The Baltimore Teachers Union, American Federation of Teachers Local #340, was organized in 1934 in order to give teachers a greater role in educational policy-making. Previously other teachers’ organizations had focused on issues such as curriculum and teaching tools. The seven teachers who chartered the BTU believed that a teachers’ union should be actively involved in bettering their working conditions and providing quality education for children. Kenneth Douly was elected the first president.
Thus, the BTU was chartered on that philosophy, and its membership was built around securing collective bargaining rights. The BTU was one of the first groups to utilize public forums such as school board meetings, state legislative hearings and community meetings to call attention to the problems of inner-city education. Another major issue for the Union was the racial integration of the teaching staff.
During the early 1960’s, the BTU continued its struggle for teachers to gain input in determining their wages and working conditions. Teacher salaries and fringe benefits were dominant issues. The Union continued to grow more militant in its demands for participation in determining salaries and working conditions. The militancy culminated in the membership voting to go out on strike in 1967. The victory of that historic strike resulted in city teachers gaining the right to collective bargaining and the ability to negotiate wages hours and working conditions for the first time. That victory paved the way for the rest of the teachers in the state to get collective bargaining as well.
In addition, BTU became the collective bargaining agent for paraprofessionals in 1968 and negotiated the first contract for paraprofessionals in 1970. As the role of teachers and paraprofessionals has changed over the past 50 years, the BTU has moved beyond collective bargaining issues and has spearheaded education reform initiatives in Baltimore City. It was the BTU that introduced a pilot school redistricting plan in Baltimore that centered on school-based management and shared decision-making teams consisting of teachers, paraprofessionals, parents and community leaders. This pilot program became the model for Baltimore City’s current school governance plan.
In 2010, the BTU added more than 500 new members to its Paraprofessional and School Related Personnel ranks; the new members represented more than 100 classifications of employees. During this same year, the BTU negotiated a landmark contract for Baltimore City teachers; the contract did away with the traditional step and salary increase process for teachers. Under the new contract, teacher compensation is based on specific career pathways that allow teachers to earn achievement and advance at their own pace. BTU also negotiated its first contract for the paraprofessional and school related personnel chapter in 2010.
The BTU is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, a prominent national teacher’s organization with more than 1.6 million members across the country. The BTU is also affiliated with the AFL-CIO, which represents more than 10 million union members. Today, the BTU is the collective bargaining agent for more than 7,000 teachers, paraprofessional and school related personnel in the Baltimore City Public School System.
The mission of the Baltimore Teachers Union is to work for the betterment of the teachers and PSRPs by organizing, supporting and enforcing the terms of negotiated agreements and by becoming a powerful, political force which influences the direction of education in the Baltimore City Public School System and improves the academic achievement of children.
- To promote the professional and economic well-being of our members.
- To ensure that every student in the City is guaranteed a program of quality education.
- To advance the standards of the teaching and paraprofessional profession.
- To promote the best interests of the public schools of Baltimore City.
- To engage in collective bargaining, cultural, civic, legislative, political, fraternal, educational, charitable, welfare, social and other activities which further the interests of this organization and its membership, directly or indirectly.