Why are you unionizing? We formed this union because we believe in achieving the workplace DPL staff deserves. Taking collective action allows us to speak as one voice on the issues that matter to us. Libraries are known to the public for protecting democracy and for being innovators in our communities. Why shouldn’t those ideals also extend to our working lives at DPL?
Why are you unionizing now? DPL has had at least one failed union attempt since the 1990s. Staff have brought up unions through tools like Anonymous Suggestions since the 2019 Employee Handbook revision that replaced the arbitration process with at-will policies. As 2020 wrought havoc on Denver, divisions between employee classifications increased and morale decreased. A group banded together and contacted CWA to start building an open union.
What does the union do? We have focused the formation of our union on building solidarity with one another and collective power in numbers. The process of creating and building this union remains ongoing, but we have developed some demands for our public launch to begin a dialogue about the changes we want to see in the workplace. Please use our form to report any specific issues you’re having at work to the union, and consider joining the Organizing Committee if you’d like to do some of the hands-on work of building our union.
Who can join the union? Any and all supporters are welcome. We are using a model called an “open union” that allows for wall-to-wall participation for all DPL staff without restriction. (A collective bargaining contract could potentially change that, but it’s far off in the future.)
What is an “open union”? Think of it as a “classic union.” An open union (sometimes also called a “minority” or “direct” union) hearkens back to the earliest days of organized labor. Organizing with an open union model means that we can form a union now based on our constitutional rights and our desire to build collective power without waiting for a collective bargaining contract.
Does that mean no collective bargaining ever? Not necessarily. Colorado currently allows local control over public employee collective bargaining, which means it’s up to the community-level governing body. In our case, that means the City and County of Denver. Establishing collective bargaining for DPL would require changing the City Charter, including City Council approval and a public election. Keep in mind that the Texas State Employees Union has been operating for over 40 years despite the Texas state constitution prohibiting collective bargaining for public employees.
Who are you working with? We have been working with the Communications Workers of America, who represent over 700,000 private and public workers nationwide, including Google’s Alphabet Worker’s Union. CWA organizers are here to support us throughout this process, but our union is made up of DPL workers.
Are we going it alone? Nope! We have also voted to be one unit of Local 7799, a small consortium of six unions whose collective slogan is “public workers for the public good.” The other units in Local 7799 are United Campus Workers Colorado, Denver Health Workers United, UC Health Workers United, Defenders Union of Colorado, and Pikes Peak Library Workers United. Together, we strive to improve public life for everyone.
Don’t unionized workers have really rigidly defined job duties? Our union is different from many unions you have likely heard about. Those with rigid job descriptions likely have collective bargaining contracts, which we do not. Furthermore, we are forming our own open union (not just joining one), which means we get to decide what we will advocate for.
What gives me the right to unionize? The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects our rights to free speech and assembly. The Public Employees’ Workplace Protection Act (SB 23-111), which went into effect in August 2023, is a piece of state legislation that protects our right as public workers in CO to join a union or otherwise work to remedy workplace issues without fear of retaliation.
How can I work for the union without putting my job in jeopardy? We are within our rights to organize on non-work time using non-work devices and non-work products (i.e., no work emails, Slack channels, etc.). Even HR has said we are free to try to change the City Charter so long as we do so outside of work. The Public Employees’ Workplace Protection Act (SB 23-111) enshrines these rights into a Colorado state law specifically protecting public employees such as library workers.
What if I’m still afraid for my job or of retaliation? The truth is that we work for an at-will employer. Any of us can be fired for any reason or for no reason. Many of us who have been involved have discovered the power of standing in solidarity with one another, and realized that as a group we can do amazing things. Retaliation against workers for joining the union or encouraging others to do so violates our First Amendment rights and state law. Growing our numbers helps build our collective power against retaliation and union-busting. As Denver Health Workers United write in their FAQ: “If you are afraid at work, you need a union.”
Do I have to pay dues to be a member? Yes! Dues give us the resources to build power within our organization for our workers, so they are a critical piece of union membership. Our voting members have approved the following dues structure, which is comparable to other units in Local 7799.
Monthly dues are based on annual income:
- <$20K $8/month
- $20-35K $15/month
- $35-55K $23/month
- $55-75K $31/month
- $75-95K $39/month
- $95-115K $47/month
- >115K $55/month
- Retirees $10/month
Where does my dues money go? A small fraction of our dues ($4 per person) goes to CWA’s national organization. The rest stays within Local 7799, with one pot of funds for all 6 units. DPLWU has representation on the Local’s finance committee and we choose the way money is spent together.
What if I can’t afford dues? One reason we started our union is because many of our staff are not paid a living wage for Denver. Dues may be out of reach, but gains we make in the workplace will affect everyone, not just union members. We are here in solidarity to support our entire staff. If this is your situation, please reach out and we will work something out.