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United Federation of Teachers Records

Call Number

WAG.022

Dates

1916-2023, ongoing, inclusive
; 1960-1997, bulk

Creator

United Federation of Teachers
United Federation of Teachers (Role: Donor)

Extent

324 Linear Feet (325 boxes)
17 websites in 17 archived websites.

Language of Materials

Materials are in English with some websites in Spanish.

Abstract

The United Federation of Teachers (American Federation of Teachers, Local 2) represents public school teachers and associated personnel in New York City. It was formed in 1960 as a result of a merger between the Teachers Guild and the High School Teachers Association. Included in this collection are records of the UFT's two predecessor unions, the Teachers Union of the City of New York and the Teachers Guild. The main body of UFT records documents the administrations of the UFT's first three presidents, Charles Cogen, who served from 1960 to 1964, Albert Shanker, 1964 to 1986, and Sandra Feldman, 1986-1997. The collection also includes extensive staff and administrative files, records of the Grievance Department, the More Effective Schools Program and the Teacher Centers Consortium, websites, and subject files covering all aspects of UFT activity and a broad range of issues of concern to the union.

Historical/Biographical Note

The Teachers' Union (TU) of New York City was organized in 1916 and chartered as Local 5 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Although constrained by the AFT's no-strike pledge, laws against strikes by public employees, the authoritarian and paternalistic policies of the Board of Education, and the resistance of many teachers to trade-union appeals, the Teacher' Union soon won a reputation for militancy. The Teachers' Union not only addressed the bread and butter issues of salaries, pensions and working conditions, but defended pacifist teachers against dismissal during World War I, and opposed loyalty oaths and other assaults on academic freedom in the 1920s and 30s.

Although the TU had organized a substantial number of the City's teachers by the early 1930s, its efforts were undermined by a growing political struggle within its ranks between a left wing dominated by Communist Party members and their sympathizers, and a more moderate group consisting of socialists, liberals and less ideologically inclined teachers. In 1935 the factional conflict came to a head, and TU president Henry Linville, a moderate, withdrew with a majority of the membership to found the Teachers Guild. The TU continued to fend off attacks on its left-wing politics, culminating in a 1940 investigation by New York's Rapp-Coudert Committee, which declared Communist Party membership sufficient grounds for dismissal from the public school system. In 1941 the AFT revoked the Teachers' Union's charter. The Teachers' Union subsequently affiliated with the United Public Workers of America, which in turn was expelled from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) as a Communist-dominated organization. The TU, weakened by McCarthy-era persecution and the increasingly successful organizing efforts of the rival Teachers Guild (and later the United Federation of Teachers), went out of existence in 1964.

The Teachers Guild, born in the political turmoil of the mid-1930s, addressed the problems of a fragmented workforce, divided into small teachers' organizations representing a multitude of ethnic and religious groups, geographical areas and distinct school levels (elementary, junior high school and high school). To make matters worse, any gains wrung from the Board of Education by teachers' representatives were not legally binding; the unions were often dragged into lengthy court proceedings and lobbying campaigns. In 1941 the Guild, recognized by the American Federation of Teachers, began the long struggle for collective bargaining rights in the New York City school system. A job action initiated by militant leaders of the High School Teachers Association (HSTA) in 1959, gave the Guild an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to building solidarity among all categories of teachers. David Selden, then the Guild's only full-time organizer (and later president of the American Federation of Teachers), enlisted the help of younger Guild Board members such as junior high-school teachers George Altomare and Albert Shanker. After month-long picket lines at schools across the city, substantial gains were won by the high-school teachers, and bridges had been built which would eventually lead toward merger between the Guild and the HSTA. That merger was effected in March 1960, with Guild president Charles Cogen taking over as president of the newly-formed United Federation of Teachers. Samuel Hochberg of the HSTA became deputy president.

