1941 August 22

American Federation of Teachers Bars Three Local Chapters for Communist Associations


The American Federation of Teachers, a national labor union of public school teachers, on this day barred three local chapters from participating in the union’s national convention because of their alleged communist associations.

The three local chapters included Locals #5 and #537 from New York City, and Local #192 from Philadelphia. The ban on communist-associated locals had previously been approved by a national referendum of union member. The ban on the three locals cost the national AFT about 8,000 members. National AFT leaders, however, said that new and acceptable locals in the two cities had brought in about 1,500 members.

AFT leaders stated that they had to bar the allegedly pro-communist local chapters in order to “save” the national union.

The date of the expulsion of the three teachers’ union chapters — 1941 — is significant  because similar actions were taken by a number of other labor unions during the post-World War II Cold War. The expulsion, the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) (May 26, 1938), the Smith Act (June 29, 1940), and other events, clearly indicate that the anti-Communist hysteria was alive and running full-bore prior to World War II.

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