The Evolution of a Collective Bargaining Relationship in Public Education: New York City’s Changing Seven-Year History

The bargaining relationship between the New York City Board of Education and its teachers had its roots in the social forces of the mid-fifties and its formal origins in the events of the early sixties. The relationship came about without benefit of law or executive policy. No law permitting public employees to bargain collectively was in effect anywhere in those years, and Mayor Wagner’s 1958 Executive Order-the culmination of three years of study and public inquiry-did not apply to teachers. Instead, the impetus came directly from the persistent and increasingly powerful drive of the teachers themselves. They demanded a substantial voice in the determination of their salaries and, through improvement of their working conditions, enhancement of their stature as professionals. Ignoring the prohibitions of state law, they chose the strike as their pressure technique. Two work stoppages in the 1959-60period signaled three important facts: (1) that the teachers were grimly serious about obtaining improvements in their welfare; (2) that they were strongly determined to achieve those improvements through collective bargaining by a duly chosen representative; and (3) that they would not tolerate further vague promises and tactical delays by the City Board of Education.