Blog / Equity / Organizational

Equity Statement Update: Healing is Resistance.

December 4, 2023

Here at New Era Colorado, we’re in a *new era* of healing and transformation. In this second update to our organizational equity statement that we first published in August 2020, we are so excited to pull back the curtains and show you how we’re shifting our work behind the scenes to better center equity in everything we do.

New Era Colorado was founded in 2006 with a single, unifying mission: to mobilize and empower young people to shape our democracy. We know that true progressive change is not possible without challenging the racist power dynamics that are woven through the fabric of American society. This update is one way that we hold ourselves accountable to people and partners who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color by acknowledging the organization’s shortcomings and where we need to grow. 

We’ve got big things and big changes planned for 2024. As we head into a new year, we commit to making space for our humanity and healing, accepting that we will make mistakes that will help us learn and grow, and being intentional about everything we do to stay rooted in our values: community; people power; accountability; equity; perseverance, and; creativity and progress.

Organizational Policies and Culture | Reimagining Our Structure | Future of our Work

Organizational Policies and Culture

Recruitment, Hiring, and Interview Processes

After analyzing our 2022 hiring data, we recentered our hiring process to better reflect our values and transformational vision. We found that, while diverse applicants move through the process equitably and increase in representation in each round, we have work to do in diversifying our initial pool of candidates. We’ve also updated our hiring and exit interview processes for both staff and board members by:

  • Focusing the interview process on how potential hires will center equity on the job;
  • Offering interviewees the opportunity to skip a question and request a moment to think at any time and without repercussions;
  • Simplifying the board application process and opening it up publicly; and,
  • Prioritizing recruiting board members from our priority regions through relational organizing.

Not only have we expanded our recruitment practices to advertise full-time jobs on channels for and by Black, brown, and Indigenous workers, but we also are putting a greater emphasis on relational organizing amongst staff networks for our open positions. Because of these changes, we are happy to say that New Era Colorado’s leadership team is more reflective of the communities we serve than ever before–and we are ready to do even better in 2024. 

Embedding Anti-Racist Learning In Our Internal Culture 

We strive to work with an anti-racist lens on all of our issues.

We started working with Regan Byrd Consulting LLC in 2022 when she led multiple trainings on racial justice and allyship. This year, Regan has facilitated even deeper conversations, including one about transformative justice. We plan to work more with Regan in 2024 to align New Era’s internal policies with the transformative justice framework. Our relationship with Soul 2 Soul Sisters has also continued to evolve as we seek to work more closely together in our pursuit of dismantling anti-Black racism. Several employees completed Soul 2 Soul Sisters’ Facing Racism cohort this fall, with more enrolled in the spring 2024 cohort. As we develop our new staffing model, we want to figure out how we can hold space for these conversations amongst seasonal staff members.

This summer, we reformed the Fighting for Racial Equity and Empowerment (FREE) Committee after taking a break due to capacity constraints in early 2023. To be clear: taking a break from holding regular FREE Committee meetings did not mean we took a break from our anti-racism work. During the pause, external facilitators met with staff as we continued to weave anti-racism deeper into the fabric of our organization.

Through the reformed FREE Committee, we are taking a more intentional approach to our identity-based caucusing spaces. The People of Color Caucus was formed with the purpose of healing and building community and the White Caucus for the purpose of accountability and continued education. As New Era Colorado continues to onboard new staff members and grow, we plan to double each of our caucus budgets and to continue to work with facilitators and experts. 

As a full staff, we read “The Whiteness of Wealth” by Dorothy A. Brown for our staff-led book club discussions to learn about the racist roots of the U.S. tax system. Then, we brought our learning full circle with the Colorado Fiscal Institute, an established think tank focused on fiscal and tax policy reform, to further explore how we can co-create a world that young people dream of where resources are distributed equally (not just to a select few) and everyone’s basic needs are met. 

Reimagining Our Structure

Union Formation

Staff members formed the New Era Colorado Union in the summer of 2022. Through unionization, employees ensured that our vision of liberation is represented within our workplace and helped us re-commit to undoing the culture of white supremacy that exists in our society. As organizers and staff carrying out New Era Colorado’s values in our community, we recognize the importance of democratizing the workplace and decisions being made with the sustained and comprehensive input of those who will be most impacted by workplace policy decisions.

New Era Leadership voluntarily recognized two units (one for permanent employees and one for seasonal employees) to bargain at the same table. After the negotiation process, the first Union collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was established in October 2022. The agreement included:

  • Higher wages for all staff,
  • 85% of insurance premiums covered by New Era Colorado,
  • 80 hours per year of paid sick time for all full-time staff,
  • 20 hours per year of paid sick time for all part-time staff,
  • The ability for part-time staff to accrue paid vacation time,
  • Technology stipends,
  • Earlier participation in our employer-matched retirement plan,
  • Access to professional development funds, and,
  • A wage reopener, which happened in spring 2023, in which New Era leadership and the New Era Colorado Union agreed to additional wage increases across the staff.

