Mission & History
About the Washington Teachers' Union
The Washington Teachersí Union (WTU) represents more than 5,000 active and retired teachers in Washington D.C. WTU is dedicated to fulfilling a commitment to build great minds by improving the quality of support, resources, compensation and working conditions for public servants and proud teachers who educate students in D.C. Public Schools.
The mission of the Washington Teachersí Union is to:
Raise the standards of the teaching profession by ensuring and promoting conditions vital to effective services for all students.
Define and strengthen services of the schools and to afford employees with a full opportunity to participate in the democratic decision-making process within schools for the common good.
Protect the legal rights of all members.
Provide and maintain, as the sole and exclusive collective representative for members of the bargaining units, the effective implementation of the collective bargaining agreements between the Washington Teachersí Union and other employers.
Make employees aware of their political and social rights and responsibilities.
Since its inception almost 40 years ago, the Washington Teachersí Union has strengthened the education profession to ensure equitable compensation, working conditions and resources for educators in the nationís capital.
However, during the early 20th century many of these supports did not exist for educators in DC Public Schools. Many teachers were fired for being married, while their duties were assigned at the will of the schoolís principal without extra pay.
In 1916, a group of teacher organizations came together to form the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Chicago, IL; only three years later, one of the unionís first battles created a de facto tenure rule in Washington, D.C.
During the 1930s, with several early union triumphs, many teachers in nearby Prince Georgeís County left the school district for more favorable conditions in the District.
In 1946, the Washington, D.C. Association of Attendance Officers organized AFT Local 867, a unique integrated organization in a segregated city, which some believe served as an early model that prompted AFT to change their constitution two years later essentially dissolving segregated locals.
Under the leadership of Local 8 member and AFT Vice President Selma Borchardt, the Washington Teachersí Union, as it is known today, was formed a few years later when the two Washington, D.C. Locals 8 and 27 merged in June 1953.
With WTUís remarkable growth and extraordinary influence, the union became the sole bargaining agent for all of the teachers in the District and after a rough start, secured a one-year contract in January 1968 that included a grievance procedure with binding arbitration, a duty-free lunch, planning periods for the elementary teachers, and a school chapter advisory committee.
But the fight was far from over. When WTU President Simons learned an area bus service advertised starting wages for new drivers with a high school education that were nearly $1,800.00 more than teachers with a college degree, he called for a one-day walk-out to lobby Congress. As a result, Congress passed a bill giving teachers an 18% increase.
By the early 1970s, teacher shortages were beginning to affect DC Public Schools; as class sizes began to increase with the District did not hire additional teachers. In a historic show of solidarity, thousands of WTU members went on strike on September 19, 1972 to protest the lack of funding and personnel. As a result, when the strike ended on October 2, DC Public Schools hired 182 new teachers, repaired crumbling buildings, and increased funding to buy more textbooks and supplies for students.
Despite being fined for mobilizing the strike, WTU arranged to have the $50,000 fee to be used as scholarship fund for graduating seniors to attend college. The WTU still awards two $20,000 scholarships each year to two students who plan to pursue careers in teaching.