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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND TEACHERS' UNION

CLEVELAND TEACHERS' UNION

The CLEVELAND TEACHERS' UNION was chartered in Cleveland in 1934 as the American Fed. of Teachers Local 279; its name was changed in 1940. The union was organized to counter the problems of layoffs, transfers, class size, long hours, and low wages, which had worsened during the Depression. Between 1932-33, teachers' salaries were cut by 40%. Teachers were sometimes paid in scrip, and sometimes not at all. Union membership at that time was not viewed favorably by the school board, yet 150 teachers joined. Their first task was to make 1,000 calls on delinquent taxpayers, making the union directly responsible for bringing $350,000 to the county treasury, which went to the school system. The union also began to campaign to restore the salary cuts of the Depression years, but it was not until 1941 that Cleveland teachers received 100% of their former salaries. During the next several decades, the union fought to enable married women to teach, for salary gains and benefits such as hospitalization and maternity and paternity leave, and for due process for nontenured teachers. In 1964 it won the first election to select an official bargaining agent in the CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS, a function it has fulfilled ever since for the classroom personnel of that district, including teachers, substitutes, and para-professionals. Its subsequent efforts to improve wages and conditions have included at least 3 major strikes in 1978, 1979, and 1988, the last resulting in a 15% salary increase over 3 years. Some non-economic gains which it secured included the institution of peer review and school governance teams. Teacher contract negotiations held in the 1990s culminated in the formation of joint labor-management committees. The union was also involved in the implementation of "Vision 21," the district's overall educational plan for the Cleveland Public Schools through the year 2000. In 1995 the union was located at 1370 W. 6th St. and Richard DeColibus was the union's president. Membership stood at 5,000.