The first association of teachers in Schenectady, N.Y., was the Schenectady branch of the New York State Teachers' Association. Although the date of formation for that organization cannot be determined, it was defunct by 1918.  On January 17, 1918, teachers in Schenectady, N.Y., met to organize the City Teachers' Association of Schenectady, which would represent all professionals in the city's department of education. The initial impetus for the formation of the association appears to be improving teachers' salaries, though the association was also probably formed to replace the city branch of the State Teachers Association.  By 1932 the association was affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA). 
Teachers in Schenectady assumed heavier schedules during the great depression to help lighten the city's budget, but these schedules continued into the mid-1940s.  During World War II, the salaries of teachers in the Schenectady school district did not rise with the rise in the cost of living. From 1941 to 1944, all city employees with the exception of teachers were given annual $100 cost of living adjustments. In 1943 the City Teachers' Association began asking its members for ideas on how to remedy this problem, and one of the solutions was the formation of a union. The teachers considered affiliation with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and after sufficient members signed up as prospective members, the Schenectady Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 803 was formed. 
One of the earliest dilemmas, besides pay raises and reduction of work loads, for the Schenectady Federation of Teachers (SFT) was merit rating (or merit pay) which was instituted by the Schenectady Board of Education in 1948. The Schenectady system of merit rating consisted of 15 preliminary and automatic steps coinciding with increments in pay. However, to reach Step 16, a teacher had to undergo the official merit rating process. Twenty-seven of the teachers who went through the rating process were not granted promotions in the 1950/51 school year. This prompted SFT to decry the inequities in the system, including the subjectivity of raters' decisions and the lack of sufficient or in-depth evaluation. By the early part of 1952 and after pressure from SFT, the Schenectady Board of Education had abolished merit rating. 
Early in 1967, SFT welcomed the appearance of a Schenectady Teachers Association (STA) newsletter in teachers' mailboxes. The STA, affiliated with the New York State Teachers Association (NYSTA) and the National Education Association (NEA), was apparently not yet viewed as a competitor.  Soon after, both STA and SFT were supporting petitions calling for an election to choose between them for the exclusive bargaining rights to Schenectady's teachers , and by September of that year STA had already won the right to represent teachers in Schenectady.  One reason for STA's success was probably a feeling among some teachers that SFT was not a professional organization and that it was too closely allied with labor. During 1972, the Public Employee Relations Board held another election to determine representation for the employees of the Schenectady City School District.  SFT was the overwhelming winner in the election.  Ironically, in 1972 New York State Teachers Association (NYSTA, affiliated with NEA) and United Teachers of New York (UTNY, affiliated with AFT, AFL-CIO) merged to form New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), thereby making all organized teachers in the state members of both AFT and NEA. 
Since its inception, the Schenectady Federation of Teachers has been opposed to the use of strikes in resolving disputes, but the local has also recognized that strikes might be the only way to solve some problems. In September 1975, SFT went on strike after being unable to negotiate a contract over the issue of class size.  The strike lasted 14 days and resulted in SFT's winning its negotiating point. Since strikes by public employees are illegal under New York State's Taylor Law, a number of the members (including the president) of SFT were prosecuted and sentenced to short jail terms. 
The 1975 strike (which coincided with a number of other teacher strikes in the Capital Region) was one small incident that brought out animosities in New York between NEA (which viewed itself as a professional organization) and NYSUT (which had continued to view itself as a labor organization of education professionals).  A major disagreement between NEA and NYSUT was that NEA required all locals to be represented by the same percentage of ethnic and racial minorities as existed in the state's population. NYSUT argued that this goal simply was not possible in many of its locals.  By July 1976, SFT had voted to disaffiliate with NEA. 
The 1980's have been spared the drama of strikes and disaffiliation, but the Schenectady Federation of Teachers continues to try to ensure that teachers are involved in decision making in the city school district. An example is SFT's desire to have a voice in the plans to reorganize the Schenectady city schools which were discussed from 1987 to 1990. The local has also continued to add to its ranks segments of the school district work force that it considers appropriate to its jurisdiction, such as teachers in the Living Center and the ESL (English as a Second Language) tutors. 
1. City Teachers' Association of Schenectady. Minutes, January 24, 1918. 2. City Teachers' Association of Schenectady. Minutes, January 17, 1918. 3. City Teachers' Association of Schenectady. Minutes, May 23, 1932. 4. Subject Files. General Files, 1944-45. "A committee of teachers representing the Schenectady Federation of Teachers appeared before the Board of Education at its regular meeting Tuesday afternoon," December 1944. 5. SFofT News, April 1964. 6. "The Story of Merit Rating in Schenectady, New York," March 4, 1952. 7. Schenectady Federation of Teachers Newsletter, January 27, 1967. 8. Schenectady Federation of Teachers Newsletter, March 20, 1967. 9. Schenectady Federation of Teachers Newsletter, September 25, 1967. 10. Subject Files. Schenectady Teachers Association Decertification, 1969, 1972. 11. SFT, April 3, 1972. 12. Subject Files. "Strike," 1975. 13. Subject Files. "Strike," 1975. 14. SFT Pipeline, January 23, 1976. 15. SFT Pipeline, February 6, 1976. 16. SFT Pipeline, July 1976. 17. SFT Pipeline, undated, circa Fall 1989.
