Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers, Local 3267
Let’s admit that, in 1975, we didn’t know what we were doing.
We became an official Local one afternoon that year in our President John Chronis’ favorite Greek restaurant in Daly City. We were just a chapter of the successful High School District AFT then (since at least 1960) and we planned to stay that way. That’s what we told Raoul Teilhet that afternoon-he had come up to grant us a Local Charter. We then voted against the charter. Raoul then, unmoved by this “democratic confusion,” gave us our charter.
Long before this, our District had been part of a CTA Golden Age. The Superintendent had been a CTA President; so had a number of principals. All administrators were CTA members. We had little to do except be official AFL-CIO members, criticize everyone, and get our names put up on faculty room bulletin boards for not being CTA members. Bob Lasley, John Chronis, Linda Peebles, and Vern Mara kept the AFT going all this time. None of us had much hope for change; we just wanted to be part of the Union, and we were.
Times did change, though. A new school board was elected which was apparently tired of the up pity CTA. It fired the Superintendent. Instead of making the next CTA president a principal, it fired him too! Somewhere in here, the Winton Act was invented. The Board met and conferred, and then it did as it pleased. We called for Collective Bargaining in our flyers; CTA retorted that bargaining was for plumbers! Some teachers remembered that plumbers were making more money than teachers; we got a few new members.
CTA then decided that if the Board would not admire it, then it must be made to do so. Thus, in 1971 we found ourselves On Strike! We were told that this was the first CTA-led strike; if not, it certainly seemed like it. But we were called upon to get Labor Council sanctions for the strike, so that the schools could be shut down. We did it, but then it was remembered that the principals were also CTA members, and had been allowed to remain on the job (!) and so the principals reminded us strikers that if we didn’t let these maintenance guys and electricians and garbage men through the picket-lines, then the school would have to close down, which was against the principal fellow-members’ best interests, so, of course, we were directed to let the puzzled workers cross the picket-lines. That is the kind of thing that psychiatrists call neurotic.
The strike lasted five weeks, even though the only issue, after the first day, was whether or not we could get our jobs back. Raoul came up and walked the line and spoke to teachers, over and over, and when we finally slunk back in, we got a few more members.
When collective bargaining became the law, Chronis couldn’t get enough cards signed for us to be on the ballot. CTA claimed, by this time, to have invented collective bargaining, along with the airplane and the game of baseball. John decided that he had done his part for the Union (as he had!) and we elected new officers, Jim Herndon, Arpine Tateosian, Carol Burgoa and David Wright. Herndon served as front-man, Tateosian did all the real work so that he’d be able to remember what was going on, Wright and Burgoa began to organize. The Board did not admire the CTA any more than it had before; it filed out-of-scope charges on everything in the canned CTA contract-proposal. CTA filed counter-charges, and PERB argued about it for some years. CTA signed a hasty, regressive contract.
That was when things got interesting, for right there in black and white was a deal that teachers would all spend a week in June after school was out, a mandatory, unpaid week in so called in-service! No one really thought it would actually happen–just a bargaining ploy, we may have thought but, in the last week of school, CTA lawyers told us we had to do it.
Up to now, this must seem to be more a history of the CTA and the District, than of Local 3267. But now, let’s admit, we suddenly did know what we were doing. Wright called up Marie Whipp who expressed-up those wonderful, yellow AFT T-shirts, enough for all our members and plenty left over for our new members and, on that blue Monday, we became the leadership of the Jefferson School District. Tateosian had the message-passive resistance, perhaps we’ll call it-and organized all teachers around it. The big-shot, imported, idiot in-servicers came with their filmstrips and such; teachers kept total discipline (their reps wore the yellow AFT shirts!) and didn’t yell or demonstrate or break things, just paid no attention, turned their backs, read, played cards, chatted quietly, as if the in-servicers weren’t there. The in-servicers couldn’t bear it; most packed up and left. The District couldn’t bear it either and called it off after three days.
(We don’t mean to imply that the above was fun; it was awful, no one who was there will ever forget it, but it worked, and it may have been the first action teachers in the Jefferson School District took that had worked).
Briefly then, the “success” part. The contract was up and no new one in sight (PERB still arguing) and we held a social that fall and got over 65% of teachers to sign cards for a representational election then and there.
Don Lowry and Rich Mortola joined our team and we campaigned three days every week, after school, in faculty rooms (there were 15 schools) all year long. We began to know our lines by heart; it may be that many teachers did too. We figured to win by a landslide. (We must mention here the artist, Dennis Carr, who made our flyers look like Michelangelo.) CTA perhaps thought so too, and got PERB to call off the election on the grounds of the old, unsettled, out-of-scope charges. We got more cards signed though, and campaigned the same way again, calling for Unity and so on, and in 1980 PERB finally allowed the election to proceed; Norma Labrador drove 10 teachers at a time, all day long, to the polls, and may have lectured them a bit, and we indeed won by a landslide-that is, by two votes. It is a good thing we did, since we had gotten lots of help and advice from Tom Martin and Raoul and National AFT Reps and, admittedly, didn’t always take the advice. There followed another year in court, since CTA accused Martin and Herndon of illegally embracing women teachers on their way in to vote. The election was finally allowed to stand. The judge wrote that even though Martin and Herndon probably did embrace these ladies, those embraces had no effect on the outcome.
Outside of the terrible effect of that judgment on Martin’s and Herndon’s vanity, the rest is normal. We signed our first contract in 1981, a very good one, we think, with excellent medical benefits, early-retirement options, job and transfer protection-plus good money. Dorothy Baylin, Karen Boyle, Phil Davis and Dolly Keefe had joined the bargaining team. We had invaluable help from Tom Martin. Later, CTA made a couple of half-hearted attempts to de-certify us; now we did win by landslides. We’ve just bargained our third, 3-year contract now; we’ve added better class-size language, gotten back sabbaticals, improved retiree-options and benefits, got decent money, and kept the good things we had. Chronis, Mara, Herndon and Tateosian have retired. Lasley, Peebles, Burgoa, Mortola and Lowry have resigned. We’ve a new President, Adrienne Zanini, new officers, Jason Anderson, Patrice Duffy, Carolyn Jaramillo, Richard Martin, Maxine Riley, Pat McGraw. We have super Building Reps. We’ve got about 35 new teachers this year, Maxine is the Mentor Teacher for new teachers, and you can bet they’ll get organized. We guess we’re in business.
(The Historical Division, Local 3267, AFT/AFL-CIO, contributor)