Teachers Unite!d

Teachers Unite!d

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The American Federation of Teachers was founded in Chicago in 1916. The union grew rapidly in its first decade, but in the years following World War I, membership declined. Because joining the union often resulted in teachers losing their jobs, memorabilia like this button reflected a shared sense of pride. It is a lime-green pinback button with the American Federation of Teachers shield at left and another image of hands with a pole in the center with the slogan, "Teachers Unite!" A small graphic on the front reads “Allied Printing Trades Council Union Label.” This label signifies that the button was produced by a company whose employees are members of the Printing, Publishing, and Media Workers Sector of the Communication Workers of America or the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Throughout the early twentieth century, the Federation fought against low salaries and sexism toward female teachers. It was generally distrusted across the country after allegations of communist infiltration surfaced in the late 1930s. Later, throughout the Civil Rights Movement, the Federation opposed segregation and forced its locals to desegregate after 1954.
By the 1980s, over 600,000 members represented the union and boasted buttons like this one. It was made in 1986 as the Federation led the movement for educational reform. In 1985, Federation president Albert Shanker emphasized the need for improved teacher certification methods. He also emphasized the importance of educational technique over subject matter.
Currently not on view
Object Name
associated institution
American Federation of Teachers
Physical Description
green (overall color)
red (overall color)
blue (overall color)
white (overall color)
aluminum (overall material)
overall: 2 1/4 in x 2 1/4 in x 1/8 in x 2 1/4 in; 5.715 cm x 5.715 cm x.3175 cm x 5.715 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Vicki L. Thorn
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Education
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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