The CFT turns 100 on May 31, 2019. To kick off this anniversary year, California Teacher digs into the archives to present a commemorative issue about the rich history of our statewide federation of unions. The big events — legislation, elections, social trends — described here affected every member. But this capsule history cannot possibly relate the profound impact almost 100 years of activism had on thousands of individual education workers.
At this pivotal moment in our history, we can look back with pride while looking forward with a tempered sense of confidence. Knowing what our union has overcome in its first century, we will face the coming challenges and emerge a stronger union.
What retirees have that unions need — knowledge, experience and memories — are concentrated in the Council of Retired Members, the newest division of CFT. Convention delegates in 2014 overwhelmingly voted to add the council to the union’s governance structure so retirees could contribute in the same way as working teachers and classified employees.
The University Council-AFT had already been formally organized on June 19, 1971, when seven AFT locals at UC voted to establish themselves as a council. The council and its constituent locals had represented UC employees as a non-bargaining agent since 1963.
Formed in 1971, the Community College Council gave a voice to the growing numbers of CFT college faculty. Los Angeles history teacher Hy Weintraub, president of the council for much of the decade, brought a coherent statewide identity to the group.
When the AFT in 1977 welcomed educational workers other than teachers into its ranks, paraprofessionals and classified employees became one of the fastest growing sectors of the national AFT. In the 1980s, several thousand California support staff voted for the AFT as their bargaining agent.
The CFT originally formed as a union of K-12 teachers. As other education workers joined, the membership of CFT diversified. Because the CFT had a working group of teachers — called the QuEST Council — which dealt with curriculum and policy issues, and reviewed current legislation, there was little pressure for a separate K-12 council.
638 dependents awarded $1.76 million
In the mid 1990s, leaders of the Greater Santa Cruz Federation of Teachers decided the CFT, a union of educators, should offer the children of its members scholarships to achieve their higher education goals.
The committed activists who formed the California State Federation of Teachers in 1919 recognized from the beginning the need for communications among their far-flung members. From rudimentary origins, the California Teacher grew in every way and has been published in print for 70 years.