Raoul Teilhet, president of the CFT from 1968 to 1985, who oversaw the successful struggle for a collective bargaining law for education employees, was “a rock star,” said AFT Vice President and United Educators of San Francisco President Dennis Kelly. CFT President Emeritus Miles Myers read a poem and thanked Teilhet for the good times. Long-time CFT staffer Annette Eisenberg told of Teilhet leaving a registration form on her desk after finding out she had never voted, and how he made everyone feel they mattered.

CFT President Emeritus Mary Bergan told of how, working as a lobbyist for the CFT, she would drive from Berkeley to Sacramento in her Mustang with no air conditioning, stop mid-way to use a pay phone and call Teilhet to talk over what was going on. His help was invaluable, she said. “He taught me the union,” Bergan said. “I miss Raoul every day.”

During a general session celebration of Teilhet, who died last year due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, people who had the pleasure of working with the Pasadena history teacher and labor leader, spoke about his humor, his leadership and his love for the union. 

“He taught me the union. I miss Raoul every day.”

Membership in the CFT more than quadrupled under Teilhet’s leadership. He wasn’t afraid of making demands, said the third CFT President Emeritus, Marty Hittelman, talking about how Teilhet led a progressive union, coming out against the Vietnam War, for example, when the AFT supported it. “Raoul showed us how to have courage and how to be disrespectful,” Hittelman said. “He showed us what a union is.”

The stories and jokes (Hittelman recalled Teilhet saying, “Someone who can fog up a mirror,” in response to the question of who makes a good union member) continued at a workshop about Teilhet with many of the same people —and a few more — sharing their memories.

“Raoul showed us how to have courage and how to be disrespectful. He showed us what a union is.”

Former Congressman Howard Berman credited Teilhet for giving him his start when Teilhet hired the unseasoned attorney in the 1960s to fight for the rights of teachers at small school districts around the state.

“Raoul sticks with me to this day,” Berman said. “Not only was he a bright guy and charismatic — he trusted an inexperienced guy who had never been in a trial in his life.”

Myers had put together a slideshow of various highlights of Teilhet’s career- including him with first-time Gov. Jerry Brown and labor leader Cesar Chavez. Along with coming out against the Vietnam War, Teilhet vocally supported affirmative action, and when state senator John Briggs tried to pass an initiative banning gay teachers, Teilhet debated him. Myers showed slides of thousands packing the CFT-led March for Education in 1967 in Sacramento.

>Read more about the life of Raoul Teilhet