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Pinellas County educators rally for veteran teachers to be paid fairly

The rally called on local legislators to vote 'no' on two bills that opponents say are anti-union and don't adequately support veteran educators.

LARGO, Fla. — Rain didn't stop teachers, support staff, and union leaders in Pinellas County from rallying along West Bay Drive in Largo on Tuesday afternoon.

Participating Pinellas teachers and support staff are fighting for veteran educators to get paid fairly. They're also against two proposed bills they say would make it more difficult for teachers and support staff to join unions and weaken union protections.

The unions are calling on county representatives to oppose the bills, which impact collective bargaining agreements.

In a change.org petition, the Pinellas Education Staff Professional Association (PESPA) wrote, "We are calling on Pinellas County legislators Senator Ed Hooper, Senator Darryl Ervin Rouson and Representative Chris Latvala to listen to the voices of their constituents and vote NO on SB 1014 and its companion HB 835."

To read more about SB 1014, click here. To read more about HB 835, click here.

The petition has more than 170 signatures as of Tuesday evening. 

Rally organizer and Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association Executive Director Lindsey Blankenbaker said Tuesday's gray and rainy weather was a metaphor for their efforts.

"It's a gloomy day, but we're hoping for brighter days ahead," Blankenbaker said. "And that really is going to take the support of the community and the support of our representatives in Tallahassee. Our school employees need to be valued, respected, entrusted, and treated as professionals and valued and paid that way."