The Lake County Federation of Teachers (LCFT) formed on May 1, 1937, when a group of Waukegan High School teachers applied for affiliation with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In its early years, the fledgling Local showed incredible foresight by working to influence school board elections and establishing a newsletter, The Five-O-Format. The newsletter is still published today as the 504 Word.
In the 1960’s, the Local worked to end de facto segregation in Waukegan’s Whittier School by ordering enforcement of the Armstrong Act. This amendment to the Illinois School Code aimed to desegregate Illinois schools. In 1969, the Local settled the first contract in Lake County after a 23-day strike, another first in Lake County.
The 1970’s witnessed tremendous growth as SEDOL, Grant High School, Diamond Lake, Big Hollow, Lake Villa and Avon affiliated with the AFT. In each of these districts, the Local not only helped to form Unions, but - in the days before collective bargaining was protected by law - also worked to force boards of education to recognize the Union as the collective bargaining agent. In 1977, these separate locals federated as autonomous councils in one countywide Local, adopting the most historic number, 504, from Waukegan.
The 1984 Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act codified collective bargaining into law for all Illinois educational employees. Throughout the 1980’s, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) continued its attempts to raid from Local 504, though the Local was significantly more successful at raiding schools from the IEA. The Local also grew its membership by organizing nontraditional groups, including paraprofessionals, office workers and post-secondary employees.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Local solidified into a multi-faceted Union and began to focus on other issues affecting Lake County education employees. LCFT began teaching the AFT’s Educational Research and Dissemination classes that instructed teachers on best educational methods. Local 504 also became increasingly involved with politics in the late-1980’s and 1990’s, supporting candidates with strong educational records on both sides of the aisle.
The new millennium found the Local dedicated to its ongoing ER&D programs to the extent that it now holds some of the highest numbers of classes in the AFT. With the passage of PERA and Senate Bill 7, the Union committed itself to educating members and ensuring districts follow the changes those new laws require. As workers’ rights across the nation are attacked and diminished, the Union continues to fight back by rallying members and finding innovative ways to communicate not only with legislators, but the public as well. The growth of the Central Labor Council has been key as the Union joins forces with other labor organizations to get this powerful message heard. With most districts in the county already organized, Local 504 remains steadfast by reaching out to non-traditional groups as in the newly formed Prairie Crossing Charter School.
From its humble beginnings in 1937, with only a handful of teachers, the Lake County Federation of Teachers has grown into a sophisticated Union that serves over 6,000 members. Former IFT President Ed Geppert remarked, “LCFT is an amazing success story of thousands of teachers, paraprofessionals, and others joining together to have a say in their work lives.” Not only has LCFT continued to grow its membership and provide effective service, but its commitment to innovation and a focused vision for the future has benefited education in Lake County for many decades.
Page Last Updated: May 08, 2023 (12:04:31)