PFT400 is a union of professionals helping our children to learn, grow and succeed in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Our membership is comprised of approximately 3,000 professionals in the Pittsburgh Public Schools including teachers, paraprofessionals, police officers, and other support staff.
The mission of the organization is enshrined in the PFT400 constitution, which states,
The objectives of this organization shall be:
- To develop in school and community a devotion to democracy.
- To promote full and equal educational opportunities for all.
- To secure and maintain cooperation and understanding among teacher, school, and community.
- To promote racial understanding and eliminate all forms of discrimination in our schools.
- To work in cooperation with other interested organizations to advance the interests of education, to improve the quality of education, and to secure legislation that will provide adequate financial support of the public school system.
- To advance the economic security and professional interests of teachers and other educational employees, and to secure their active participation in the formulation and administration of educational policies.
- To protect the rights of teachers and other educational employees.
- To act as representative of teachers and other educational employees in matters affecting these employees and the public schools.
Founded in 1935, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers AFT Local #400 (PFT400) has represented teachers in labor negotiations with the Pittsburgh Public Schools since 1968 when it first won the ability to bargain on behalf of its members. Prior to this, PFT400 functioned as a professional and lobbying organization, working to improve teaching and support learning inside and outside of the classroom.
PFT400 originally formed as a union of educators who stood up to common, but discriminatory employment practices in the 1930s. At that time, women who were teachers were barred from marriage and could be fired for marrying or starting a family. The Board of Education was an appointed body, made up of leaders from finance and industry in the City. During the great depression, board members would use their positions to threaten teachers with termination if they did not pay late bills that they or their family members owed to the corporations for which board members worked.
Facing such outrageous labor practices, The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers teamed up to lobby the Pennsylvania legislature for a teacher tenure law that would protect teachers from the discrimination and corruption that were rampant at the time. With the considerable help of David Lawrence, who at the time served as Secretary of the Commonwealth and Chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party but would go on to serve 13 years as Mayor of Pittsburgh and one term as Governor of Pennsylvania, the law passed the legislature.
After the United Federation of Teachers in New York and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers both won the right to collectively bargain with their school districts in the early 1960s, PFT400 began organizing to do the same. Under the leadership of Al Fondy, who was elected president in 1967, PFT400 went on an 11 day strike in February of 1968 to win the right to bargain. This strike is widely considered to have been the primary impetus for the passage of Public Act 195 of 1970, which recognized the right to collectively bargain for most public sector employees in the state of Pennsylvania. It is also only one of two strikes PFT400 has ever held.
Recently, PFT400 has been a leading innovator in education. Working with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PFT400 has been a leading voice in the creation of an innovative and nation-leading program of data driven teacher evaluation and professional development. PFT400 also stands against the pressure-cooker model of school reform, where high-stakes tests drive key decision making. Instead, PFT400 has stood in favor of looking outside the classroom and supporting wrap-around services and community engagement strategies to create communities of learning around our schools.