What is the California Federation of Teachers?
- The California Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals affiliated with the more than 1.7 million member American Federation of Teachers, and through it with the AFL-CIO.
- The CFT comprises the state’s 148 local unions chartered by the AFT. Each local is affiliated with its regional AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and the California Labor Federation.
- Through its local unions, the CFT represents more than 120,000 educational employees working at every level of public and private education from Head Start to the University of California.
- In all segments of education, the CFT is committed to promoting high-quality education and to securing the conditions necessary to provide the best services to California’s students.
Why is there a CFT?
- The CFT was founded in 1919 to provide a labor union alternative for classroom teachers. To gain employee rights taken for granted by other workers, CFT lawyers and courageous teachers tested the courts again and again, building a strong body of case law. One observer said, “The AFT in California is responsible for having won 90 percent of the cases dealing with teachers’ rights during the 1960s.”
- To provide essential workplace rights, the CFT in 1953 introduced the first teachers’ collective bargaining bill in the California Legislature. It reintroduced similar bills for the following two decades, until passage of the Educational Employment Relations Act in 1975 finally brought collective bargaining rights to K–14 teachers and classified employees working in public education. Since then CFT has represented these employees in professional and employment-related matters.
- Three years later, in 1978, CFT helped pass the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act, bringing the benefits of collective bargaining to university employees. Today the CFT represents lecturers and librarians at the University of California.
What has CFT achieved?
- PRE-K AND K–12 TEACHERS The CFT leads the state’s movement for quality education based on high academic standards for both students and teachers. Through the collective bargaining contract, AFT unions became trailblazers in establishing successful peer assistance and review programs, and other professional development, still in place today. CFT works to secure universal preschool for all California children as well as lifelong learning for adults.
- CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES AND PARAPROFESSIONALS The union works to ensure that classified employees are recognized for the valuable work they perform. CFT believes the work of qualified school and college support staff is essential to building strong campus communities and enhanced student learning.
- COMMUNITY COLLEGE FACULTY Representing a majority of faculty in California, the CFT supports a strong core of full-time faculty and seeks to reach the system goal of having 75 percent full-time and 25 percent part-time faculty. To better the working conditions of more than 30,000 part-time faculty, CFT has worked in coalition to win equity funding to boost salaries. The CFT continues to seek legislation that will end the exploitation of part-time instructors.
- UC LIBRARIANS AND LECTURERS The CFT organizes academic workers at the University of California and has negotiated one of the best contracts in the nation for non-tenured faculty.
- PRIVATE SCHOOL AND COLLEGE FACULTY AND STAFF The CFT organizes education workers at private schools and colleges, Head Start, and job training centers who need a union on their side to secure the most basic employee rights.
The CFT passes resolutions on a wide range of issues that affect members in our different membership constituencies and that address other state, national and international issues of importance to the union and to our vision for California and beyond. Many resolutions are passed at the union’s biennial Convention, but the State Council and Executive Council also adopt resolutions.
The CFT has partnered with numerous progressive community organizations that share common goals and philosophies. By combining forces, we have achieved significant victories, including passage of Proposition 30, the voter-approved ballot measure that provided more funding for public services. Similarly, our coalitions helped extend those taxes four years later when voters approved Proposition 55.
Decade-by-decade summaries tell the history of the CFT from 1919 to 1989 and resulted in the book, 70 Years: A History of the California Federation of Teachers. Following the sections about CFT, you will find histories of 40 AFT local unions in California, as submitted by the locals.