For the first hundred years of American public education, collective bargaining for teachers was nonexistent. Government school teachers instead enjoyed employment protection through individual state civil service laws.

During this time, many government school teachers and administrators became members of a professional organization called the National Education Association (NEA), to which the words "unionism" and "strike" were abhorrent.3

It was not until the early 1960s that the NEA's philosophy shifted away from that of a professional organization toward that of a trade union. Two important events occurred at that time to encourage this.

In 1961, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), an organization modeled after the labor unions of the industrial sector, gained the power to collectively bargain for New York City teachers. In 1962, President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10988 approving unionization for federal employees, which inspired many state governments to soon do the same for state employees.

This new union philosophy was sealed when in the late 1960s and early 1970s school administrators separated from the NEA, which went on to become a full-fledged union including not just school teachers but custodial, food service, transportation, and other support staff as well.

The UFT secured for New York's teachers a contract reflecting the industrial labor union model: uniform pay scales and seniority rights for teachers, limited classroom hours, and required union membership and dues deductions. This model continues to be followed today by the UFT's parent union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the NEA and their affiliates in each state, including Michigan.