Janet Hedlund
Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers


Ben Rust Award 1996

Janet Hedlund came to the union in the ordinary course of her teaching career, acting on her belief that all education workers should make union activity a part of their careers. Janet made it central to hers.

A native South Dakotan, Janet attended the University of Southern California, and received her bachelor’s degree from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois in 1959. After three years of teaching in Illinois and Florida, she and her growing family moved back to California. Her husband, Arnold, served as a Salinas Elementary School District board member and school administrator in Monterey, making for lively discussions. They have two children and one grandchild.

Jan returned to teaching in Salinas in 1965 as a substitute, then as a full-time teacher. She spent most of her teaching career at Salinas High School working in special education. She became active in AFT the first year of her full-time teaching, 1968-69, and has served as an officer or building representative almost ever since. She says, “I joined AFT because people I respected most as teachers were members.”

Janet was president of the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1020, when the local won bargaining rights in 1977, and held that office for 20 years. For most of those years, she also led the bargaining teams as chief negotiator, leading the local to good contracts against often recalcitrant administrations. Just as Janet knew the district’s budget better than the administration, she also knew the SVFT contract better, and used that knowledge to see that the union won every major grievance/arbitration during her tenure. Jan retired from the classroom four years ago and as president of SVFT last July. Under her leadership, SVFT was a leader among CFT locals in organizing and raising funds to fight Proposition 174.

Jan became a vice president of CFT in 1979, serving as Senior Vice President under Presidents Miles Myers and Marvin Katz. In that role she chaired the CFT Convention and was perhaps the most conscientious member of the Executive Committee. Jan represented the CFT on Superintendent Bill Honig’s High School Task Force and has testified before the legislative committees on safety issues and violence in schools. She participated as a CFT representative in the activities of the state PTA, giving that organization the perspective of a union teacher and leader as it sought a role in collective bargaining.

Jan played a key role in making the CFT Early Childhood/K-12 Council a reality, having served on its first bylaws committee, and then as its secretary from 1991-1995. She was the first chair of the Safe and Non-Violent Schools Committee, and last year she won the “Pride of the Union” award for Unsung Heroism.

Throughout her career in the AFT, Jan demonstrated through word and action her uncompromising dedication to union ideals. She has served as a powerful model at State Council and Executive Council, always prepared and focused on the business at hand. She could listen to a presentation on complex issues and ask the single most important question, cutting right to the heart of things. Janet Hedlund joins the august ranks of Ben Rust Award recipients and honors it by her presence.