Prior to 1960, school secretaries were represented by the Secretaries’ Association, an independent group. They were a small group with no union affiliation who attempted to negotiated with the New York City Board of Education on behalf of its members. They were powerless to persuade the Board to meet their demands.
Goldie Colodny, a school secretary and union advocate, believed that with the support and strength of an organization composed of colleagues who shared the same work environment, the quiet voice of school secretaries could be transformed into a shout through union solidarity. As a result of her determination, the UFT challenged the independent Secretaries’ Association in a collective bargaining election not long after the UFT itself came into existence. It was a heated election campaign, but the UFT won recognition as the collective bargaining agent for school secretaries and the UFT negotiated the first contract for secretaries in July, 1965.
School secretaries always had functional chapter status, which meant that they were self governing on matters of policy concerning secretaries. It also meant they had the right to elect their own chapter leader and delegates to the UFT’s Delegate Assembly, which decides union policy. The chapter leader and the chapter's 14-member Executive Committee meet monthly throughout the school year to find solutions to problems secretaries face in their workplaces.
The UFT has made great strides in bargaining for school secretaries. We have seen tremendous advances in salaries, benefits, rights and working conditions, and the UFT continues to fight for the rights of union members and workplace reforms.