The East Detroit Federation of Teachers is a local with a rich heritage.
Early efforts for organization began in 1935 with a small group of teachers backed by some parents. This group attempted to negotiate for a salary increase from the existing rate of $90.00 a month. The failure of this movement initiated the informal organization of a Teacher's Club which met secretly! Between the years 1935 and 1942, two Detroit Federation members helped organize a local chapter of the A.F.T. Although salary remained the major factor in organizing, teaching conditions played a close second in importance.
On February 18, 1942, the Macomb County Federation of Teachers, A.F.T. Local #698 was chartered. It represented 48 teachers. By 1947 the local had grown to represent 110 teachers. Postwar inflation wrecked havoc with the teachers paychecks. The School Board ignored their plight. This caused the then dramatic action of all 110 teachers walking out of the districts four schools in early May, 1947. This group of teachers stayed out, walking a picket line, for one week. The 15 nonunion teachers remaining in school, attempted to take charge of the students but found this impossible. Consequently, the schools were all closed.
An organized group of parents supported the striking teachers. They waited for three hours to meet with the Board, but no Board members showed! An attempt to recall the Board was defeated when parents discovered it was illegal, at that time, to recall school board members.
Soon, however, individual Board members made verbal agreements. The situation began to look hopeful, so the teachers returned to their classrooms. However, the Board would not put in writing what had been agreed upon verbally. Once again, the teachers left their classrooms for another week. This time the agreement was put in writing. THIS WAS THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL TEACHER STRIKE IN THE UNITED STATES!
The Hutchinson Act (forbidding teachers to strike under penalty of law) was created after EDFT's 1947 strike.
Much headway was made in the years following the 1947 strike. East Detroit became a tenure district, a dismissal and grievance procedure was established, the sick leave policy was improved, and a Credit Union was established. Teachers worked together to raise money for a scholarship fund. The Citizens' Committee remained active, and for the first time the teachers had some input regarding the educational process.
In 1965, Public Act 379 gave public employees the right to bargain collectively. An election was held in East Detroit for bargaining rights, and the Federation defeated the Educational Association 299 to 150.
In 1969, the East Detroit teachers were once again walking with their picket signs saying "No Contract, No Work." This time, under the leadership of President Hugh Jarvis, the school system was shut down for two weeks. There were now 12 elementary schools, three junior highs, and one high school. Once again we had a successful strike. On September 18, 1969, the EDFT negotiation team reported a settlement.
September of 1974 saw another historic strike for the district. The district had hired a professional negotiator who was also negotiating in several other districts. He was too busy to meet in East Detroit which forced the union to file unfair labor practices. By the time school was to begin, both sides were far apart on several large items. The membership voted once again to strike. The courts ordered the teachers back to work, but our members defied the order. Once again the signs stating "No Contract, No Work" were carried by our teachers. In response to this, the judge ordered marathon bargaining, a fact finder and a new court date telling the union leaders to bring their toothbrushes if the strike was still in progress by the next court date. Meanwhile, the judge served notice to six randomly chosen building representatives that they return to work or be jailed, stating the jails were not large enough to hold all 522 teachers. The teachers chose not to return to work. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MICHIGAN, TEACHERS WERE PUT IN A PADDY WAGON, TAKEN OFF TO JAIL, BOOKED AND ASSIGNED JAIL CELLS. Sue Reynolds, Bill Rouse, Caroline Stobaugh (Reid), Art Miller, Al Torp, and Kathy Slebodnik became known as our "Dirty Half Dozen!" The judge later claimed the jailing was a clerical error and that a court officer had prematurely carted the teachers off to jail. All six eventually had their court records expunged. The fact finders recommendation was accepted by both sides and a one year contract was signed.
In 1975, it was time to begin school and EDFT did not have a contract by fall. The teachers again voted to strike. This time the School Board decided not to go for the injunction because jailing teachers took too long. They stated they were preparing firing notices for every teacher in the district. A 17 hour bargaining session concluded with a new 2 year contract and no teachers fired.
One more strike brought on the formation of the new win-win bargaining philosophy. Then president, Carl Rohloff and the district superintendent created SISS (School Improvement Study Session) which permits teams on both sides of the bargaining table to negotiate agreements with letters of understanding. Three year contracts have continued to be the norm within the framework of the win-win concept. As President Hugh Jarvis once stated, "This has never been an ice cream local!"
One year after negotiating his last contract, Carl retired in 1994 and our current president, Vickie Barrows, began her presidency. Since this time, the Federation has successfully negotiated an expedited 1997-2000 contract following three days of intense off site bargaining resulting in a contract prior to the end of the school year. Our present contract was anything but expedited due to an unfortunate series of events that resulted in a deficit reduction plan for the district that severely affected bargaining. Our current contract was eventually ratified retroactively through August 2003. This contract covers a membership that now numbers approximately 400 teachers in eight elementaries, two middle schools, one alternative education building and one high school.