United Teachers of Los Angeles, Local 1021
Local 1021, the largest AFT local in the State of California, has a proud history. Its development may be divided into four distinct epochs.
The first AFT local in Los Angeles was Local 77 founded in 1919. This local struggled to keep afloat in a sea of anti-unionism in Los Angeles. The CFT was born in the same year and included only seven locals. Local 77 did not last through the 1930s.
In 1935 Local 430 was formed and received its AFT charter. By 1939 Local 430 was the largest local in the CFT and played a major role in teacher union issues. It was active in the Central Labor Council and worked to restore pay cuts to teachers. It also was concerned with teacher involvement in curriculum, policy formation, and control at the school site level. The local was very active in school board elections, teacher rights defense causes and important social issues such as equality of opportunity for students regardless of race. The local grew rapidly and reached a membership of about one thousand teachers in 1946.
Local 430’s leadership in the mid to late 1940s changed and the local’s policy emphasis began to focus on social and international issues. The shift was brought to the attention of the 1948 AFT convention by Walter Thomas. This prompted an investigation of Local 430 by the AFT Executive Council. The Washington Teachers Union and San Francisco Local 61 were also examined. The Council had previously investigated locals in New York and Cleveland.
Local 430’s charter was revoked in 1949 for the following reasons:
- The conduct of the local had brought AFT into disrepute;
- The local had not functioned in harmony with the policies and principles of the AFT; and
- The local had dissipated its energies “in agitation and politics unconnected with union objectives”
Thus, the largest AFT local in California was put to death. The President of Local 430, who was also the President of the CFT, was defeated for reelection in 1949. The problem of promoting the Communist Party line rather than organizing and promoting bona fide trade unions was not unique to Los Angeles, the state of California, or the AFT.
Historians may argue whether revocation of 430’s charter was justified and may question whether communist control of the leadership of this local was an accomplished fact. The circumstances surrounding this series of events should be known so that the necessary lesson is learned that policies and programs that disaffect members and the public undermine unionism. The problems of the teamsters’ public image attests to this problem that has hurt all trade unions.
The teachers in Los Angeles formed another AFT local and the AFT Executive Council charted it as Local 1021. This was the third stage in teacher unionism in Los Angeles. Local 1021 started with a membership of about 200 members. The first two presidents were Joe Voorhees and Walt Thomas. Other early leaders include Linnea Alexander, Kay Bell, Blanche Garrison and Hy Weintraub. The unit had a hard time in its infancy and it had to contest a virulent anti-union atmosphere in education and a school administration that fostered membership of “their” teachers in the association which was controlled by those same CTA administrators.
The local blithely ignored its miniscule size in a district of some 15,000 teachers and addressed issues as if it were a majority. It took strong stands on every issue concerning teachers and yet gained very few members. Upon the advice of Carl Megel, National AFT president, the local began a newspaper edited by Eddie Irwin. In 1958 Eddie Irwin was elected President of the local. He turned over the editorship to Bob Crain who was the editor through 1963. In the mid 1950s the President of the local was Martin Kaufman and Hank Zivetz was the Executive Secretary. Hank Zivetz had been hired as the first paid Executive Secretary in 1956 as membership gained ground. His firebrand organizing techniques and inflammatory speeches added many new members. However, the most significant growth in membership occurred in 1958 when Local 1021 negotiated the Kaiser Health Plan for its members. Eddie Irwin, Hank Zivetz, Vice President Harold Gamin, and Evelyn Carstens, the moving force behind the negotiations, were responsible for bringing this exclusive plan to Local 1021. Evelyn Carstens, chair of the local’s Health and Welfare committee was an integral part of the leadership in the 1950s and 1960s. She was much beloved for her untiring efforts to gain health and welfare benefits for the members of this local and all teachers in the district.
With the use of this Kaiser Health Plan as an organizing tool, membership quickly grew to over three thousand members by the end of 1959. The power and prestige of Local 1021 grew with the help of those mentioned previously and Hy Weintraub and Hy Gottof as the local’s representatives to the L.A. Board of Education. Hank Zivetz made a major effort to help pass AB 607, a collective bargaining law, in 1959-1960. EddieIrwin was elected a national AFT Vice President and served in that capacity for ten years. As national Vice President Irwin helped funnel funds and organizing efforts into California. The “Union Teacher,” a four-page tabloid, set the foundation for future growth. It presented the news that the other local organizations didn’t talk about: issues of class size, dictatorial administrators, unfairness, freedom of speech, discipline from the teacher’s point of view, and reports of L.A. Board of Education actions.