Although the records of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers contain a complete set of minutes from 1944 (and minutes for its predecessor organization from 1918-1934), the most useful records for studying the history and opinions of the local are its newsletters and subject files. The newsletters are an almost complete record of what SFT told its rank and file members. Since these members would not otherwise know the whole story of what was happening at any given point, the newsletters are usually clear about incidents, reactions and decisions concerning SFT. Minutes, written mostly by and for the officers of the local, are therefore often cryptic to the outsider and do not divulge as much information as do the newsletters.
The records of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers show how labor union activism grew out of the definite needs of teachers in Schenectady. Major issues confronting the union were teachers' salaries and workloads (especially 1927-44); merit pay (1948-52); and school reorganization (1987-90). For related records see those of the Schenectady Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and IUE Local 301, which contain some information about support they gave SFT (especially during the 1975 strike).
The collection is organized into to series, and series 2 is divided into two subseries by format.
All items in this manuscript group were lent to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by the Schenectady Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 803, and subsequently microfilmed as a part of the Harry Van Arsdale, Jr., Labor History Project. The originals have been returned to the Schenectady Federation of Teachers.
Processed by: Geoffrey A. Huth in 1990.
Collection record created by: Geoffrey A. Huth
Published: 1990 March 29
Converted to EAD, 2016 December
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Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Schenectady Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 803 Records, 1918-1989. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Schenectady Federation of Teachers).
|Reel 1||General Files||1937-1943|
|Reel 1||General Files||1940-1943|
|Reel 1||Minutes of City Teacher's Association of Schenectady||1918-1924|
|Reel 1||Minutes of City Teacher's Association of Schenectady||1924-1934|
|Reel 1||Minutes of Delegate Assembly of the Department of Public Instruction of Schenectady||1928-1931|
|Reel 1||Newspaper Clippings||1933|
nam_apap036-2Series 2: Schenectady Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 803, 1944-1989
|Reel 1||Minutes of Regular Meetings, Executive Committee Meetings, and Building Directors' Meetings||1944-1979|
|Reel 3||Minutes of Executive Committee Meetings||1979-1989|
|Reel 3||Minutes of Building Directors' Meetings||1973-1976, 1978-1980, 1983-1989|
|Reel 4||Building Director's Handbook||ca.1975|
|Reel 4||Bulletins to Teachers||1953-1965, 1971-1972, 1977, 1979, 1984|
|Reel 4||Calendars and Agendas||1956-1969|
|Reel 4||Constitutions||ca. 1944, 1955, 1967, 1972-1976, 1980|
|Reel 4||Contracts||1967, 1971-1973, 1975, 1977-1978, 1980|
|Reel 4||Contracts||1982-1984, 1987|
|Reel 4||Convention and Conference Reports||1974|
|Reel 4||Crisis Committee||1984-1985|
|Reel 4||Curriculum Committees||1971-1972|
|Reel 4||Educational Policies Advisory Committee||1970-1973|
|Reel 4||Forum and Dinner Meeting Programs||1946-1948, 1954, 1956-1960|
|Reel 4||General Files||1944-1945|
|Reel 4||General Files||1946|
|Reel 4||General Files||1947|
|Reel 4||General Files||1948-1949|
|Reel 4||General Files||1950|
|Reel 4||General Files||1951-1953|
|Reel 4||Graduate Steering Committee||1972|
|Reel 4||Liaison Committee||1956-1961|
|Reel 5||Liaison Committee||1971-1975|
|Reel 5||Membership Lists||1955-1969|
|Reel 5||Merit Rating||1948-1949|
|Reel 5||Merit Rating||1952, 1964|
|Reel 5||President's Files||1942-1946|
|Reel 5||President's Files||1945-1949|
|Reel 5||President's Files||1950-1955|
|Reel 5||Salary and Benefits Committee||1964-1965|
|Reel 5||Salary Negotiations||1984|
|Reel 5||Salary Study Committee||1973-1974|
|Reel 5||Schenectady Teachers Association Decertification||1972|
|Reel 5||Strike--Flyers and Notices||1975|
|Reel 5||Strike--Picket Bulletin||1975|
|Reel 5||Teacher Representation||1967-1970|
|Reel 5||Federation News||1956|
|Reel 5||Federation News||1957|
|Reel 5||Federation News||1958|
|Reel 5||Federation News||1959|
|Reel 5||Federation News||1960|
|Reel 5||Federation News||1962|
|Reel 5||Federation News||1963|
|Reel 5||SFofT News||1964|
|Reel 5||SFofT News||1965|
|Reel 5||SFofT News||1966|
|Reel 5||SFofT News||1967|
|Reel 5||SFofT News||1968|
|Reel 5||SFofT News||1969|
|Reel 5||SFofT News||1970|
|Reel 5||SFofT News||1971|
|Reel 6||SFT Newsletter||1972|
|Reel 6||SFT Newsletter||1973|
|Reel 6||SFT Newsletter||1974|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1974|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1975|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1976|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1977|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1978|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1979|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1980|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1981|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1982|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1983|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1984|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1985|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1986|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1987|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1988|
|Reel 6||SFT Pipeline||1989|