United Federation of Teachers

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The Teachers' Union (TU) of New York City was organized in 1916 and chartered as Local 5 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Although constrained by the AFT's no-strike pledge, laws against strikes by public employees, the authoritarian and paternalistic policies of the Board of Education, and the resistance of many teachers to trade-union appeals, the Teacher' Union soon won a reputation for militancy. The Teachers' Union not only addressed the bread and butter issues of salaries, pensions and working conditions, but defended pacifist teachers against dismissal during World War I, and opposed loyalty oaths and other assaults on academic freedom in the 1920s and 30s.

Although the TU had organized a substantial number of the City's teachers by the early 1930s, its efforts were undermined by a growing political struggle within its ranks between a left wing dominated by Communist Party members and their sympathizers, and a more moderate group consisting of socialists, liberals and less ideologically inclined teachers. In 1935 the factional conflict came to a head, and TU president Henry Linville, a moderate, withdrew with a majority of the membership to found the Teachers Guild. The TU continued to fend off attacks on its left-wing politics, culminating in a 1940 investigation by New York's Rapp-Coudert Committee, which declared Communist Party membership sufficient grounds for dismissal from the public school system. In 1941 the AFT revoked the Teachers' Union's charter. The Teachers' Union subsequently affiliated with the United Public Workers of America, which in turn was expelled from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) as a Communist-dominated organization. The TU, weakened by McCarthy-era persecution and the increasingly successful organizing efforts of the rival Teachers Guild (and later the United Federation of Teachers), went out of existence in 1964.

The Teachers Guild, born in the political turmoil of the mid-1930s, addressed the problems of a fragmented workforce, divided into small teachers' organizations representing a multitude of ethnic and religious groups, geographical areas and distinct school levels (elementary, junior high school and high school). To make matters worse, any gains wrung from the Board of Education by teachers' representatives were not legally binding; the unions were often dragged into lengthy court proceedings and lobbying campaigns. In 1941 the Guild, recognized by the American Federation of Teachers, began the long struggle for collective bargaining rights in the New York City school system. A job action initiated by militant leaders of the High School Teachers Association (HSTA) in 1959, gave the Guild an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to building solidarity among all categories of teachers. David Selden, then the Guild's only full-time organizer (and later president of the American Federation of Teachers), enlisted the help of younger Guild Board members such as junior high-school teachers George Altomare and Albert Shanker. After month-long picket lines at schools across the city, substantial gains were won by the high-school teachers, and bridges had been built which would eventually lead toward merger between the Guild and the HSTA. That merger was effected in March 1960, with Guild president Charles Cogen taking over as president of the newly-formed United Federation of Teachers. Samuel Hochberg of the HSTA became deputy president.

The UFT immediately began its campaign to gain collective bargaining rights, and through talks with Mayor Robert F. Wagner, School Superintendent John J. Theobald, Board of Education president Charles H. Silver, Central Labor Council president Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. and other city labor leaders, won a promise of a collective bargaining election in the 1960-1961 school year. When the Board failed to honor its pledge, a one-day work stoppage and broad support from other unions forced the issue. The election, in which the National Education Association (NEA) and the Teachers' Union stood in opposition to the UFT, was held in December 1961. The UFT emerged victorious as the official representative of the City's teachers, winning almost two-thirds of the votes cast. In 1962 bitter contract negotiations with the Board led to a one-day strike supported by 22,000 teachers; this figure represented 52% of the total and considerably more than the 15,000 who were Guild members.

The UFT's first contract, signed in June 1962, included a $1,000 raise, improved grievance procedures, sick leave, sabbatical leave, and compensation for job-related injuries. Teachers responded by swelling the ranks of the new union, and soon specialized chapters were created to accommodate other categories of school employees (for example, laboratory technicians, school secretaries, psychologists, guidance counselors, and para-professionals) who became part of the UFT. When Charles Cogen was elected president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in 1964, he was succeeded by Albert Shanker, who served as president of the UFT from 1964 until 1986.

Albert Shanker was born in New York City in 1928 and educated in the city's public schools and at the University of Illinois and Columbia University. Beginning in 1952 he taught mathematics at Junior High School 126 in Queens and later at JHS 88 in Harlem. As an active member of the Teachers Guild he was instrumental in the merger of unions that created the United Federation of Teachers in 1959-60. After serving as a UFT field representative, editor of the UFT newspaper and UFT secretary, he was elected president of the union in 1964. Albert Shanker's tenure coincided with some of the most challenging times for New York City schools, in an era characterized by rapidly changing demographics, racial conflict, new demands from parents and community-based groups, overcrowded and dilapidated buildings, teacher shortages and citywide fiscal crises.

