American Federation of Teachers (AFT), an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. It was formed (1916) out of the belief that the organizing of teachers should follow the model of a labor union, rather than that of a professional association. From the 1960s to the late 1990s the AFT grew from 55,000 to 907,000 members. The union promotes collective bargaining for teachers and other educational employees; conducts research on teacher stress, special education, and other education-related issues; and lobbies for the passage of legislation of importance to education. The union has also reflected an increasing willingness on the part of American teachers to use militant labor union tactics, including strikes and the threat of strikes, in contract negotiations. In 1998 the leadership of AFT and the National Education Association (NEA) supported a merger of the two groups, but delegates to the NEA's annual meeting rejected the proposal.
See R. J. Braun, Teachers and Power (1972); M. Berube, Teacher Politics (1988).