Other issues centered around Board of Education elections. The Board was controlled almost completely by the then-ultra conservative L.A. Times. It practiced slanted journalism and lavished coverage on their hand-picked incumbents. Here though, the association, recognizing the necessity of the support of organized labor, joined a community-based coalition, including labor. Along with the AFT, the Association provided money and manpower to defeat the Times and install members more favorable to education.
In 1957, censorship reared its ugly head (and remains an issue today). The Board threatened to censor the “Union Teacher” which had been delivered to teachers in their boxes in school mail. The most curious attempt by the Board was designed to prevent the printing of an article that drew a comparison of the problems that Admiral Rickover might incur if he had to deal with the L.A. Board instead of the U.S. Navy. The administration viewed this as an attack on Admiral Rickover and the entire United States Navy. The Admiral wrote the union that he understood the article to be a spoof directed at the administrators who ran the schools and not an attack on him. His letter was printed in the paper.
The struggle to gain collective bargaining was a major thrust of the union in the late 1950s until 1969. Local 1021 lobbied the Legislature and wrote articles in the “Union Teacher”. Apetition drive to achieve collective bargaining collected over ten thousand signatures. However, collective bargaining didn’t become an actuality until the late 1970s.
The organizing efforts of Local 1021 took new shape in 1962 when Roger Thomas, son of Walt Thomas, was named Executive Secretary. An area representative organizing plan was instituted and the following members became Area Representatives: Farrel Broslawsky, Menyn Dymally (later to become an Assemblymember), Willard Hastings, Jack Hutton, A1 Poppen. This system continued for some time.
In 1964, the Community College members organized a new Los Angeles local. It was called the L.A. College Guild Local 1521. Eddie Irwin resigned as president of Local 1021 and became the first elected president of 1521. Hy Weintraub and Farrell Broslawskv, the 1021 Vice-president, became members of 1521, as did many other 1021 union activists. Hank Zivetz assumed the presidency of Local 1021, Jean Thompson became Executive Secretary and Larry Sibelman was the new Vice President.
From 1966 to 1969 Larry Sibelman served as President and Roger Segure as Executive Secretary. Roger served many years as the local’s Grievance Chairperson and today remains Director of Grievances for UTLA.
UTLA Local 1021 was born of a merger of AFT Local 1021 and ACTLA. The Association of Classroom Teachers of Los Angeles was a result of a number of mergers of various associations. It had a membership exceeding 17,000 members. AFT Local 1021 had a membership of between 2,000 and 3,000 members. The merged organization was named United Teachers, Los Angeles with a NEA/CTA local and an AFT/CFT local. UTLA 1021 was the AFT/CFT local. The merger was ratified by a vote of the members in February of 1970.
This new hybrid called UTLA was the first AFT and NEA affiliated union in the United States. After twenty years it remains the only merged AFT/NEA affiliated union. Other merged local and state unions/associations have been failures. This included New York (NYSUT) and the Florida Education Association which became AFT units and Hawaii State Teachers Association which became a NEA unit. The merger has worked extremely well and a vast majority of the twenty-two thousand members know they are UTLA members but can’t tell whether they are affiliated with the AFT or NEA. It took many farsighted leaders to put this merged union together. Some of the AFT leaders were Dave Selden, George Brickhouse, Raoul Teilhet, Larry Sibelman and Roger Segure.
Among others, the Association leaders were Bob Ransome, Don Baer, Bill Lambert and Bob Sanders.
The first major act of UTLA was a strike in April of 1970 to gain a contract. This strike lasted for over twenty days and resulted in an outstanding contract that was negated by the courts. A large number of members quit UTLA over the strike action. UTLA lost about five thousand members almost all of whom were originally ACTLA. The AFT leaders were the principal actors in the strike. A majority of strike cluster leaders were 1021 members. From that strike forward UTLA Local 1021–affiliated membership grew faster than Association membership.
