Interview with Albert Shanker

Okay, fall of '68 what effect is the strike having on teachers within the union? What, what's, what are they saying to you dur--during that time?


Well, I had more support from teachers than I'd ever had in any previous strike. It was a, it was very effective. Ah, and they supported the, the reasons for the strike and they saw it very clearly which is kind of interesting because there wasn't any direct money involved and also basically they were, they were out in order to defend certain basic principles. The idea that you have a right to a hearing and you have a right to a, to a reason for why you're being discharged. Ah, after the strike went on for a little while I met with a number of Black leaders within the union and said, "Look, this obviously has to be creating some special problems for, for Black teachers because you're having people out there saying 'It's a Black, White issue,' and here you are, ah, you're out." And I urged them to hold a, a special meeting where they would be able to, of Black teachers where they'd be able to, ah, discuss the special problems, the special concerns. Ah, Sid Harris was one of our officers and Black, strongly argued against it. He said, "Gee, if you had such a meeting, it's a, a, you don't know where it's going to go and it's going to be pretty bad." Well there was such a meeting and at that meeting, ah, there were, ah, leaders of Ocean Hill-Brownsville and other Black teachers who were opposed to the strike. And, ah, the result was that there was, a, at that time, a split, that is, Dick Parish was one of our officers, came out saying, saying that it was a racist strike. And when I saw Dick I said, "Dick how could you urge Black teachers to go in?" He said, "I didn't urge them to go in. I'm not going in. I'm a loyal union supporter." And I said, "Dick, if I believed this were a racist strike, I would go in." Ah, and, ah, so we, we continued to have that, that argument. And, and, and Black teachers of course were very torn, as was, as were some Whites. And there were, were some who did cross the picket lines and some who stayed out but who disagreed, but I would say that of all the strikes we've ever had, ah, that even with that division, that the, uh, the support was overwhelming and, and it was overwhelming among White teachers but it was also majority support among Black teachers.