The California Federation of Teachers, representing almost 60,000 educational employees served by CFT contracts throughout the state, is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (almost 800,000 members nationwide), the California Federation of Labor (7.4 million Californians), and the AFL-CIO (14.6 million members nationwide.) We have 24 service centers in California, a lobbying office in Sacramento, and a range of special services, from insurance and travel programs to sabbatical boards.

Why did the CFT also think it needed A History of the California Federation of Teachers? Many of the new teachers who have joined the ranks of the CFT in recent years have no knowledge about what the CFT has done to change schools over the last half century. Imagine, for example, that you were being fired because you were over 40 and a woman (Elizabeth Baldwin) or because you wore a beard (Paul Finot), or because you participated in a peaceful political demonstration as a student teacher (Richard Broadhead) or because you wrote a letter-to-the-editor criticizing the administration of the schools (Jack Owens). These events were not uncommon in pre-collective bargaining schools.

The California Federation of Teachers has created school systems in which teachers can participate in community politics, can live alternate life styles in their private lives, and can criticize the administration of their schools. This achievement was possible only because teachers formed unions, and these changes survive only because teachers continue to have unions. In the history book that you hold in your hands, you will discover your roots as an educator and unionist in California. It is my hope that our story–the story of the CFT will inspire you to join with us in the work that still lies ahead.

A History of the California Federation of Teachers should also help us understand the new directions that our union is now exploring. Our history shows us that legal defense, collective bargaining, and political involvement have brought essential changes to our educational systems, but these instruments have not enabled us to restructure teaching and learning to the extent needed by our changing society. To accomplish that goal, we need to work toward the full professionalization of our membership. This means we must establish high standards for both students and colleagues, develop our knowledge base about teaching and learning, expand the ways of knowledge available to students in our classrooms, and assume a major share of the responsibility for the quality of education in our communities.

Today we stand on the verge of bringing this program of professionalization into being. That story remains for the next CFT history book.

Miles Myers, President
California Federation of Teachers
Fall 1989