Sparked by coronavirus, Denver Health workers are forming a union to advocate for better conditions

The movement has “dozens” of nurses and other bedside workers on board out of a workforce of more than 7,000.

Denver Health. April 1, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Health. April 1, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Healthcare workers at Denver Health, the medical arm of the city’s public health department, are recruiting fellow employees to unionize in order to secure better benefits and workplace conditions, which organizers say will translate to a better institution.

The movement has “dozens” of nurses and other bedside workers on board out of a workforce of more than 7,000, according to a press release sent by Communications Workers of America, an umbrella workers rights group organizing with Denver Health workers.

The local union calls itself Denver Health Workers United and will “advocate for workers’ rights, institutional change, and meaningful public investment to improve patient health outcomes,” the press release states.

Hospital employees were energized by unpaid leave and lacking protective equipment during the response to COVID-19, which they said has caused unsafe work conditions. Workers were also sparked by the revelation that executives were getting large bonuses for their 2019 performance during this turbulent time.

“I think what we’re seeing is a lot of people fighting for their rights as they’re coming to understand that they’re essential employees for the maintenance of society and the economy,” Thomas Walker, a spokesperson for CWA, told Denverite. “And on the other hand, they’re not getting the pay they deserve or the protections and safety on the job, and folks want a real voice to advocate for themselves.”

Members are remaining anonymous for now because they don’t want to risk losing hours, Walker said. They plan to go public about two weeks from now when they expect to have a more sizable membership.

Denver Health representatives did not immediately return a request for comment.

Front line workers cannot use the traditional collective bargaining structure because Denver health is a subdivision of the state.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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