Workers Build Power in Face of City Council Vote
Fort Collins, CO: Tuesday night, after hearing from a broad coalition of workers and workers’ rights organizations, the Fort Collins City Council voted 3-4 against adopting a local minimum wage that would have moderately increased wages for the City’s lowest paid workers. Before voting “no,” many City Councilmembers reflected on conversations with business owners who oppose paying workers more and who suggested that increased minimum wage would hurt the economy, notwithstanding economic data to the contrary, including from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, which has concluded that increasing minimum wages in Denver caused wages to go up overall and did not result in any increase in unemployment. Comments from the Council underlined the amount of lobbying pressure that they’d been under from corporations and highlight the absence of meaningful engagement with community and workers in advance of the vote.
But workers refused to remain unheard. Low-wage workers, immigrant workers, parents, union organizers, economists, and labor leaders showed up to last night’s City Council meeting in droves. Council members heard from advocates and members of ISAAC of Northern Colorado, Fuerza Latina, and The BIPOC Alliance of Larimer County, who underlined the importance of minimum wage as a racial justice issue. Economists explained the economic benefits of increasing local minimum wages to consumer spending and small business growth. Union leaders spoke from the heart about the day-to-day struggles’ workers confront. Most importantly, we heard from workers: Workers who work multiple jobs to make ends meet; workers struggling with long hours and ad hoc childcare arrangements; workers who experienced homelessness while working minimum wage jobs; workers who struggled through years of low wages to finally find a moment of financial stability.
Too often, local governments around Colorado are overtaken by developers, landlords, and other corporate interests, but the coalition that came out in support of labor protections in Fort Collins provides a powerful illustration of how people and communities can come together to make local governments work for them—not just in Denver, but across the entire state.
“As President of the AFL-CIO affiliate in Northern Colorado and representative of over 25 unions and 28,000 workers, I was disappointed that City Council considered raising the local minimum wage without consulting me or the workers I represent,” said Kevin Caffrey, President of the Northern Colorado Labor Council. “Council’s failure here underlines the importance of the deep work we are doing to elevate worker voices in Northern Colorado.”
“Although workers feel deflated after City Council’s vote last night, this is an agitation moment where they are realizing no one is going to make their work visible unless they do,” said Arpi Miller, Director of ISAAC of Northern Colorado. “Workers are feeling more motivated to organize and make change.”
“Although I am disappointed with the outcome of the City Council vote, I am excited to support the workers and community members who came out last night,” said Erik Cornell, a union representative with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 who represents grocery workers in Fort Collins. “In the future, I hope actual engagement with workers and real data will inform City Council decisions.”
“I am disappointed that so many members of council relied on anecdotal scare tactics from businesses and ignored the wealth of data they’ve been presented with, which refutes all of those concerns,” said Emily Gallichotte, a community member that has been leading this effort at City Council since 2021.
“Workplace justice issues are racial justice issues. White supremacy and historic marginalization has trapped too many workers of color in low paying jobs with terrible working conditions,” said Jamie Rasmussen, Program Director with The BIPOC Alliance. “We deserve better. We will continue to liberate our community by collectively raising our voices until our elected officials invest in our value.”
“There’s a simple question that workers asked council on Tuesday night: ‘Which side are you on?’ and the council majority chose bosses over workers,” said Greg Zoda, Co-Chair of DSA Fort Collins. “This disappointing vote is evidence that it’s meaningless for politicians to identify as ‘progressive’ if they are not backed by a democratic, working-class movement. DSA Fort Collins is building that movement.”
“Depleted worker power has contributed to striking economic stratification in Colorado. But our local governments have an opportunity to step up to change that,” said Nina DiSalvo, Policy Director with Towards Justice. “I am proud that Fort Collins workers are building the power they need to hold their government accountable and to demand basic workplace protections.”
Workers supporting local minimum wage in Colorado are grateful for “yes” votes from Mayor Pro Tem Emily Francis, and Councilmembers Julie Pignataro and Kelly Ohlson.
UFCW Local 7 represents 23,000 members in Colorado and Wyoming in Supermarkets, Packing Houses, Food Processing Plants, Barbers and Cosmetologists, and Healthcare facilities.
The Northern Colorado Labor Council is one of nearly 500 state and local labor councils of the AFL-CIO and are the heart of the labor movement.
The BIPOC Alliance is a group collectively advancing and elevating BIPOC in Larimer County and ensuring that BIPOC community members are at the table drafting, amending, and leading the push for laws that better our lives.
Democratic Socialists of America Fort Collins (DSAFC) is a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the US.
The Interfaith Solidarity & Accompaniment Coalition (ISAAC) of Northern Colorado is a broad coalition of community-based partners and faith communities that works in solidarity for human dignity and immigrant justice.
Towards Justice is a nonprofit legal organization that advocates for and collaborates with workers and workers’ organizations to build worker power and advance economic justice.