Teachers' Union of the City of New York

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The Teachers' Union of New York City (TU) was known as one of the country's most militant and influential teachers' organizations. It consistently addressed not only issues of salaries and pensions for its members, but also broader social concerns, from educational reforms to racial justice and international relations.

From the description of Minutes [microform], 1918-1942. (New York University). WorldCat record id: 590661999

From the description of Minutes of the Executive Board of the Teachers' Union of New York City [microform], 1929-1963. (New York University). WorldCat record id: 590661994

The Teacher's Union, Local 5, was organized in 1916 as an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, (A.F. of L.) by Henry R. Linville, Abraham Lefkowitz and a few other pioneering teachers in New York City.

Perhaps the most significant contribution of the T.U. during those early years was its fight on behalf of civil liberties, an area in which it would later become a formidable combatant. Its principal target was the repeal of the Lusk laws, statutes which allowed for the revocation of a teacher's license "if he is not of good moral character -- or if by act or utterance he shows that he will not support the constitution of the State or of the United States of America.".

During the 1920's the T.U. continued its fight for increased salaries commensurate with the higher cost of living, reduced classroom size, tenure for teachers, improvements in the pension system, and increased state aid education. Unfortunately, the results rarely met the organization's expectations.

About 1925, organized political factions began appearing within the T.U.'s ranks. After 1929, two such groups were dominant in their opposition to the majority organization: the "Rank and File" group which represented the official Communist Party of America, and the "Progressive" group which represented a faction within the Communist movement opposed to the official party.

The leadership of Local 5 soon realized that it was helpless in the factional battle that ensued because of an overly liberal constitution, which had been designed to insure the rights of all minority groups whatever their objectives. In an attempt to rid its house of revolutionary elements, on October 27, 1932, at a large membership meeting, a Committee of Five was selected to try five members of the Rank and File group and one member of the Progressive group on the charge of disruptive conduct.

John Dewey, chairman, delivered the unanimous report of the Committee on April 29, 1933 before a Membership meeting of approximately 800. As was anticipated, the Committee reported that the primary cause of the intolerable strike within the Teachers' Union was due to the existence and activity of the two Communist organized factions. With the support of both the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly, the local petitioned the national office to investigate the local and sought to have the local's old charter revoked so that a new local might be formed without the Communist element.

In May 1935, the national office sent an investigating committee composed of its president, secretary-treasurer and its Washington representative. The Committee's finding was that the local union "was 'helpless' and 'completely at the mercy of a small obstructionist group in the local', and that the obstructionist's group was itself 'not free to formulate its own policies but was subject to a political force which is itself fundamentally opposed to basic principles for which the union attends.'".

Despite this report of the investigating committee, a request by the administration of the Teachers Union to reorganize the local was turned down at the A.F.T. National Convention in August 1935 by a vote of 100 to 79. As a result, October 1, 1935, Henry R. Linville and Abraham Lefkowitz led eight hundred dissatisfied members out of the Teachers Union and into the newly formed independent Teachers Guild. Also among the seceding members were all the officers (with the exception of one) and a majority of the Executive Board.

In 1936, the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor, as a result of testimony taken before a sub-committee in Washington, recommended to the American Federation of Teachers that it revoke the charter issued to Teachers Union Local 5. The A.F.T., however, did not see fit to abide by this recommendation.

On March 15, 1938 the Greater New York Central Trades and Labor Council suspended the Teachers Union from membership in its organization. Also in March, Teachers Union, Local 5 was expelled from the Joint Committee of Teachers Organizations of New York City.

Again in 1941, the subject of Local 5's charter revocation came up before the American Federation of teachers. However, this time the Executive Council recommended (with one dissenting vote) revocation and their action was overwhelmingly endorsed by the delegates at the Conventions in August 1941, at Detroit. After having its charter revoked, the Teachers Unions continued as Local 555 of the United Public Workers of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The C.I.O. in February 1950 expelled the United Public Workers due to its alleged Communist domination. The Teachers Union, however, continued its association with the U.P.W. until it withdrew in February 1952.

Finally, in 1964, at the suggestion of Rose Russell, one of the T.U.'s guiding lights, the annual convention dissolved the T.U. with the recommendation that its members unite with the other forces in the New York City Teachers Movement. On June 20, prior to the 1941 Convention, the Teachers Guild accepted the offer of a charter and was reunited with the American Federation of Teachers. Although it retained its name of the Teachers Guild, it was now designated Local 2, AFT.

