Solidarity in the BTU

       When someone thinks about what it means to be in or have a Union one of the first words to come to mind is ‘solidarity.’ Solidarity, defined from Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards.” The Boston Teachers Union (BTU) was created in 1946 and has been advocating for the teachers (and eventually teacher aids and nurses) of Boston’s Public Schools ever since. But they haven’t only stood in solidarity with themselves, they have also expanded their support and stood in solidarity with Unions across the country. The 1970s, the decade looked at here in this blog post, has a lot going on with conflict about Desegregation as a backdrop alongside many national Union movements that take root.

          Keeping a close eye on other teacher Unions the Boston Union Teacher, the BTU’s monthly newspaper written and edited by teachers, worked to advocate for other union movements and teachers. They did this in a variety of ways, from reporting on the issues that teaching aids and nurses faced in attempts to unionize or join the BTU and keeping track of the success and efforts of Unions across the country. They followed other teacher strikes and attempts to unionize in Philadelphia and New Orleans. They even offered their monetary support raising money in 1970 to support the General Electric Strike fund, raising $566 across the district.

GE Strike Fund Contributions from BTU teachers

       Outside of just supporting fellow teachers Union they continued supporting their fellow workers, advocating for a Firestones strike when their workers went on strike in 1976. While an ad for Firestone was placed several pages later, this is the only Firestone ad to be run in the BTU for the entire 1970s, and might have been done intentionally but also could have been purchased before the Firestones strike went into effect.

       The Boston Union Teacher also supported the strikes of other union laborers by putting in Do Not Buy Lists and penning articles explaining why not to buy or support brands like Gallo. Articles like these show up several time across the 1970s, showing that the BTU stands in solidarity with all Unions, not just teacher Unions.

Boston Union Teacher article advocating for the boycott of Gallo

          The Newspaper for the BTU is its main voice, and only way of communicating with its teachers, teachers aids, nurse, and other staff spread out across almost a hundred schools with a variety of jobs. And its one of the only ways it could advocate for itself, making sure that everyone understood what was at stake, and the success of the Union itself. And it was the best way to offer support. Through these ads, fundraising campaigns, and awareness the BTU was able to support its fellow workers and help bring about a change in its nationwide community, which it was very well aware of its role in. Now nearing almost 60 years old the BTU has a long history of speaking out and paying attention to what’s going on around it, continuing to stand in solidarity with its other fellow workers.

By Maci Mark

Maci Mark is a graduate student at UMass Boston getting their Masters in History with a Public History Concentration and an Archives Certificate. They have a passion for the stories of normal people with a desire to tell you about them and like to make the irrelevant relevant.

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