By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
"I want members to understand the power created when we gather together as one voice," says CTA President David A. Sanchez. "Because of our union, each of us can be heard."
Over the past 100 years, American history has been filled with battles for equality in the workplace. In the first half of the 20th century, popular literature offered Upton Sinclair's The Jungle depicting squalid conditions in the meat-packing industry, and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath describing the degradation of itinerant crop workers. The American people listened to the haunting voices in those two great works and were moved to help. The history of the labor movement has seen times of bitter conflict like the strikes on the San Francisco waterfront in 1934, where longshoremen pressed for reasonable treatment and fair wages, and times of patient, nonviolent struggle, like César Chávez's lifelong effort in the latter half of the century to defend weary, mistreated farm laborers. And through it all, the voices of California educators were present as well.
The California Teachers Association — established in 1863 as the California Educational Society — has from the beginning been highly vocal in its stand against the neglect of our state's children. In 1866 educators' voices resounded in Sacramento and were heard, resulting in the establishment of free public education for children in California. Their voices were heard again a year later when they denounced the practice of segregating African American and Asian students in separate schools and won public funding for schools that educated nonwhite students. The California State Teachers' Retirement System was created as a result of action by the association in 1913, one of the few guaranteed pensions in the nation at the time.
Again and again CTA has led reform efforts ranging from child labor protection in 1915 to defending a female teacher's right to marry in 1927 to winning the right to collectively bargain a fair contract with employers in 1975. Few of these great events would have ever occurred without the individual voices of our members, who came together at various points in history and chose to take a stand and be heard as a collective.
And today those same voices from all of us — each of us — can still be heard. They must be.