While lengthy and tumultuous, unionizing truly transformed New Era’s culture. Not only do all staff members now have an equitable seat at our decision-making table, but we also have competitive pay that has enabled us to better foster longevity at the organization. We recognize our alumni’s years of work to transform New Era’s workplace culture and are grateful for the strong foundation they set for our first Union contract.

Collective bargaining agreements are rightfully meant to protect workers’ rights and directly challenge the culture of white supremacy, and the prescriptive bargaining process between Union staff and leadership inherently creates conflict. However, there is no positive change without discomfort and conflict. Each of us is committed to moving New Era forward in partnership.

While the Union CBA was a very necessary step in our organization’s transformation, we recognize that it cannot and will not be the end of our efforts to create a sustainable organizing and seasonal staffing model. This process forced us to grapple with this recurring challenge, which harmed many Black and brown staff members who have historically represented a large number of our seasonal staffers. It also informed our shift to deeper, more holistic organizing. In order to transform into a power-building organization, we recognized that we needed to invest in quality over quantity, which requires year-round organizers who are embedded in the communities New Era serves. 

In December of 2022, we paused the seasonal program and made the difficult decision to lay off all seasonal employees. This decision was New Era’s “hail Mary.” After seeing staff struggles and recognizing that our previous seasonal model was negatively impacting our staff and our community we care about, we knew we had to start from scratch in order to build a new organizing model on the foundations of equity and sustainability. This lead to the creation of the Regional Lead Organizer model, which we implemented in 2023. As we move forward and continue to shape this work ahead of the 2024 elections, we commit to being honest and transparent while centering the value of building real community connections through fieldwork.

Programmatic Shifts

The new regional organizing model is energizing our work at New Era Colorado and recentering us in what matters most: our communities. Under the leadership of Organizing Director Arianna Morales, the Regional Lead Organizers in the northern, southern, western, Boulder, and Denver regions keep their ears to the ground to figure out how best to create change together with their communities. New Era Colorado’s transition from being solely focused on voter registration and youth turnout into an organization with a multi-issue agenda has been no small feat, and we still have room for growth in moving to a base-building organization. Some of the ways we are working toward this transformation include a de-emphasis on numbers as goals in the field, prioritizing the quality of our field conversations, and furthering our local partnerships in each of our regional hubs. 

As we continue to fortify our presence in these regional hubs, we’re excited to integrate leadership development at the local level so we can connect young people with the tools they need to find and build their political home.

Future of our Work

Amplifying the Youth Agenda in 2024

We debuted the Youth Agenda in the summer of 2022 to guide what New Era Colorado does every day, from whom we talk with to what we fight for. The Youth Agenda is centered in racial justice, young people’s top issue, and operates under an abolitionist and anti-racist framework.

What better way to put agency behind the Youth Agenda than supporting Youth Agenda political candidates? We are SO stoked to share that in 2024, New Era Colorado Action Fund (NECAF) will release endorsements for our priority races! This new work will enable us to hold elected officials accountable to the Youth Agenda before AND after elections. 

Under the direction of Political Director Natasha Berwick, we build our policies directly based on our communities’ needs through an anti-racist lens. In partnership with the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunities and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), we successfully passed the first-of-its-kind U.S. law, SB23-190, to regulate anti-abortion centers’ deceptive practices and their unethical use of experimental “abortion pill reversal” (APR) treatments. This policy centered the lived experiences of young people, low-income Coloradans, immigrants, and people of color.

Our priority for Colorado’s 2024 legislative session is economic justice, including tax and affordable housing policies. This means we are working closely with partner organizations in the Colorado Homes for All coalition to push for more affordable housing and renter protections and the Together We Thrive partner table to push for progressive tax reforms. 

The most difficult part of our policy work is balancing the visionary ideals young people have for our world while living in the existing world. Young people aren’t held back by pessimism or allegiance to the way things are or have been, but our systems are. To ensure that the policies we support never burden the most impacted communities, we rely on close collaboration with our partners led by Black, indigenous, and leaders of color and refer to the following policy frameworks and resources:

Looking Ahead: A Youth-Powered Future

Our new regional organizing model is centered on growing existing youth leaders, students and non-students alike, by connecting them with the tools and autonomy to build their own political homes in their own communities. We hope to further integrate our regional model with leadership development by offering our base of 18-34-year-olds a true pipeline into New Era Colorado and progressive politics as a whole. 

Our goal is to create a program that empowers young people, especially young people of color, to organize and access resources to lead their work. By bringing more members into our base and growing them as volunteers, we hope to expand their political experience by connecting them with paid internship opportunities across departments at New Era Colorado and preparing them to run for an office of their own.

Through this base-building, we hope to further recruit and grow young people to run for elected offices and break down their barriers to entry in what has historically been a space dominated by white men. As you may well know, connections and money are entirely too important in our current political system. At New Era Colorado, we have built nearly two decades’ worth of connections and resources–and we reject the system of gate-keeping that tries to stop us from sharing them. We’re excited to see what we can do when we bring together and elect Youth Agenda champions, both at the local level and across Colorado. Make sure you’re on our email list to be a part of the change