The “Voice of the Union” changes with the times

The committed activists who formed the California State Federation of Teachers in 1919 recognized from the beginning the need for communications among their far-flung members. From rudimentary origins, the California Teacher grew in every way and has been published in print for 70 years.

1940s Fledgling Federation mails mimeographed newsletter
In 1946, with only nine AFT locals in California, the handful of delegates to the CSFT convention committed to publish a statewide newsletter four times a year, calling the need for an official publication “urgent.”

That promise was fulfilled in August 1948 when the first California Teacher, edited by the union’s elected corresponding secretary, Emma Brubaker, was distributed to the CSFT’s few hundred members. The five-page newsletter was set on a typewriter in a single column of text, mimeographed on orange paper, and described as “brief but potent.”

The first issue stated: “We believe that the newsletter can serve as a clearinghouse on the programs and problems developing among California locals and as an organ for the exchange of valuable ideas. We could all benefit by the programs and achievements thus published.”

1950s Editor replaced for supporting expelled locals
Heading into the decade with about 1,000 members, President Ben Rust led the union into a stable statewide presence in part through regular meetings and publications.

The union’s corresponding secretary, Fred Clayson, a Salinas High School math teacher, edited the California Teacher. Production moved from mimeograph to offset printing at a union shop, and from five to eight pages.

To increase its reach, the CSFT solicited articles from other unions, including the barbers, bottle blowers, carpenters, machinists, dairy employees, and retail clerks. The cover shown here displays the original AFT logo and features a custom illustration with a union tradesman reaching out to lift a teacher onto “solid union footing.”

In a decade dominated by McCarthyism and loyalty oaths, Clayson in 1954 published an unprecedented two-color, 24-page issue, which supported then-expelled left-wing AFT locals. The CSFT executive council replaced him with another officer, Floyd Lyle, a teacher at San Bernardino High School.

1960s The move to a tabloid newspaper
In 1960, the California Teacher was first published as a tabloid-sized newspaper with black-and-white photographs. Typical for the era, the paper was printed in black ink only. It proudly displayed a print shop’s union “bug,” as it would for the next five decades. Daniel Knapp edited the new four-page paper, followed by Robert Hall.

1970s Newspaper tracks collective bargaining victories
In 1970, with Raoul Teilhet as president and collective bargaining soon to become the law of the land, CFT Senior Vice President Miles Myers, an English teacher from Oakland, became editor in addition to his volunteer duties as the second-in-charge union officer. 

The tabloid newspaper grew to 12 pages and added a second color to complement the black. After collective bargaining was won, the California Teacher diligently tallied union representational elections won and lost. Myers edited the newspaper for 15 years.

1980s Publication brings voice to new local unions
In 1985, Teilhet stepped down and Myers was elected CFT president.

At that time, Russell Hill, a Marin County high school English teacher and former president of the Tamalpais Federation of Teachers, took over as editor.

Hill expanded coverage to include more professional issues. It was still a tabloid newspaper of usually eight pages, published six times annually, and mailed to nearly 60,000 members.

1990s Communications staffers edit newspaper
When CFT began to employ specialists in addition to field representatives, Fred Glass, the first full-time communications staffer, began editing the California Teacher. 

In 1995, as Glass worked full-time on CFT’s labor curriculum project, the communications department grew, and the torch was passed to Jane Hundertmark, who became the second woman to edit the all-union newsletter, then a 12-page newspaper published five times annually.

2000s The leap from newspaper to magazine
In 2004, California Teacher was restructured to dedicate a section for each division of the CFT, giving equal voice to each and publicizing the diverse issues of education workers for all to read. It grew to 16 pages. Unionized professional graphic artists helped realize the goal of full-color publishing and photo covers. Photography began to go digital.

After nearly five decades as a tabloid newspaper, the publication graduated to a 16-page, large-format magazine to allow for higher quality reproduction of the growing number of color images. It was mailed to nearly 80,000 members four times during the academic year and could be viewed on the CFT website.

PRESENT DAY Magazine tells member stories
The magazine continues to be the “Voice of the Union,” recording events and issues that define the CFT. It pictures rank-and-file members and portrays the education workplace through professional photographs.

In 2016, California Teacher is redesigned to a contemporary-for-the-times smaller-sized magazine, and grows to 24 pages. Through continuous union organizing, the publication reaches its largest-ever circulation to 110,000 members. Hundertmark becomes its longest serving editor.
Over the years, California Teacher has won dozens of awards for its photography, design, and high-quality reporting covering the issues and actions of CFT and its members.

Anticipating financial pressure from the U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME, the CFT will end the print magazine and switch to online publication only. Members will receive the same high-quality stories by email and by following CFT on social media. The CFT website will be the hub of digital communications. Welcome to our new era!