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California Federation of Teachers (1963 -) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: California Federation of Teachers (1963 -)
Variant Name: California State Federation of Teachers (CSFT), 1916-1963
Fuller Form: California Federation of Teachers (CFT)

Historical Note:

The California Federation of Teachers (CFT) is one of the largest affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of two major national organizations for the classroom teacher. Effective lobbying efforts in the state capital have made the CFT an important factor in the passage of many educational reform measures as initiatives. The roots of the organization reach back to 1919 when it was founded as the California State Federation of Teachers (CSFT). Its initial purpose was to unify the various educational union locals under AFT aegis to represent teacher interests within local school districts and to provide a central collective voice for classroom teachers throughout the state.

In the 1940's, Los Angeles Local 430 became the largest CSFT unit. During the Red Scare of the late 1940's and early 1950's, Local 430 was suspected of harboring Communists. When the AFT investigation disclosed there were "radical" elements among the local's leadership, Local 430's charter was revoked and a new affiliate formed. The union gained momentum in the 1950's under the leadership of Ben Rust, who served as president from 1951 to 1957. CSFT paid legal fees and sponsored court cases for teachers who came into conflict with local school systems. CSFT advocated passage of the Brown Act of 1961, which gave public employees the right to join employee organizations of their own choosing. The union thus gained a legal right to exist and to challenge the supremacy of their rival, the CTA. Consequently, CSFT reorganized and by December 1963 changed its name to the California Federation of Teachers (CFT).

A hallmark of the CFT has been its close affiliation with organized labor since its founding. Aided by funds from the AFL-CIO, scores of locals were chartered throughout the 1960s and new members enrolled by the thousands. Beginning in 1968, CFT President Raoul Teilhet (elected in 1967) spearheaded the final drive to win collective bargaining in California. This led to the passage of the Rodda Act of 1976, which granted secret ballot elections for teacher representation in public school grades K through 14.

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