The Teachers Guild during this period increased in both size and strength. In March, 1960, the Teachers Guild merged with the CATU (Committee of Action Through Unity) to form the United Federation of Teachers. Under the auspices of the New York City Labor Department and empowered by the Board of Education, a representation election was scheduled and held on December 15, 1961. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of the U.F.T. (Local 2, AFT) and so the following August the Board of Education and the U.F.T. entered into their first collective bargaining relationship.

From the description of Teachers Union of the City of New York. Records, 1921-1942. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 64061682

The Teacher's Union, Local 5, was organized in 1916 as an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, (A.F. of L.) by Henry R. Linville, Abraham Lefkowitz and a few other pioneering teachers in New York City.

Perhaps the most significant contribution of the T.U. during those early years was its fight on behalf of civil liberties, an area in which it would later become a formidable combatant. Its principal target was the repeal of the Lusk laws, statutes which allowed for the revocation of a teacher's license "if he is not of good moral character -- or if by act or utterance he shows that he will not support the constitution of the State or of the United States of America."

During the 1920's the T.U. continued its fight for increased salaries commensurate with the higher cost of living, reduced classroom size, tenure for teachers, improvements in the pension system, and increased state aid education. Unfortunately, the results rarely met the organization's expectations.

About 1925, organized political factions began appearing within the T.U.'s ranks. After 1929, two such groups were dominant in their opposition to the majority organization: the "Rank and File" group which represented the official Communist Party of America, and the "Progressive" group which represented a faction within the Communist movement opposed to the official party.

The leadership of Local 5 soon realized that it was helpless in the factional battle that ensued because of an overly liberal constitution, which had been designed to insure the rights of all minority groups whatever their objectives. In an attempt to rid its house of revolutionary elements, on October 27, 1932, at a large membership meeting, a Committee of Five was selected to try five members of the Rank and File group and one member of the Progressive group on the charge of disruptive conduct.

John Dewey, chairman, delivered the unanimous report of the Committee on April 29, 1933 before a Membership meeting of approximately 800. As was anticipated, the Committee reported that the primary cause of the intolerable strike within the Teachers' Union was due to the existence and activity of the two Communist organized factions. With the support of both the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly, the local petitioned the national office to investigate the local and sought to have the local's old charter revoked so that a new local might be formed without the Communist element.

In May 1935, the national office sent an investigating committee composed of its president, secretary-treasurer and its Washington representative. The Committee's finding was that the local union "was 'helpless' and 'completely at the mercy of a small obstructionist group in the local', and that the obstructionist's group was itself 'not free to formulate its own policies but was subject to a political force which is itself fundamentally opposed to basic principles for which the union attends.'"

Despite this report of the investigating committee, a request by the administration of the Teachers Union to reorganize the local was turned down at the A.F.T. National Convention in August 1935 by a vote of 100 to 79. As a result, October 1, 1935, Henry R. Linville and Abraham Lefkowitz led eight hundred dissatisfied members out of the Teachers Union and into the newly formed independent Teachers Guild. Also among the seceding members were all the officers (with the exception of one) and a majority of the Executive Board.

In 1936, the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor, as a result of testimony taken before a sub-committee in Washington, recommended to the American Federation of Teachers that it revoke the charter issued to Teachers Union Local 5. The A.F.T., however, did not see fit to abide by this recommendation.

On March 15, 1938 the Greater New York Central Trades and Labor Council suspended the Teachers Union from membership in its organization. Also in March, Teachers Union, Local 5 was expelled from the Joint Committee of Teachers Organizations of New York City.

Again in 1941, the subject of Local 5's charter revocation came up before the American Federation of teachers. However, this time the Executive Council recommended (with one dissenting vote) revocation and their action was overwhelmingly endorsed by the delegates at the Conventions in August 1941, at Detroit. After having its charter revoked, the Teachers Unions continued as Local 555 of the United Public Workers of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The C.I.O. in February 1950 expelled the United Public Workers due to its alleged Communist domination. The Teachers Union, however, continued its association with the U.P.W. until it withdrew in February 1952.

Finally, in 1964, at the suggestion of Rose Russell, one of the T.U.'s guiding lights, the annual convention dissolved the T.U. with the recommendation that its members unite with the other forces in the New York City Teacher's Movement. On June 20, prior to the 1941 Convention, the Teachers Guild accepted the offer of a charter and was reunited with the American Federation of Teachers. Although it retained its name of the Teachers Guild, it was now designated Local 2, AFT.

