Ask any old-timer in the union the question: Who creates new locals? All will answer “Administrators.” For the Oxnard Federation of Teachers the answer is the same.
The local was started in 1955-56 during a tumultuous year. Two teachers were fired simultaneously for writing articles for a local newspaper. The superintendent at that time ran a school system in a super-autocratic fashion, but the numerous veterans from WWII and Korea were unwilling to accept such treatment. The discharge of these two articulate and popular teachers brought instantaneous mass meetings both day and night in protest of their discharges. The night meetings were “beach parties” in which the concept for forming an AFT local was generated. Most teachers at that time were neither CTA or AFT oriented but were supportive of the effort to resist the administrative denigration of teachers.
A vote of no-confidence for the superintendent by the faculty of Oxnard High School resulted in the trustee's decision not to renew the superintendent's contract at the end of the following year. Of the original chartered members only two, Benton Odum and George Bevans, are still shining examples to the new teachers that are arriving yearly.
Local 1273 languished after its original charter with 25-30 teachers paying dues; however, the CTA continued its “collective begging” and was the “bargaining agent,” the AFT local, then called the “Ventura County Federation of Teachers,” being the “watchdog” over the school district.
Though we celebrated the arrival of Collective Bargaining, our party was dampened somewhat by the thought of the work ahead. In the election on October 16, 1980, a new role was identified for the local. In a three to one election victory over the incumbent CTM NEA chapter we won the right to represent all teachers, nurses, and librarians as the exclusive bargaining agent in the district. This writer was the local's treasurer, and the exact dues paying membership was 44 teachers, this being in a district that had over 450 teachers with approximately 350 dues paying members to the CTMNEA! Our success was a result of personal contact and a reputation for honesty, dignity, and integrity.
The work didn't end with that success alone. On May 18, 1982, the local assumed additional leadership responsibilities in a two to one election victory over the incumbent chapter of the California School Employees Association. Our local won the right to represent all classified employees of the Oxnard Union High School District as their bargaining agent. In addition, we worked to obtain bargaining rights for all paraprofessionals and nonmanagement employees. Counselors and psychologists were added to the group in 1986 making the Oxnard Federation the only local to enjoy wall to wall collective bargaining rights in the state of California.
And what do we have to share? Our local has more than doubled the salary schedule. From the maximum of $23,627 at the time of winning bargaining rights we now have a maximum of $44,869 plus $1500 for longevity, placing us in the top 10% of salaries in the state.
Some of the current highlights are the following: (a) a salary-fringe benefit formula assures us of approximately 66% of all district funds, (b) lottery money included in the formula with a 2% raise effective June 1 of this year, (c) teachers of elective classes (shop, home economics, art et. al.) will have parity of class size of 175 maximum student contacts daily without being “dumping grounds,” (d) counselors and psychologists with same protections as teachers with guaranteed ratios, grievance rights, sabbaticals, and release from noon duties, (e) increased clerical help for faculty and nurses, (f) participation in the hiring process with OFT'S designation of representatives on all certificated hiring committees, including teachers, counselors, deans, assistant principals, as well as the district office staff.
We have on-going negotiations with the district office at all times and work for all employees insuring that we will have positive results. We now have fringe benefits of complete medical, dental, vision, and life insurance coverage for all employees and dependents plus complete coverage upon retirement.
This year we kicked-off the year with an address by President Albert Shanker of the AFT, a fete and treat that brought many outsiders to our area and inspired many diffident people to see what can be done with courage, honesty, and dedication. This writer is proud of his 40 years of teaching and 32 years of continuous membership in the greatest group of professionals - the American Federation of Teachers.
(Bill Lundquist, contributor)