A Short History of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers (AFT Local 1481)

It started in the early 1960’s at Jefferson High School when a group of teachers signed the charter for the formation of Local 1481. They were a special group of mavericks who wanted the school district to actually negotiate with their representatives over salary, benefits, and working conditions and felt that the teacher organization of record (a CTA chapter), had not produced results. Many of those charter members went on to become mentors to the student teachers and new teachers who began their teaching lives at Jefferson and who moved on to the other district schools as the district grew. In fact, some of those charter members became administrators, as well.

In those early years, the state of California only required that school districts “meet and confer” with their teacher representatives. For a while, these “conferences” happened with the district reps on one side of the table and a hybrid group of teachers from both teacher organizations on the other side.

That all changed in 1975, when the Rodda Bill was passed, instituting collective bargaining in California. Now, the AFT local could campaign in a representation election to be decided by the teachers as to who would represent them in matters of salary, benefits, and working conditions. One of the campaign flyers from that election stated, “AFT Local 1481 has defended the rights of local teachers in grievances 38 times in the past three years.” While there had been no requirement for true negotiations, the district and the union had succeeded in hammering out a contract which needed constant monitoring on the union’s part.

As a result of that election, AFT Local 1481 became the first American Federation of Teachers local to be certified in California as the bargaining agent for its members. From 1976 to the present, the union and the district sit down for true negotiations, not “meet and confer” sessions.

Three years after being certified, Local 1481 called a strike in 1978, which lasted three weeks. The district was attempting to destroy the contract by eliminating such safeguards as maximum class size policies and elected department heads. And the following year, the union went on strike for nine weeks, the longest strike by public school workers in California history. The district went after the same targets as well as the counseling program and grievance policy.

Local 1481 members prevented their contract from being decimated, and, in the years to follow, were successful in healing the wounds that the strike caused. Strong working relationships developed between the union and the district, even though serious disagreements about the allocation of funds often made negotiations frustrating, tricky, and not always successful. To this day, the union members who work as Bargaining Team and Executive Board members, Building Reps and Building Committee members give of their time and talents with no financial remuneration.

Our local is unique in that it represents teachers in day and adult schools, secretaries and classroom aides, custodians, craftspeople, and bus drivers – all in Local 1481. That unity gives the union negotiators and officers a strength not often realized in other school districts.