A miniskirt scandal, a $38,000 maternity leave settlement, landmark grievance battles, a fight against agency fees and numerous journalism awards are some of the major milestones in the 21+ year history of the Diablo Valley Federation of Teachers, Local 1902.
Formed initially as the Central Contra Costa County Chapter of the Richmond Federation, Local 866, the chapter prospered at a time when "union" was equivalent to profanity for most teachers and was chartered as Local 1902 on July 17, 1968, with more than one hundred members from areas of the county that included Pittsburg, San Ramon and Acalanes as well as Mt. Diablo.
In those formative years, the AFT chapter quickly gained a reputation for defense of teacher rights when, in 1967, Nancy McGlone, a Pacifica High (West Pittsburg) English Teacher, was brought up for dismissal on charges that included failure to salute the flag and wearing a miniskirt to work. McGlone was defended by AFT attorneys Francis Heisler and Peter Frank, and though the hearing officer found the District’s charges groundless and McGlone’s dismissal unwarranted, the Board of Trustees ignored the findings and fired Nancy anyway.
Leadership in the young Local was provided by Presidents Ken Edwards, Tom Lundy and Steve Spencer during the "chapter" phase. The chapter operated chiefly out of Lundy's garage and the office equipment consisted of one rickety mimeograph machine period. When the chapter was granted for Local 1902, Kaz Mori was at the helm and remained there until 1973. Under Mori's charismatic leadership, membership swelled.
In 1965 the California Legislature had passed the Winton Act, a toothless version of collective bargaining. But for all the law's weaknesses, it did provide for proportional representation in meet and confer sessions of "Certificated Employee Councils," the forerunner of negotiating teams under collective bargaining. DVFT awoke to find that we qualified to have two members on the team, enough to put the union's program on the floor for discussion. Routinely, DVFT proposals were voted down by the Association majority, only to reappear the following year-virtually unchanged-as the Association program.
When the Board of Trustees was unresponsive in the fall of 1972, a one day walk-out was called jointly by DVFT and the Association. Despite an agreement between organizations to share the limelight, Kaz was physically manhandled by CTA-types and prevented from participating in a press conference. Later in the morning, after a march to the District Office by over 1,400 teachers, Mori and CFT President Raoul Teilhet seized the bull-horn and excited the crowd with the fiery oratory that was the union trademark.
In 1973, the DVFT Grievance Committee was formed when DVFT's fifth president, Joel Brooks and Dick Hemann responded to a growing need to defend teacher rights. With Hemann and Mori co-chairing the committee, anyone with a problem called the Union, which now had opened an office in Pleasant Hill. In 1974, DVFT filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the District’s refusal to allow female employees to use accumulated sick leave for maternity purposes. Once again the union prevailed and the three named parties Phala Dann, Linda Holman and Sue Byde won settlements varying from $1,900 to $4,000, and each member in the class action received $500–a total of some $38,000.
In 1975, Chuck Foster became DVFT’s sixth president. In 1974 Foster had organized and edited the award-winning newsletter the Diablo Teacher. His column “Pellucidly” was a favorite feature, spotlighting teacher activists in Mount Diablo. Membership now reached an all-time high of nearly 500. On September 22, 1975, the Winton Act was replaced by the Rodda Act, California's public employee collective bargaining law. In the spring of 1976, and without sufficient analysis of the long-term effects of their action, the membership voted to withdraw from a bargaining election and let the Association become the bargaining agent. The theory was that the Association would do such a poor job that the Union would win easily a year or two later. At the time, this action seemed to be the best course. The Association did do poorly, but in the challenge election of 1979, DVFT fell 140 votes short of victory.
In the spring of 1977, the first of four "spring rites-mass teacher dismissals-occurred. More than half of the 500 teachers receiving notices were represented by DVFT and attorney David Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld put on quite a display in his cross examination of James Slezak-the Porsche-driving/patent leather shoe-wearing superintendent. When the district settled, all of those dismissed were rehired or found jobs in other districts. Kaz Mori returned as President in 1977 and held the organization together during the 11-day Association strike. Only one DVFT member crossed the picket line during the entire ordeal.
In the fall of 1979, the opposition concluded negotiating its second contract which included an agency shop clause. Under the direction of Al Zacharin, Les Groobin, Carol Noble, Anna Mantell, Barbara Macnab, Mori, Hemann, Foster and several others, DVFT again fought the Association in the agency shop election. This time only 40 votes separated the two in a poor voter turnout with the Association prevailing with only a 36% majority of the teachers' unit supporting the issue.
In 1980, Barbara Macnab became DVFT's eighth president. A complex legal challenge to the agency fee election was successfully resolved in negotiations spearheaded by Macnab and CFT Field Rep Tom Martin. Over 190 teachers received more than $140 each, more than $26,000 total.
In 1983, Dick Hemann became president of Local 1902 and, with the assistance of Carol Noble, Keith Harris, John Gavell, Sandy Schroeder, Chris Piazza, and Macnab, DVFT's Diablo Teacher won numerous journalism awards, statewide and nationally.
In 1986, Keith Harris, DVFTs current president, took office. While membership has dwindled through retirement and for other reasons, some 20 stalwarts still hold faithful to the cause. The spring of 1989 will see a new turn. Mt. Diablo psychologists, a separate bargaining unit of about 15, have voted to affiliate with CFT and will become a chapter under the umbrella of DVFT.
(Dick Hemann, contributor)