The Coachella Valley Federation of Teachers, Local 2247, was chartered in January of 1972. However, our origin goes back several years, when founder and organizer Stan Kay and others were politically active for many years in the Coachella Valley.
Palm Springs Desert Democratic Club president Stan Kay, a Coachella Valley High School teacher, was also a member of the Mexican-American Political Association, served on the executive board of the Palm Springs NAACP and was chairman of the CTA's Political Action Committee.
For years, many of us experienced the CTA's lack of expertise and commitment in representing teachers, particularly in job-related matters. We saw too many teachers intimidated, harassed and several probationary teachers dismissed on frivolous charges. In addition, most teachers were so afraid that they literally closed their classroom doors on their colleagues.
When a teacher sought help, advice and representation from the CTA staff representative, often he or she was told that there was nothing that could be done. Many teachers either resigned or ate the harassment and humiliation of the administrators.
In October of 1971, the Palm Springs Democratic Club invited Raoul Teilhet, state president of the California Federation of Teachers, as its guest speaker. Stan Kay asked Raul Loya, Ray Rodriguez and several others from MAPA to attend the meeting, confer with Teilhet and help organize an AFT local. Then Ken Eastman, a teacher at Coachella Valley High School was asked to join. He readily agreed.
After the Palm Springs Desert Democratic Club meeting, Teilhet agreed to attend an AFT organizing meeting the following week. With Teilhet's assistance we organized the Coachella Valley Federation of Teachers with about 20 members from the three school districts, Palm Springs, Desert Sands and Coachella Valley High School.
Some of the charter members were: Ken Krall, Raul Loya, Ray Rodriguez, June Pausch, Stan Kay, Ken Eastman, Sam Smith, Johanna Herz, Bill Casper and Larry Hoffman. The new Local grew to 25-30 members throughout the Coachella Valley.
Bill Casper, a Coachella Valley High School speech teacher, was our first president. We elected him because of his charisma, popularity and keen intelligence. We knew that to survive and grow, we needed Bill's leadership.
Subsequently the school districts formed their individual locals. The only eventual survivor was the Coachella Valley Federation of Teachers, representing the Coachella Valley Unified School District.
In 1975 Local 2247, still a fledgling teachers union, sued the Coachella Valley Unified School District over inequitable fringe benefits. The CFT law firm won the case at the local level, but lost it in the Appeals Court. The significance here was that we raised vital issues and fought for them.
During the years of survival, Local 2247 CVFT found its place as a teacher advocate. As the CTA chapter lost sight of the individual, the AFT Local filled the gap. We helped individual teachers whose personal needs were being neglected and soon CTA defections swelled and 2247 became the dominant teacher advocate in the district. The CVFT ran decertification elections against the CTA chapter in 1974, 1981 and finally in 1984 became the bargaining agent representing over 400 teachers.
Since then, the Coachella Valley Federation of Teachers, under the table leadership of Kenneth Krall, has achieved giant strides in salary benefits for the members of the bargaining unit. Local 2247 has been active at the state level of the teachers union, too. Ken Krall has served as a CFT vice president for the past five years and has served on the state legal committee. And in 1982, Sally Hamilton was honored by her selection to be a member of the CFT Women in Education Committee.
The going has not always been smooth but by keeping a clear-cut goal of accepting, recognizing, representing and defending every teacher, the Union has prevailed. This is the message Local 2247 wants every young and struggling Local to hear.
As an addendum may we cite a few additional specific benefits. Namely, from its inception, our Local provided important services. We always retained a local lawyer whom any of our members could call upon for a free consultation and reduced fees on any civil matter. Of course, on school-related matters we consistently utilized the CFT's law firm.
We always have had a monthly newsletter, numerous socials including wine and cheese gatherings, house parties and made the Union an ambience of friendliness. We also over the years presented outstanding AFT state and national speakers.
And there were times when we reached out to severe and tragic situations in the community itself, such as when the Garza family lost their home in a fire. We rose to the occasion, sponsoring emergency dance benefits to help them in their dire and desperate circumstance.
Simply said, in all, we spearheaded Teacher Advocacy in the Coachella Valley, inspired by and based on both need and integrity. May that devout essence glow as a continuum for those who follow.
(Stan Kay, contributor)