The Association of Catholic Teachers is the oldest Catholic Teachers' Union in the country. The Association's Constitution was ratified in March, 1966. The Union came into existence when lay teachers in the Secondary Schools of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia realized that unless they banded together, they would have little chance of improving their conditions of employment. The struggle to achieve recognition brought some hectic and trying times, including the first strike by Catholic School lay teachers in the United States.
In May, 1967, the Association of Catholic Teachers voted to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. Upon winning the representation election in February, 1968, ACT was formally recognized by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as the sole and exclusive collective bargaining agent for high school lay teachers.
In June, 1978, ACT disaffiliated from the American Federation of Teachers. The first Catholic Teachers' Union in the country to affiliate with AFT became the first to disaffiliate. The reason given was a history of insensitivity to the problems of Catholic teachers. Also cited was AFT's all-out campaign against Tuition Tax Credits and vouchers.
In October, 1978, ACT formally affiliated with the National Association of Catholic School Teachers, an organization which ACT helped found. Rita C. Schwartz, ACT's long-serving president and now president emeritus, serves as president of NACST.
The Association of Catholic Teachers still considers itself part of the labor movement and maintains close ties with the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.
The Association currently represents 500 lay teachers employed in the 15 Archdiocesan high schools.
The Association is now 56 years old. In addition to contract negotiations, grievance handling and problem resolution, the union sponsors the annual Political Action Seminar, and Critical Issues Seminars for juniors and seniors in high school.
One of the Association's chief activities is lobbying for aid for students attending Catholic schools.
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