The first two Presidents of UTLA were Association leaders while the last three were AFT-affiliated members: Hank Springer was an AFT leader who was UTLA President from 1976 to 1980, while Judy Solkovits was UTLA President from 1980 to 1984, national AFT Vice President and CFT Vice President. Our current President is Wayne Johnson who has been serving in this capacity since 1984.
UTLA Local 1021 Presidents have been Larry Sibelman, Judy Solkovits and Michael Bennett, and since 1984 Marv Katz. Marv Katz was recently elected national AFT Vice President. He has also served since 1985 as CFT Vice President. Day Higuchi, UTLA Local 1021 Vice President, also serves as a CFT Vice President.
UTLA Local 1021 is today the largest AFT local west of the Mississippi River with about five thousand five hundred members and is one of the fifteen largest AFT Locals in the United States. UTLA is the second largest teachers union in the United States exclusively serving teachers. UTLA has its own biweekly tabloid newspaper, lobbyist, print shop, television facilities, and a political action committee with a core of 500 precinct walkers and the ability to raise a quarter of a million dollars a year in campaign money. UTLA has become a political powerhouse in local and state politics.
Since Marv Katz became president in 1984, UTLA Local 1021 has been very active in the California Federation of Teachers. Unfortunately previous local presidents weren’t as active in CFT affairs which hurt the effectiveness of the CFT. As UTLA Local 1021 is the largest local in the CFT, its participation in the organization makes the CFT stronger. Marv Katz has been active in CFT for almost twenty years and believes in a strong viable CFT as a vehicle to improve education in California.
The greatest problem that confronted this local was an internal one revolving around a conflict between leaders on affiliation questions. The membership was unconcerned about affiliation questions from the beginning of the 1970s. Gradually, the leadership, too, became mostly unconcerned about affiliation questions. Voting patterns in citywide elections for non-affiliate officers are of little consequence. A majority of the officers and area chairs are original Local 1021 members, a pattern that has existed for the last ten years.
Educational, political, social, and economic issues are the major concerns of UTLA and 1021. The educational issues of teacher empowerment and educational reform have been important to the classroom teacher of Los Angeles.
Of course teacher rights and working conditions are issues fought for by the union since its inception. We have been fighting for these through our political action arm called PACE (Political Action Council of Educators), as well as through contract bargaining demands.
Social issues such as integration/desegregation in the 1970s and 1980s as well as policies toward immigrants have occupied our finances, energy and time. Foreign policy in Latin America as well as human rights worldwide have played a prominent role in our activities. Bilingual education has become a major organizational concern in the last few years. It seems that the same basic issues and problems in variant forms have to be faced at all times and places, although not always at the same intensive level.
This union has an outstanding legislative program in Sacramento. We have passed into law a paperwork Bill, teacher suspension Bill, school discipline Bill, and had vetoed by the Governor in 1988 a significant retirement Bill. In the last few years, UTLA has stopped a great deal of legislation harmful to teachers and education. Bill Lambert, our Director of Governmental Affairs, has led these efforts.
Our Communications Department, headed by Catherine Carey, has won many honors for our bi-weekly tabloid newspaper and our pioneering productions in the use of television programming on cassettes. We have won more awards than any other local or state organization/federation in the AFT-NEA. We have won two awards from the AFL-CIO’s International Labor Communications Association for our newspaper and media programming. The L.A. Press Club has named the “United Teacher,” the best labor newspaper in Los Angeles. Helen Bernstein has played a vital role in our media programming.
UTLA membership has grown by five thousand over the last four years and 1021 has accounted for one third of that amount. This has occurred as a result of membership drives and our success at the bargaining table. Our members have had a raise each year averaging almost eight percent in the last four years as well as improvements in fringe benefits and working conditions. UTLA/UTLA Local 1021 is a vital, growing teachers union that continually strives to meet goals of teachers. We need to organize and bring into our union classified workers not already organized by other unions. Our Local 1021 Executive Board consists of: Marv Katz, President; Day Higuchi, Vice President; Stan Malin, Treasurer; Jerry Solender, Secretary; Pat Stanyo, Greg Solkovits, Pat Trivers, Edgar Cowan, and Dale Johnson.
(Eddie Irwin, Marv Katz, contributors)