progresses, JESPA seeks assurance that the CDLE will prioritize the original intent of PROPWA, addressing the concerns raised to safeguard the rights and protections of public workers. The commitment of the CDLE is pivotal in creating a work environment where ESPs can advocate for their interests without fear of retaliation.

Urgent Request for Commitment: In a letter addressed to Director Moss, JESPA calls for a commitment to uphold the integrity of PROPWA and its intended protections. We stress that the safety and well-being of its members, as well as the students we serve, and depend on the steadfast commitment of the CDLE to workers’ rights. Here is the letter to Director Moss:

Deaar Director Moss,

We, the Executive Board of the Jeffco Education Support Professionals Association (JESPA), write to you with deep concerns about the continued retaliation faced by our members for their union activities. 

JESPA represents nearly 4,000 ESPs whose roles range from paraprofessionals to bus drivers, food service workers to custodians, and many more. These professionals are the unsung heroes of school districts, are often parents and grandparents, live in the community where they work, and contribute tirelessly to the success of our students.

JESPA serves as the collective voice for ESPs, dedicated to safeguarding our rights, promoting fairness, and advocating for improved working conditions. As we strive to ensure the dignity and respect that ESPs rightfully deserve, we are reaching out to express our concerns and seek your support.

We strongly urge you to safeguard workers’ rights and uphold the original intent of SB23-111, the Protections for Public Workers Act (PROPWA).

Our members within Jeffco Public Schools have repeatedly encountered retaliation for speaking out about matters of public concern, for their union involvement, and for advocating for their students. It is imperative that PROPWA’s intended protections are upheld to ensure their safety and well-being.

Numerous instances of retaliation against our collective efforts have been documented. For instance, maintenance employees who bravely raised concerns about district policy violations regarding misuse of district finances and resources faced intimidation and interrogations instead of having their valid concerns addressed. The district administrators not only failed to investigate the reported violations but also threatened workers with “retribution” for their involvement.

Preschool teachers, advocating for safe learning conditions, were met with retaliation, with the district resisting their inclusion in our union. The lack of union representation left these hourly preschool workers vulnerable to exploitation, denied sick time, and pressure to work off the clock. During the pandemic, working conditions further deteriorated, with seasoned educators being bullied into leaving or terminated without cause. Shockingly, teachers were instructed to have students eat off the floor near bathrooms, and when they raised safety concerns, they were given copy paper for students to use as placemats. They spoke out and faced retaliation by their department.

Similar instances of intimidation and investigation were faced by leaders in Food Service advocating for healthy school meals for their students when we took a collective action to highlight the poor quality of the highly processed school lunch. Paras across Jeffco were warned of potential cuts to hours and benefits if they supported JESPA’s campaign for a living wage.

When incidents of retaliation occur, it is crucial to establish a transparent and effective channel for recourse. These instances, such as those where workers advocate for improved learning conditions for our students and accountability for use of taxpayer dollars, underscore the necessity of fully implementing PROPWA’s protections. Without these safeguards, our members remain exposed to intimidation and reprisals, jeopardizing their capacity to uphold the safety of both themselves and the students they serve.

We urgently request your commitment to uphold the integrity of PROPWA and the intended protections. Our members and the students they serve rely on your steadfast commitment to workers’ rights.

Thank you for your attention to this crucial matter. 


Zander Kaschub, Kitchen Worker

Trevor Byrne, Bus Driver

Loni Byrne, Bus Driver Assistant

Melanie McClain, Kitchen Worker

Andrea Cisneros, Kitchen Worker

Ricky Martinez, Custodian

Anthony Trujillo, Custodian

Jon Duran, Electrician

Jeff Miller, Area Grounds Worker

Sarah Smith, ECE Instructor

Tonya Toller, ECE Instructor

Ny Cahill, Paraprofessional

Darcy Hassler, Paraprofessional

Tina Steinbach, Secretary

Edward Morgan, Campus Security

Corrine Carpenter, Campus Security

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