The UFT immediately began its campaign to gain collective bargaining rights, and through talks with Mayor Robert F. Wagner, School Superintendent John J. Theobald, Board of Education president Charles H. Silver, Central Labor Council president Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. and other city labor leaders, won a promise of a collective bargaining election in the 1960-1961 school year. When the Board failed to honor its pledge, a one-day work stoppage and broad support from other unions forced the issue. The election, in which the National Education Association (NEA) and the Teachers' Union stood in opposition to the UFT, was held in December 1961. The UFT emerged victorious as the official representative of the City's teachers, winning almost two-thirds of the votes cast. In 1962 bitter contract negotiations with the Board led to a one-day strike supported by 22,000 teachers; this figure represented 52% of the total and considerably more than the 15,000 who were Guild members.

The UFT's first contract, signed in June 1962, included a $1,000 raise, improved grievance procedures, sick leave, sabbatical leave, and compensation for job-related injuries. Teachers responded by swelling the ranks of the new union, and soon specialized chapters were created to accommodate other categories of school employees (for example, laboratory technicians, school secretaries, psychologists, guidance counselors, and para-professionals) who became part of the UFT. When Charles Cogen was elected president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in 1964, he was succeeded by Albert Shanker, who served as president of the UFT from 1964 until 1986.

Albert Shanker was born in New York City in 1928 and educated in the city's public schools and at the University of Illinois and Columbia University. Beginning in 1952 he taught mathematics at Junior High School 126 in Queens and later at JHS 88 in Harlem. As an active member of the Teachers Guild he was instrumental in the merger of unions that created the United Federation of Teachers in 1959-60. After serving as a UFT field representative, editor of the UFT newspaper and UFT secretary, he was elected president of the union in 1964. Albert Shanker's tenure coincided with some of the most challenging times for New York City schools, in an era characterized by rapidly changing demographics, racial conflict, new demands from parents and community-based groups, overcrowded and dilapidated buildings, teacher shortages and citywide fiscal crises.

By the mid-1960s the UFT had more than 50,000 members and was the largest local union in the AFL-CIO. The union responded to changing conditions in the schools by backing the More Effective Schools program, aimed at improving teaching methods in ghetto schools, and other innovative programs. But by September 1967, when contract negotiations with the Board of Education broke down, the teachers were driven to strike to achieve an increase in wages and benefits. In the wake of the strike the union was fined and Shanker sentenced to fifteen days in prison for violation of the state's Taylor Law, banning strikes by public employees. Earlier in the year the city had agreed to implement a school decentralization plan in exchange for increased state funding. The plan, which created three experimental school districts in East Harlem, the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn, was greeted with enthusiasm by African-American and Latino parents who hoped for a greater voice in their children's education. The Board of Education, on the other hand, was suspicious of what it viewed as an attempt to dilute its authority over the schools; and the UFT feared that community control of schools would undermine teachers' hard-won rights and weaken the union's bargaining power. Bitter head-to-head conflict ensued, resulting first in a walk-out of 350 teachers in Ocean Hill-Brownsville and, in September 1968, a highly effective citywide teachers strike. An uneasy settlement, involving a state-appointed trustee in Ocean Hill-Brownsville and reinstatement of displaced teachers, left a legacy of distrust between the union and some community activists and scarred race relations in the city for many years. Shanker, again sentenced to jail for leading the strike, was lionized by many union members and reviled by political opponents as a power-mad opponent of community rights. In succeeding years he greatly expanded the UFT's membership base to include paraprofessionals, school secretaries and other categories of school employees; and he presided over substantial improvements in the union's benefits package.

In 1972 Albert Shanker was a central figure in negotiating the merger of the AFT and the National Education Association (NEA) in New York State. The resulting organization, New York State United Teachers, brought more than 100,000 upstate teachers into the labor movement and was rare example of close and amicable cooperation between the two major national organizations representing teachers. Shanker later became the first teacher to sit on the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO. In 1974 he was elected president of the American Federation of Teachers. Retaining his position as UFT president for some years, Shanker went on to play a key role in re-establishing the city's fiscal stability after the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s, and became a staunch opponent of school vouchers, privatization and other measures likely to weaken public education. He was succeeded as president of the UFT by Sandra Feldman in 1986, and died after a long struggle with cancer in 1997.

