On March 22, 1935, the American Federation of Teachers supported teachers in Hammond who wanted to form a local and affiliate with the AFT for the purpose of representing teachers in the areas of developing a profession and improving working conditions. The request for the charter was granted by the Executive Council of the AFT thereby empowering teachers to begin the hard work of organizing Local 394.The original signatures making the request consisted of several classroom teachers who made the decision to bind itself to the American Federation of Teachers. Since that time, Local 394 has been the "Voice of the Teachers." In 1971 the Indiana General Assembly granted teachers the right to bargain collectively and negotiate a Master Contract with The Board of School Trustees which could advance the original agenda set forth in 1935-improving working conditions and continuing the effort to build a true profession.
The process of collective bargaining has been arduous yet very fulfilling. From the beginning the philosophy of Local 394 has been predicated on a mutual concern to provide the highest quality of education possible for Hammond's children. Another tenet of our philosophy has been the notion that an educational system based on the involvement of teachers in the decision making process will lead to the highest quality of education, enhance the practice of teaching, and foster human dignity for all. During this process Local 394 pioneered the concept of a "living contract" which incorporated the concept of both distributed bargaining and integrated bargaining, as well as interest based bargaining all of which enable the parties to respond more quickly to issues which demand immediate attention.
Now we are entering unchartered territory. The Indiana General Assembly has made it more difficult for the bargaining agent to represent teachers through the traditional collective bargaining process. However, the culture of collaboration and shared decision making is so deeply embedded in the Hammond school system that the parties have agreed to continue with that philosophy. Therefore, several sub committees have been established that embrace the notion of transparency and shared decision making in a manner that has actually strengthen Local 394 in its efforts to represent teachers. The following committees play an integral part of the decision-making process in Hammond: Cash flow, Healthcare, Evaluation, Compensation as well as working with the administration in developing a human capital infrastructure at each school site.
We also remain active, politically. We have established a COPE committee and the majority of our members make a financial contribution to assist that committee in supporting candidates at every level who support our goals as a profession. This includes the Congress of the United States, the Indiana General Assembly, and Hammond School Board candidates. Simply put, Local 394 is recognized around the state as the single most influential teacher organization by members of the General Assembly. We lobby, we testify, and we maintain on a regular basis a deep working relationship with political leaders who share our values.