Tamalpais Federation of Teachers, Local 1985
Chartered in 1969 with ten members, the Tamalpais Federation of Teachers (AFT Local 1985) was initially led by Tamalpais High School teacher Ken Anderson. A year later the reins passed to Redwood High School teacher Russell Hill and the Tamalpais Teacher, the TFT’s award-winning newsletter was born.
Following Hill was Norm Rogers, a Tam librarian, and shortly thereafter Frank Gold, a math teacher at Tam High took over the TFT presidency. An “office” on Gold’s back porch came into being as the union grew in size, organizing became a key strategy, and building representatives and meetings sprang up in all three high schools and both smaller alternative schools in the Southern Marin County district.
The first collective bargaining election in the District and also in the state under the new CB laws gave the TFT representation of Tam teachers. A new contract, the first in the state, was signed, and the presidency passed to Redwood English teacher Mary Donovan. Along the way, Tamalpais teachers staged a successful one-day strike, established a strong grievance record and brought Tamalpais salaries to the top among North Bay districts.
A new office in Larkspur was rented, printing equipment bought, and the TFT began to pay its president a stipend.
The untimely death of Chief Negotiator Duane Miller, a social studies teacher at Sir Francis Drake High School was mourned by all Tamalpais teachers, and a subsequent scholarship set up by the union in his name gifted outstanding students yearly with a $500 college grant.
Tamalpais teachers, in a “now it’s their-turn” mood, voted the TFT out in what was to become a pattern over the next few years.
Although a non-bargaining local, the TFT, now led by Drake math teacher Judy Salem, continued to work hard for Tam teachers and some teachers felt that their “representative” had never changed!
The presidency of the TFT was again assumed by Frank Gold, followed by a term of office held by English teacher Elaine Johnson. During that period the TFT won back the bargaining agent rights, and established a winning record in the courts as a suit-happy superintendent pounded away at teacher rights. Declining enrollment triggered the district’s first mass layoffs during Johnson’s term, which saw past-president Gold elected to a post as a CFT vice- president.
Russell Hill was elected to a second term as TFT president following Johnson and another CB election saw them again on the outside. Johnson became the first AFTer to hold an officer’s post with the Marin County Central Labor Council.
Following Hill, Rogers took the reins for a second time, while Hill took over the job as editor of the CFT’s California Teacher, and Johnson became the CFT representative to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
In a startling move to force the issue of teacher unity, a long-time issue in the Tamalpais District, Rogers also became president of the CTA chapter, holding the presidency of both organizations simultaneously. Although unity talks had been held during Gold and Johnson’s tenures, CTA objections had always scuttled attempts to top the internecine warfare in the Tam District. Now, under Rogers’ leadership, a Joint Executive Council was established, a joint newsletter, the TUHSD Unity replaced the Tamalpais Teacher, and joint building meetings were held in the three high schools.
“Whether we were in or out of bargaining agent status, we never stopped fighting for teacher rights,” comments past-president Gold.
Still very much alive and fighting, despite the fact that the Tamalpais district has shrunk to less than half its former size, the TFT still maintains its Larkspur office and is still a vocal presence in CFT affairs. “Our members were never ‘fair weather’ people,” says Elaine Johnson. “They belong to TFT because they’re committed union workers.”
(Russell Hill, contributor)