Sources:

Brooks, Thomas R., Towards Dignity: A Brief History of the United Federation of Teachers.New York: UFT, 1967.Robert J. Braun, Teachers and Power: The Story of the American Federation of Teachers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972Vincent J. Cannato, The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York. New York: Basic Books, 2001.Stephen Cole, The Unionization of Teachers.New York: Praeger, 1969.Demas, Bouton H., The School Elections: A Critique of the 1969 New York City SchoolDecentralization Law. New York: Institute for Community Studies, 1971.Edgell, Derek, The Movement for Community Control of New York City's Schools, 1966-1970.Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998.Freeman, Joshua B., Working-Class New York: Life and Labor since World War II. New York: The New Press, 2000.Maier, Mark H., City Unions: Managing Discontent in New York City. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.Marjorie Murphy, Blackboard Unions: The AFT and the NEA, 1900-1990. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.Jerald E. Podair, The Strike that Changed New York: Blacks, Whites and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. [Includes an extensive bibliography on decentralization, community control, Ocean Hill-Brownsville and the 1968-69 teachers' strike.]Diane Ravitch, The Great School Wars – New York, 1805-1973: A History of the Public Schools asBattleground of Social Change. New York: Basic Books, 1974.David Rogers, 110 Livingston Street: Politics and Bureaucracy in the New York City School Sy stem. New York: Random House, 1968.Jack Schierenbeck, Union Made a World of Difference: Reflections on the "Revolution" at 40. New York: United Federation of Teachers, 2000.Philip Taft, United They Teach: The Story of the United Federation of Teachers. Los Angeles: Nash Publishing, 1974.Celia Lewis Zitron, The New York City Teachers Union, 1916-1964: A Story of Educational and Social Commitment.New York: Humanities Press, 1968.

Arrangement

Series I-VIII are arranged alphabetically by topic; Series IX arranged chronologically.

Organized into ten series:

  1. I. Teachers Guild/ Teachers' Union Records, 1916-1963.
  2. II. Presidents' Files, 1944-1986.
  3. III. Officers and Staff Files, 1940-2002.
  4. IV. Special Projects: A. More Effective Schools Program, 1962-1975; B. Teacher Centers Consortium, 1972-1992.
  5. V. Grievance Department Records, 1958-1981.
  6. VI. Membership Department Records, 1969-1974.
  7. VII. Subject Files, A. Communications Department Subject Files, 1965-2000; B. President's Office Subject Files, 1935-1997.
  8. VIII. Sandra Feldman Files, 1984-1997.
  9. IX: Meetings: Minutes, Audiocassettes and Attendance Lists, 1967-1998.
  10. X: Archived Websites, September 2007-ongoing

Scope and Content Note

Series I: Teachers Guild/Teachers' Union Records, 1916-1963.

Records of the Teachers Guild and the Teachers' Union, include minutes of the major governing bodies of both organizations, subject files pertaining to each organization, and a separate sub-series dealing with the 1935 split which resulted in the formation of the Teachers' Union. The sub-series on the split also contains material documenting the background of conflict within the Guild from 1930 on, and post-1935 communications between the two organizations related to issues arising from the split.

The Teachers Guild records include substantial amounts of material on academic freedom, collective bargaining on behalf of public school teachers in general and in New York City, educational policy and lobbying, the question of examinations for teachers, high school and junior high school organizing, organizing of library workers and laboratory assistants, salaries and benefits, and the 1959 teachers' strike.

The Teachers' Union records include Executive Board minutes, committee records, pamphlets and leaflets, files on political activity of the union, a dissertation on TU history, and extensive records of the Teachers' Union Auxiliary, which organized conferences, outreach activities and efforts to engage the general public in issues of concern to the Union.

Series II: Presidents' Files, 1944-1986. Sub-series II, A: UFT Presidential Files of Charles Cogen, is comprised of his correspondence; his speeches and writings; records of his involvement with the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, and other organizations; detailed records of the UFT's first efforts at collective bargaining; financial records of the union; organizing files; and subject files on a wide range of issues, individuals and activities. Sub-series II, B: UFT Presidential Files of Albert Shanker, 1935-1996 includes files of biographical information and collected writings, speeches, testimony and tv/radio broadcast transcripts. Also included are files on educational, political and other organizations in which Shanker participated or took an interested, including the AFL-CIO, New York State United Teachers, the Center for Urban Education, the American Civil Liberties union, Amnesty International, Social Democrats-USA, a wide range of Jewish organizations, and the United Housing Federation, among others. This series includes voluminous documentation of the decentralization issue and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville dispute, as well as extensive files on Shanker's central role in resolving the New York City fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s. Intra-union and Board of Education correspondence is included, as is general correspondence, and files on individual schools and community school boards. Reports, studies and clippings document Shanker's interest in issues of urban education, pedagogy, community relations and politics at the city, state and federal levels. Every aspect of UFT activity is represented in files on committees, staff, bargaining, benefits, and many related topics.

