Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412939584 | Print ISBN: 9780761930877 | Online ISBN: 9781412939584| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Todd A. DeMitchell & Richard Fossey
Public education is the most heavily unionized occupation in the United States. The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest teachers union, has about 2.5 million members, about 2 million of whom are K–12 teachers. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second-largest teachers union, has about 1 million members, and about half of these members are classroom teachers. NEA and AFT grew from different traditions, which initially shaped their approach to unionization and collective bargaining. In its early years, NEA was considered a professional organization and was not dominated by classroom teachers. Rather, its leadership tended to be superintendents, college presidents, and college professors. In contrast, AFT, from its inception, has seen itself as a teachers union. The emergence of AFT in the 1960s forced NEA to shift its focus more strongly toward teachers' interests. Today, differences between the nation's two largest unions have faded, and both AFT and ...