3090’s Mile-High Accomplishment

Denver University, a private research college located in Colorado’s mile-high city, was on the verge of contracting out its janitorial services. The switch would have led not only to a loss of over 100 jobs, but also the promise of a brighter future for each worker’s child; children of full-time employees of Denver University are granted free tuition, a perk which had kept many working for the institution for over 30 years. But peaceful protests, joined by five volunteer 3090 members who had flown in from Los Angeles, helped change the university’s policy.

“One of the janitors was formerly a chemist in Bulgaria,” explains Jennifer Fay, who joined her fellow 3090 members Colleen Juarez, Stephanie Smith, 2nd Central Area Coordinator Debra Durham, and Recording Secretary Cheryl Evans in Denver. “She’s been working there for eight years mainly so she can give her child a better opportunity.”

The trip, a multi-day canvassing and outreach operation organized by AFSCME International, had several goals: in addition to supporting the protests at Denver University, the 3090 members worked with local organizers in Arapahoe, Adams, and Jefferson counties to help increase the number of union member sign-ups so the local union could officially have an election. Without at least 51% of the workforce as members, a union is unable to hold an election.

“After the union gets 50-60% of the workforce to sign membership cards, they host an election,” Cheryl Evans explains. “Provided the members vote in favor of forming a local, then the next step after the election would be to nominate members to serve on their executive board. Once the union has the executive board, they can begin the bargaining process for a contract.”

In only a few (long but rewarding) days, the 3090 volunteers secured the additional sign-ups by walking door-to-door, visiting job sites, and meeting with as many individual workers as possible. All five members are enthusiastic about a return trip to continue spreading the message about the protections and benefits that unions provide. Both Jennifer and Cheryl agreed that being able to meet face-to-face with Denver workers and share their own personal stories about how union membership benefited them helped make the visit a success.

“Once they heard our story and how our union has significantly helped us,” Cheryl says, “usually their apprehensiveness about the process diminished and they signed the card.”

Protesting at DU.
Solidarity at Denver University.
From left to right: Colleen Juarez, Debra Durham, Stephanie Smith, Jennifer Fay, and Cheryl Evans.

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