By the mid-1960s the UFT had more than 50,000 members and was the largest local union in the AFL-CIO. The union responded to changing conditions in the schools by backing the More Effective Schools program, aimed at improving teaching methods in ghetto schools, and other innovative programs. But by September 1967, when contract negotiations with the Board of Education broke down, the teachers were driven to strike to achieve an increase in wages and benefits. In the wake of the strike the union was fined and Shanker sentenced to fifteen days in prison for violation of the state's Taylor Law, banning strikes by public employees. Earlier in the year the city had agreed to implement a school decentralization plan in exchange for increased state funding. The plan, which created three experimental school districts in East Harlem, the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn, was greeted with enthusiasm by African-American and Latino parents who hoped for a greater voice in their children's education. The Board of Education, on the other hand, was suspicious of what it viewed as an attempt to dilute its authority over the schools; and the UFT feared that community control of schools would undermine teachers' hard-won rights and weaken the union's bargaining power. Bitter head-to-head conflict ensued, resulting first in a walk-out of 350 teachers in Ocean Hill-Brownsville and, in September 1968, a highly effective citywide teachers strike. An uneasy settlement, involving a state-appointed trustee in Ocean Hill-Brownsville and reinstatement of displaced teachers, left a legacy of distrust between the union and some community activists and scarred race relations in the city for many years. Shanker, again sentenced to jail for leading the strike, was lionized by many union members and reviled by political opponents as a power-mad opponent of community rights. In succeeding years he greatly expanded the UFT's membership base to include paraprofessionals, school secretaries and other categories of school employees; and he presided over substantial improvements in the union's benefits package.