The Teachers Guild during this period increased in both size and strength. In March, 1960, the Teachers Guild merged with the CATU (Committee of Action Through Unity) to form the United Federation of Teachers. Under the auspices of the New York City Labor Department and empowered by the Board of Education, a representation election was scheduled and held on December 15, 1961. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of the U.F.T. (Local 2, AFT) and so the following August the Board of Education and the U.F.T. entered into their first collective bargaining relationship.

From the guide to the Teachers Union of the City of New York. Records, 1921-1942, (Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn New York State Labor Documentation Project, 1863-1992. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Board of Higher Education of the City of New York: Academic Freedom Case Files, 1941-1956 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Adler, Irving. Papers, 1929-2002. New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1924-1936. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library.
creatorOf Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Minutes of the Executive Board of the Teachers' Union of New York City [microform], 1929-1963. Churchill County Museum
creatorOf Teachers Union of the City of New York. Records, 1921-1942 Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University.
creatorOf Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Minutes [microform], 1918-1942. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Sophie-Louise Ullman Teachers Union Documentary Film Project, 1997 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Papers, 1916-1964. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
referencedIn United Federation of Teachers. Oral histories [sound recording], 1985-1987. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Victor Rabinowitz Papers, Bulk, 1955-1980, 1918-2003, (Bulk 1955-1980) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Frederic Ewen Papers, Bulk, 1940-1970, 1915-1988, (Bulk 1940-1970) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Hendley, Charles J. Charles James Hendley Papers 1914-1962 (bulk 1930-1960). New York University, Tamiment Library
referencedIn Unger, Abraham 1899-1975. Abraham Unger Papers 1936-1976, undated. New York University, Tamiment Library
creatorOf Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Additional records. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Ewen, Frederic, 1899-. Papers, 1915-1988 (bulk 1940-1970). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn David Weiner Papers, undated Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Irving Adler Papers, 1929-2009 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Teachers' Union of the City of New York:, Dreamers and Fighters: The NYC Teacher Purges, Documentary Film Project, undated Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Charles James Hendley Papers, Bulk, 1930-1960, 1914-1962 (bulk 1930-1960) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Abraham Unger Papers, 1936-1976, undated Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Teachers Union of the City of New York. Records, 1921-1942. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Correspondence to Van Wyck Brooks, 1954. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn United Federation of Teachers Records, Bulk, 1960-1985, 1916-2002 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman: Legal Files, Bulk, 1940-1985, 1915-1992, (Bulk 1940-1985) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Sam Wallach Papers and Photographs, Bulk, 1935-1999, 1921-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
creatorOf Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Records, 1916-1964. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Frederic Ewen Papers, Bulk, 1940-1970, 1915-1988, (Bulk 1940-1970) Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn Linville, Henry R. (Henry Richardson), 1866-1941. Henry Richardson Linville papers, 1912-1941. Wayne State University, Archives of Labor & Urban Affairs
referencedIn Grossman, Mildred, 1916-1988. Mildred Grossman papers, 1929-1995 UMBC, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery
referencedIn May Mandelbaum Edel Papers, undated Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Frederic Ewen Audiotape and Videotape Collection, 1954-1990 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf Teachers' Union of the City of New York. Correspondence with Marian Anderson, 1959. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn United Federation of Teachers Photographs, Part I: Photographic Prints, Bulk, 1970-1979, 1928-1987, (Bulk 1970s) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn May Mandelbaum Edel Papers, undated Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adler, Irving. person
associatedWith American Federation of Teachers. Local 5 (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Edel, May M. (May Mandelbaum), 1909-1964 person
associatedWith Ewen, Frederic, 1899- person
associatedWith Grossman, Mildred, 1916-1988. person
associatedWith Hendley, Charles J. person
associatedWith Lederman, Abraham. person
associatedWith Linville, Henry R. (Henry Richardson), 1866-1941. person
correspondedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
associatedWith Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman. corporateBody
associatedWith Rabinowitz, Victor. person
associatedWith Ullman, Sophie-Louise person
associatedWith Ullman, Sophie-Louise person
associatedWith Unger, Abraham 1899-1975. person
associatedWith United Federation of Teachers. corporateBody
associatedWith Wallach, Sam person
associatedWith Weil, Truda T., d. 1971. person
associatedWith Weiner, David person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
New York (State)--New York
New York State--New York
New York (State)--New York
New York (State)--New York
Subject
Teachers' unions--Sources
Civil rights
Teachers' unions--History
Labor unions and communism
Teachers' unions
Teachers'--New York (State)--New York
Labor unions and communism--New York (State)--New York
Civil rights--New York (State)--New York
Teachers'
Teachers' unions--New York State--New York--Sources
Teachers' unions--New York (State)--New York
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

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