President’s Column: As relevant today as 50 years ago

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President’s Column: As relevant today as 50 years ago

In the 1960s, it was rare to hear PSEA and the word “union” used in the same sentence.

There was no collective bargaining law on the books. Pennsylvania teachers had no power to negotiate their wages, hours, or working conditions — and abuses abounded.

They were paid less than other professionals and educators in other states. Their schools lacked the resources that their students needed to learn. Women were paid less than men, and some even lost their jobs when they became pregnant.

Those early pioneers of the PSEA we know today were fed up. They knew they had to do something.

So, on March 4, 1968, a principal named Joseph Standa, then the president of PSEA, inspired a throng of educators 20,000 strong to rally on the state Capitol steps.

That was 50 years ago, and this issue of Voice celebrates the brave women and men who took a big chance to participate in the March on Harrisburg.

What they did forever changed PSEA and the education profession in this state, creating the political pressure that ultimately led to collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public employees.

“On March 4, 1968, that’s when we knew we had a union,” said veteran PSEA board member and teacher Mary Lou Stefanko, who was there. “That’s when we knew we had solidarity.”

This story may be 50 years old, but the message is as relevant today as it was then.

PSEA faces one of its biggest challenges since that time as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case brought by opponents of our union to further rig the rules against educators, support professionals, nurses, and other working people.

Whatever the court rules in that case, the one thing our opponents cannot take away is our solidarity. We are committed to the professions we love, the students we serve, and the colleagues we call friends.

You can help. Be an active citizen in your union. Volunteer to do at least one thing in your PSEA local or region. Support candidates who support us. Respond to critical alerts and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

And tell your story. Tell your colleagues and friends why you are a PSEA member and what this union means to you. Telling your story is powerful.

After all, that’s what PSEA members did in 1968 — and look how far we’ve come.  

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