Series III: Officers and Staff Files, 1940-2002. The files of the UFT officers and staff, include the records of Coordinator of Negotiations and Special Representative, William Blum; Director of Special Projects, Eugenia Cooper-Kemble; Treasurer, Jeannette DiLorenzo; Vice-President for High Schools, Network Organizer and unofficial historian of the UFT, George Altomare; Director of Staff and Assistant to the President, Sandra Feldman; Chairman of District 25, Queens, Leo Hoenig; Secretary-Treasurer of the Welfare Fund, Sol Levine; Special Representative, Gladys Roth; Vice President for Vocational High Schools, Morris Shapiro; and Field Representative for Brooklyn, Irving Weinstein, among others. Most of the files are arranged in sub-series, alphabetically by individual name, and by topic within each sub-series. The series concludes with a sub-series comprised of miscellaneous staff and field representatives' files, in which each individual is represented by only a small amount of material; this sub-series is arranged alphabetically by name.

This series includes correspondence and records pertaining to bilingual education, civil-rights activism, collective bargaining, community school board elections, curriculum development, decentralization of New York City schools, high-school organization, individual high schools and the UFT High School Committee, integration of schools, membership and network development, performance-based teacher education, political action and education, school safety, the strikes of the 1960s, the UFT Scholarship Fund, and other issues and projects.

Series IV: Special Projects: Sub-series A: The More Effective Schools (MES) Program, 1962-1975. Sub-series B: Teacher Centers Consortium (TCC), 1972-1992. These two projects were designed and implemented by the UFT in cooperation with the New York City Board of Education, community school districts, individual schools, and local universities. MES, introduced in ten New York city schools in 1965, aimed to boost achievement in the city's most difficult schools by reducing class size, increasing teacher training, and providing auxiliary services. TCC, introduced in 1979, offered workshops, in-service training, mentoring, and curriculum resources for teachers.

Series V: Grievance Department Files, 1958-1981. The Grievance Department files include records of grievances, court cases and appeals on a wide variety of issues, among them the hiring of substitutes, safety, salaries, teaching assignments, and working conditions. Included are Grievances, Board of Examiner Cases, Commissioner of Education Cases, Military Cases, Appeals and Arbitration Decisions. The bulk of the records are from the 1970s.

Series VI: Membership Department Files, 1969-1974. This series consists only of a small selection of files documenting resignations (teachers and paraprofessionals).

Series VII: Subject Files. Sub-series A: Communications Department Subject Files, 1965-2000. This wide-ranging series of topical files, used for publicity, public relations and general research purposes, covers all activities of the UFT and issues of concern to the union. Among the notable groups of files are materials on New York City budget matters, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare relations with UFT, elections at all levels of government, individual high schools, contract negotiations, paraprofessionals, school safety, testing, tuition tax credits, and strike activity (1975-77). Sub-series B: President's Office Subject Files, 1935-1996. These files, compiled and administered by May Levine Naftal, an assistant to UFT president Albert Shanker, contain articles, pamphlets, clippings, reports and other materials used for reference by the President's office. Notable series of files include materials on the American Federation of Teachers (including local files arranged by state), the NYC Board of Education (and individual chancellors), bilingual education, Catholic and other private schools, UFT caucuses, City University of New York campuses, UFT collective bargaining (1960-1980), decentralization, Ocean Hill-Brownsville and teachers strikes, NYC school districts (arranged by number), health-related issues, individual high schools (arranged by name), New York state higher education, labor and labor history in general, New York city and state budgets and politics, and New York State United Teachers (including material filed by locality).

