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1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY

Schenectady Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 803 Records


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The City Teachers Association of Schenectady was founded in 1918 to promote standards of professionalism in teaching. The group was chartered as a union, the Schenectady Federation of Teachers, in 1944. Local 803 went on strike in 1975 in violation of the NYS Taylor Law. The local is affiliated with New York State United Teachers, American Federation of Teachers.


American Federation of Teachers. Local 803 (Schenectady, N.Y.)
Date Coverage:
6 Reels

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. [1] 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. [2] By 1932 the association was affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA). [3]

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. [4] 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. [5]

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. [6]

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. [7] 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 [8], and by September of that year STA had already won the right to represent teachers in Schenectady. [9] 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. [10] SFT was the overwhelming winner in the election. [11] 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. [11]

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. [12] 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. [13]

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). [14] 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. [15] By July 1976, SFT had voted to disaffiliate with NEA. [16]

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. [17]

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

Collection record created by: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on

Published: 2018-03-06 04:09:25 -0500

Converted to EAD, 2016 December

Encoded in EAD by Geoffrey A. Huth, 1990 March 29

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Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

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).

Contents of Collection

Quantity: 0.25 Reels

Arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder.

These records of the City Teachers' Association of Schenectady include minutes (1918-34), and general files (1937-43) which contain bulletins, correspondence and other records. Also included in these records are the minutes of the Delegate Assembly of the Department of Public Instruction of Schenectady (1928-31), which was a body consisting of members from the faculty, staff and supervisory personnel of the Schenectady City School District.



Reel 1General Files1937-1943


Reel 1General Files1940-1943


Reel 1Minutes of City Teacher's Association of Schenectady1918-1924


Reel 1Minutes of City Teacher's Association of Schenectady1924-1934


Reel 1Minutes of Delegate Assembly of the Department of Public Instruction of Schenectady1928-1931


Reel 1Newspaper Clippings1933
Quantity: 5.75 Reels
Quantity: 2.5 Reels

Arranged chronologically.

Most of the minutes of SFT meetings are interfiled: regular, executive committee and building directors' meeting filed together chronologically. Regular meetings are uncommon, usually consisting of an annual meeting at the beginning of the school year. After 1979, the minutes are separated first by type of meeting and then chronologically.



Reel 1Charter1944


Reel 1Minutes of Regular Meetings, Executive Committee Meetings, and Building Directors' Meetings1944-1979


Reel 1Minutes1944-1951


Reel 1Minutes1951-1955


Reel 2Minutes1955-1975


Reel 2Minutes1974-1975


Reel 2Minutes1975-1976


Reel 2Minutes1976-1977


Reel 2Minutes1977-1978


Reel 2Minutes1978-1979


Reel 3Minutes of Executive Committee Meetings1979-1989


Reel 3Minutes1979-1980


Reel 3Minutes1981-1982


Reel 3Minutes1982-1983


Reel 3Minutes1983-1984


Reel 3Minutes1985-1986


Reel 3Minutes1986-1987


Reel 3Minutes1987-1988


Reel 3Minutes1988-1989


Reel 3Minutes of Building Directors' Meetings1973-1976, 1978-1980, 1983-1989


Reel 3Minutes1973-1976


Reel 3Minutes1978-1980


Reel 3Minutes1983-1984


Reel 3Minutes1984-1986


Reel 3Minutes1986-1987


Reel 3Minutes1987-1988


Reel 3Minutes1988-1989
Quantity: 2.25 Reels

Arranged alphabetically.

The subject file includes general files (1944-53), which contain various types of material (bulletins, correspondence, etc.) in chronological order; president's files (1942-55) which are general files kept by the SFT president; contracts (1967-87); photographs (1975, 1978-79); and correspondence, flyers, photographs and picket bulletins pertaining to the 1975 strike (1975-76).



Reel 4Building Director's Handbookca.1975


Reel 4Bulletins to Teachers1953-1965, 1971-1972, 1977, 1979, 1984


Reel 4Calendars and Agendas1956-1969


Reel 4Constitutionsca. 1944, 1955, 1967, 1972-1976, 1980


Reel 4Contracts1967, 1971-1973, 1975, 1977-1978, 1980


Reel 4Contracts1982-1984, 1987


Reel 4Convention and Conference Reports1974


Reel 4Crisis Committee1984-1985


Reel 4Curriculum Committees1971-1972


Reel 4Educational Policies Advisory Committee1970-1973


Reel 4Forum and Dinner Meeting Programs1946-1948, 1954, 1956-1960


Reel 4General Files1944-1945


Reel 4General Files1946


Reel 4General Files1947


Reel 4General Files1948-1949


Reel 4General Files1950


Reel 4General Files1951-1953


Reel 4Graduate Steering Committee1972


Reel 4Liaison Committee1956-1961


Reel 5Liaison Committee1971-1975


Reel 5Membership Lists1955-1969


Reel 5Merit Rating1948-1949


Reel 5Merit Rating1952, 1964


Reel 5Photographs1978-1979


Reel 5President's Files1942-1946


Reel 5President's Files1945-1949


Reel 5President's Files1950-1955


Reel 5Salary and Benefits Committee1964-1965


Reel 5Salary Negotiations1984


Reel 5Salary Study Committee1973-1974


Reel 5Schenectady Teachers Association Decertification1972


Reel 5Strike1975


Reel 5Strike--Flyers and Notices1975


Reel 5Strike--Photographs1975-1976


Reel 5Strike--Picket Bulletin1975


Reel 5Teacher Representation1967-1970
Quantity: 1 Reel

Arranged chronologically.

Includes the general newsletter of SFT and occasional specialized newsletters, bulletins, and flyers. These extras include circa B. News and circa B. Views (1967-68), which announced the activities of the Collective Bargaining Committee. Strike bulletins (1975) are filed in the subject files.



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