Not many things live to be 100 years old. So when they do, we celebrate! Ninety-nine years ago, on May 9, 1916, the American Federation of Teachers was founded in Chicago, when eight local unions formed the AFT and were granted a charter signed by American Federation of Labor President Samuel Gompers. Leading up to the AFT national convention in 2016, AFT locals across the country will spend the next year collectively looking back on the union’s rich history—our struggles, our accomplishments, our proudest moments—and celebrating how far AFT has come and what lies ahead.
Since that day in 1916, AFT’s strength has come from the diversity of its members—who now number 1.6 million—in all constituencies and from the proud history of its local and state affiliates. The next year will be about honoring AFT’s past and inspiring its future. AFT Local 1481’s website will join in the celebration by showcasing major events in AFT history, and the role that AFT members and affiliates have played in major milestones like the civil rights movement, women’s rights and the evolution of the middle class, to name just a few. Our national union has even applied for a commemorative stamp to highlight the often overlooked contributions of our mighty union of educational workers.
Locally, AFT 1481 will also work to unearth its own oft-overlooked history. Our local has made several major contributions to AFT history, including the strikes of 1978 and 1979, the latter of which lasted 44 days. It’s often a shock to many of our own members, not to mention the broader community we serve, that AFT 1481’s 1979 strike was the longest school strike in California history.
While the struggle to uphold and defend public education continues to push forward, there will be a lot to reflect on and celebrate this year, so please check back throughout the year and join us in honoring the contributions of AFT members past and present.