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labor It's Official: Pueblo Teachers Approve Contract, Ending Strike

The walkout against the district was the first teachers strike in Colorado in nearly a quarter of a century. Garnering the attention of both the state and nation, the action is the first public-sector workers strike in Pueblo since 1977.

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Suzanne Ethredge w/teachers Saturday

Suzanne Ethredge, president of the Pueblo Education Association, addresses a group of striking teachers during a break in contract negotiations Saturday at the D60 administration building. 

The historic week-long teachers strike against Pueblo City Schools (D60) is now history.

By a 495-62 vote, members of the Pueblo Education Association voted to accept the agreement forged Saturday during a full day of bargaining between union leadership and district representatives.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m. today, PEA President Suzanne Ethredge announced the results of secure, electronic

 based voting that began Saturday, after the agreement was signed.

And with ratification of the two-year contract, teachers will joining paraprofessionals in classrooms Monday.

Members of the Pueblo ParaProfessional Education Association, who went on strike with the teachers, voted 57-2 Saturday afternoon to accept a two-year agreement offered to them by the district following the bargaining session.

Per terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, teachers will this year receive a 2 percent cost-of-living increase retroactive to January 2018, and amnesty — with wages for three of the five strike days covered by the district.

For the upcoming 2018-19 school year and effective Sept. 1, teachers will receive a step on the salary scale, a 2.5 percent COLA and an additional $50 contribution by the district toward the monthly health insurance premium.

Also agreed to was a memorandum of understanding regarding compensation and working hours in relation to the transition to the four-day week.

After a long, hot week of picketing that followed months of impasse and uncertainty, union leadership was appropriately pleased with the voting results.

“I’m feeling really good that our members have ratified both contracts and support what we reached through bargaining,” said Donna Raught, a Colorado Education Association UniServ director and member of the bargaining team for both unions. “We’re going to keep the momentum going, keep all of our members united and work for a better school district.”

Ethredge, the de-facto leader of the strike, was similarly pleased and relieved.

“How do I feel? Other than tired, we’re glad that this has passed,” Ethredge said. “I’m a little surprised (the contract passed with) that wide of a margin, but from what we were hearing, people seemed to have been pretty positive about it.”

Ethredge praised striking educators for the mental and physical fortitude displayed during the five-day action.

“Walking around in the hot sun for five days? It really is taxing,” Ethredge said. “Teachers are used to being on their feet all day long, but not necessarily out on sidewalks with cars honking and people yelling.

“We asked a lot of our teachers and parapros this past week, and they stepped up and did it admirably.”

The walkout against the district was the first teachers strike in Colorado in nearly a quarter of a century. Garnering the attention of both the state and nation, the action is the first public-sector workers strike in Pueblo since 1977, when members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1045 Water Works Employees Union went on strike against the Board of Water Works, according to retired union president Michael L. Leonard.

In addition to making their presence known at school sites and well-traveled thoroughfares, picketers and supporters — including D60 students, parents and union members from throughout the state — gathered outside the administration building for daily rallies that became louder and larger as the week went on.

Emotions ran high, with strikers calling for not only fair compensation, but an increased amount of respect from the district, as well.

With the close of negotiations and the signing of the agreements, the contentious air that permeated the week and months prior cleared somewhat — replaced by the hope that a new era of collaboration and cooperation between the district, its employees and the community at large is on the horizon.

“I do see this as a new start,” Ethredge said. “I think this is a perfect opportunity for it.”