AFT Colorado was organized as the Colorado Federation of Teachers, and was chartered October 26, 1946. In the early years there was no collective bargaining for Colorado teachers, but the CFT was effective in gaining improved working conditions for teachers and better learning conditions for students. Along with the Denver Federation of Teachers, CFT proposed statewide tenure laws, teacher certification standards, school district reorganization, and improved school financing.
Many of these early lobbying activities were directed at improving conditions in Colorado schools. CFT was successful in getting the first statewide teacher tenure bill passed in 1949 and helped to draft state aide education to equalize funding for Colorado’s public schools. CFT also fought to protect teacher rights by working to protect them from charges by unnamed individuals and urging “right to join” rules at the state and local level.
In 1962 CFT launched a collective bargaining campaign for Colorado teachers. While no statewide collective bargaining agreement has every been achieved, teachers took the campaign to the local level and won bargaining rights in many Colorado school districts. It was not until 1967 that the Denver School Board became the first in Colorado to approve a collective bargaining election.
In the years since collective bargaining began in public schools, additional AFT locals have been chartered in Colorado and numerous contracts have been bargained. In the 1970’s and 1980’s additional teacher locals were chartered and beginning in 1980 the organization began expanding into other areas. The Denver Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals was chartered in 1980 and waged a 14 year battle to gain collective bargaining. The 1980’s also saw the addition of Denver Federation for Paraprofessionals. In the 1990’s we added Public Employees to our organization, and in the new century we brought in addition members through the affiliation of the Colorado Classified School Employees and the formation of a chapter at Metro State College.
The American Federation of Teachers has divisions for Teachers, Paraprofessionals and School Related Personnel, Health Care, Higher Education, and Public Employees; AFT Colorado has locals in all five divisions. Locals affiliated with AFT Colorado bargain contracts for teachers, paraprofessionals, classified school employees, and health care workers. Major organizing projects are underway to win agreements in higher education and the public employees divisions.
AFT Colorado continues to focus on political action, organizing, and professional development as the key growth in membership and influence in Colorado. AFT has awarded the Pride of the Union Award to AFT Colorado for its continued growth and success.