In 1972 Albert Shanker was a central figure in negotiating the merger of the AFT and the National Education Association (NEA) in New York State. The resulting organization, New York State United Teachers, brought more than 100,000 upstate teachers into the labor movement and was rare example of close and amicable cooperation between the two major national organizations representing teachers. Shanker later became the first teacher to sit on the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO. In 1974 he was elected president of the American Federation of Teachers. Retaining his position as UFT president for some years, Shanker went on to play a key role in re-establishing the city's fiscal stability after the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s, and became a staunch opponent of school vouchers, privatization and other measures likely to weaken public education. He was succeeded as president of the UFT by Sandra Feldman in 1986, and died after a long struggle with cancer in 1997.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Documents re Teachers Action Caucus (TAC-UFT), 1969- Cornell University Library
referencedIn Guide to Sam Reiss 1975 Retrospective Exhibit, 1948-1975 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
creatorOf United Federation of Teachers. Oral histories [sound recording], 1985-1987. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn American Federation of Teachers. Oral histories, 1986-1987. Churchill County Museum
editorOf Guide to the United Federation of Teachers: Italian-American Studies Committee Records, 1978-1987 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
creatorOf United Federation of Teachers. Collection, 1968. © 2011 New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Parrish, Richard F. (Richard Franklin), 1914-1983. Richard Parrish papers (Additions 2), 1932-1976. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Guide to the United Federation of Teachers Photographs, 1928-1998 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the George Altomare United Federation of Teachers Audio Collection, circa 1960-1989 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Feinberg, I. Robert (Irving Robert), 1912-1975. Series 1.General arbitration case files, part b, 1946-1975. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. Jack Sheinkman. Additional books, memorabilia, and files. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Guide to the United Federation of Teachers Records, 1916-2007 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Black Trade Unionists Leadership Committee Records and Photographs, 1968-1987 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
creatorOf Guide to the United Federation of Teachers Hans Weissenstein Negatives, 1949-1977 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Fanny Simon Papers, 1927-1989 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the George Altomare United Federation of Teachers Audio Collection, circa 1960-1989 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the New Yorkers at Work Oral History Collection, 1979-2000 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Tamiment Library Newspapers, 1873-2014 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Jones, Dorothy,. Oral history interview with Dorothy Jones, 1968. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Guide to the Coalition for Education in District 1 Records (Community School District 1 (New York, N.Y.), 1970s Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Andreĭ Sakharov papers, 1852-2002 (inclusive), 1960-1990 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Catherwood, Martin P. (Martin Paul), 1904-1978. Martin P. Catherwood. New York State Joint Legislative Committee on the Taylor Law, staff member's files, 1971-1972. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Inventory to the Steve and Barbara Zeluck Papers, 1940s-2000s Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Hill, James C., 1914-. James C. Hill series 2. Arbitration files, 1958-1976. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Guide to the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives Button and Pin Collection, circa 1930-2009 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Additional papers of Mary Steichen Calderone, (inclusive), (bulk), 1914-1989, 1960-1989 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Guide to the Sol Stetin Papers, 1935-1992, bulk 1972-1989 Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Guide to the United Federation of Teachers Oral History Collection, 1975-1995 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Jablonower, Joseph, 1888-1971. Joseph Jablonower papers, 1912-1966, (bulk 1938-1960). Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Becker, Norma. Papers [microform], 1961-1975. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf United Federation of Teachers. American Federation of Teachers. Local 2. Scrapbook, 1960-1962. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Martin P. Catherwood. New York State Joint Legislative Committee on the Taylor Law, staff member's files, 1971-1972. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives
referencedIn Cole, David Lawrence, 1902-1977. David Lawrence Cole series 4, subseries 1. General case files, 1946-1977. Cornell University Library
creatorOf United Federation of Teachers. Teachers Action Caucus, United Federation of Teachers files. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Guide to the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives Printed Ephemera Collection on the United Federation of Teachers, 1942-2008 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn New York State Labor Documentation Project, 1863-1992. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Guide to the Anne Filardo Papers on Rank and File Activism in the American Federation of Teachers and in the United Federation of Teachers, 1964-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Meier mss., 1927-2010 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Sayer, Albert H. Albert H. Sayer papers, 1936-1965. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Guide to the New Yorkers at Work Oral History Collection, 1979-2000 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Teachers Action Caucus. Records, 1968-1994. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Guide to the Ann Kranjec Fortescue papers, 1964-1976 Brooklyn Historical Society
referencedIn Guide to the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives Moving Images Collection, 1920-1969 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Altomare, George. person
associatedWith Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. corporateBody
associatedWith American Federation of Teachers. corporateBody
associatedWith Beagle, Simon. person
associatedWith Becker, Norma. person
associatedWith Bernhardt, Debra E. person
associatedWith Black Trade Unionists Leadership Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Blum, William. person
associatedWith Calderone, Mary Steichen, 1904-1998 person
associatedWith Catherwood, Martin P. person
associatedWith Catherwood, Martin P. (Martin Paul), 1904-1978. person
associatedWith Coalition for Education in District 1 (Community School District 1 (New York, N.Y.). corporateBody
associatedWith Cogan, Charles. person
associatedWith Cogen, Charles, 1903- person
associatedWith Cole, David Lawrence, 1902-1977. person
associatedWith Cooper-Kemble, Eugenia person
associatedWith DiLorenzo, Jeannette person
associatedWith Espaillat, Edwin person
associatedWith Feinberg, I. Robert (Irving Robert), 1912-1975. person
associatedWith Feldman, Sandra. person
associatedWith Fesko, George. person
associatedWith Filardo, Anne Levine, 1922-2010 person
associatedWith Fortescue, Ann Kranjec person
associatedWith Hill, James C., 1914- person
associatedWith Hoenig, Leo. person
associatedWith Hook, Sydney, 1902- person
associatedWith Jablonower, Joseph, 1888-1971. person
associatedWith Jones, Dorothy, person
associatedWith Kolodny, Jules person
associatedWith Kranjec, Richard person
associatedWith Levine, Sol. person
associatedWith Meier, Deborah person
associatedWith New York State United Teachers. corporateBody
associatedWith Pappas, Tom. person
associatedWith Parrish, Richard F. (Richard Franklin), 1914-1983. person
associatedWith Reiss, Sam. person
associatedWith Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Rosenfield, Neil. person
associatedWith Roth, Gladys. person
associatedWith Rustin, Bayard, 1912-1987. person
associatedWith Sakharov, Andreĭ, 1921-1989 person
associatedWith Sayer, Albert H. person
associatedWith Selden, David. person
associatedWith Seward Park High School. corporateBody
associatedWith Shanker, Albert. person
associatedWith Shapiro, Morris. person
associatedWith Simon, Fanny, 1903-1989 person
associatedWith Simonson, Rebecca. person
associatedWith Stetin, Sol person
associatedWith Tamiment Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Teachers Action Caucus. corporateBody
associatedWith Teachers Action Caucus (United Federation of Teachers). corporateBody
associatedWith Teachers Guild. corporateBody
associatedWith Teachers Guild. corporateBody
associatedWith Teachers Guild. corporateBody
associatedWith Teachers Guild Associates. corporateBody
associatedWith Teachers' Union of the City of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith United Action Caucus (American Federation of Teachers). corporateBody
associatedWith Wagner, Robert F. 1910-1991. person
associatedWith Weinstein, Irving person
associatedWith Zeluck, Steve, 1922-1985 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York City NY US
Subject
Strikes and lockouts--Teachers
Schools--New York (State)--New York
Teachers--New York (State)--New York
Teachers--Interviews
Schools
Teachers' unions--Officials and employees--Interviews
Teachers' unions
Occupation
Activity

Corporate Body

Establishment 1960

English

Information

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