Conditions Governing Access

Access to Series V is restricted until 70 years after the creation of the file. All other materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by the United Federation of Teachers was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; United Federation of Teachers Records; WAG 022; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

To cite the archived website in this collection: Identification of item, date; United Federation of Teachers Records; WAG 022; Wayback URL; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the United Federation of Teachers, 1983. The accession number associated with this gift is 1983.005. Several additional donations have been made by the union, and by union officers and staff, in later years.

A grievance document was given by Gerald Meyer in 2006, the accession number associated with this gift is 2014.033.

http://www.uft.org/ and http://www.edwize.org/ were initially selected by curators and captured through the use of The California Digital Library's Web Archiving Service in 2007 as part of the Labor Unions and Organizations (U.S.) Web Archive. In 2015, these websites were migrated to Archive-It. Archive-It uses web crawling technology to capture websites at a scheduled time and displays only an archived copy, from the resulting WARC file, of the website. In 2019, http://www.ufttc.org/ was added to the web archive. The accession number associated with this website is 2019.137. Later in 2019, https://www.theuftcharterschool.org/, https://unionproud.uft.org/, https://publicschoolproud.uft.org/ were added. The accession number associated with these websites is 2020.012. In April 2020, https://sites.google.com/ufttc.org/virtualtrips/ and https://ufthonors.uft.org/ were added. The accession number associated with these websites is 2020.036. In September 2020, https://www.youtube.com/c/uftnyc/videos/ was added. The accession number associated with this website is 2021.041. In January-February 2021 https://give.uft.org/ and https://give.uft.org/event/we-feed-nyc/e320648 were added. The accession number associated with these websites is 2021.066. In June 2021, https://www.carbonfreehealthyschoolsnyc.org/ was added. The accession number associated with this website is 2022.004. In July 2021, https://dialateacher.org/ was added. The accession number associated with this website is 2022.010. In August 2021, https://nyc2021.uft.org/ was added. The accession number associated with this website is 2022.013. In February 2022, https://www.positivelearning.org/ and https://unitedcommunityschools.org/ were added. The accession number associated with these websites is 2022.042. In March 2023, https://action.uft.org/ was added. The accession number associated with this website is 2023.036. In September 2023, https://www.youtube.com/@uftnyc/videos/ was added. The accession number associated with this website is 2023.084.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Audiovisual materials have not been preserved and may not be available to researchers. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu, (212) 998-2630 with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Take Down Policy

Archived websites are made accessible for purposes of education and research. NYU Libraries have given attribution to rights holders when possible; however, due to the nature of archival collections, we are not always able to identify this information.

If you hold the rights to materials in our archived websites that are unattributed, please let us know so that we may maintain accurate information about these materials.

If you are a rights holder and are concerned that you have found material on this website for which you have not granted permission (or is not covered by a copyright exception under US copyright laws), you may request the removal of the material from our site by submitting a notice, with the elements described below, to the special.collections@nyu.edu.

Please include the following in your notice: Identification of the material that you believe to be infringing and information sufficient to permit us to locate the material; your contact information, such as an address, telephone number, and email address; a statement that you are the owner, or authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed and that you have a good-faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law; a statement that the information in the notification is accurate and made under penalty of perjury; and your physical or electronic signature. Upon receiving a notice that includes the details listed above, we will remove the allegedly infringing material from public view while we assess the issues identified in your notice.

Separated Material

Photographs have been separated to the UFT Photograph Collection in the Non-Print Department of the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. (PHOTOS 019)

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Papers of Charles Hendley. (TAM 109)

United Federation of Teachers Oral History Collection. (OH 009)

United Federation of Teachers: Italian-American Studies Committee Records. (WAG 056)

Collection processed by

Evan Daniel, Jessica Drmacich, Ted Casselman, Alix Ross, Nicholas Popolo, Thomas Dickson, Rachel Menyuk, Marie Stango and Gail Malmgreen (2009); Edited to include materials newly accessioned materials (2014)

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-10-25 16:21:23 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is in English

Processing Information

In 2014, the archived website was added as Series X. Additional websites were added in 2019-2023.

Revisions to this Guide

October 2023: Edited by Nicole Greenhouse to reflect additional administrative and descriptive information and added archived websites

Repository

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012