UNE’s Westminster & South Adams chapter, has been working on housing justice issues within the community of Westminster, Colorado for over two years. Due to the housing boom in the Denver-Metro area, many families have been moving to the suburbs to find more affordable places to live, but unfortunately the suburbs are now reaching the point of unaffordability. As more families who once called Westminster home are forced to leave due to housing costs, members of the city knew something had to be done.  This group is currently tackling issues such as renter’s rights and affordable housing development and preservation within in the city.  In the state of Colorado, there are very few protections for tenants. For that reason, members are fighting for local renter’s rights policies to include: Translated Leases, Mandatory Receipts as well as a Free Legal Clinic. In addition to the lack of renter’s rights in the state, there are also very little options for families searching for dignified and affordable places to live. The group of residents is also fighting for an affordable housing trust fund which would include a community advisory board to allow for thoughtful community engagement and that prioritizes low income and extremely low income residents and projects aimed at serving residents within that income range. These issues rose up from community members speaking out about what mattered most to them, what issues were impacting them the most, and what they believed could be done to truly make changes in their community. The local chapter is comprised of homeowners and renters alike as well as parents, students, and faith leaders who see a need for justice in their community of Westminster, Colorado.

Nobody working full time should be living on poverty wages.

People shouldn’t have to choose between food on the table and healthcare. If you don’t think a livable wage is worth the fight, think about this:

  • More than half of Colorado’s minimum wage workers are women, and 1 in 2 Colorado moms are the main breadwinner for their family
  • In most parts of the state, even a single adult would fall short of meeting their basic needs while working a minimum wage job without relying on public assistance to make ends meet
  • There’s nowhere in the state where you can raise a family on $8.31 per hour.
  • On today’s minimum wage, Coloradans working full time only make $300/week. Nobody can survive on that
  • “A number of studies on the impacts of increasing the minimum wage have shown that these policies reduce the risk of early childbirth, raise birth weight, and improve infants’ future educational and financial prospects.” – Colorado Children’s Campaign
  • The number of small businesses and people working in small business increased more in states with higher minimum wages than in states with wages set at the lower federal minimum. http://ampr.gs/2eKuwtJ

In 2016, UNE joined a coalition of nonprofits, labor unions, national partners and affiliates, think tanks, legislators and community members, to PASS a measure to increase the minimum wage in Colorado from $8.31 to $12 by 2020! This is the first increase to the minimum wage in 10 years! Amendment 70 is going to make a difference in the lives of 480,000 Colorado workers! The wage increase will help working people pay their bills on time, put food on their table, raise their kids, and pay for their ever increasing housing costs.

This victory proves that the majority of voters are interested in building a better economy, one that works for all Colorado residents, not just the wealthy and well connected. It is a loud statement about our values for dignity, equity, and justice.

UNE has long been a key player in combating wage theft in Colorado. Beginning in 2006, UNE partnered with El Centro Humanitario and Rights for All People to support workers in taking direct action to recover their wages, while also pushing policy change strategies at the municipal and state levels.  UNE convened the wage theft task force, made up of state officials, local advocates and wage theft victims to generate solutions.  Galvanized by supports from the task force in 2012, UNE convened a coalition of organizational partners to push wage theft legislation at the state house.  After 2 failed attempts, the coalition successfully advocated for the 2014 passage of the Wage Protection Act, which allowed the state of Colorado to hire 17 wage claim investigators, who received over 4,000 complaints in the first half of 2017, resulting in the payment of over $793,000 in back wages to workers and over $1 million in penalties.