The Newark Teachers Union has a long and noteworthy history in the Labor Union timeline. The Newark Teachers Union dates back to 1919 when the AFL-CIO was in its infancy. In its first metamorphosis, the NTU was one of the first 100 Unions formed, designated as Local 86 .The original application charter was dated May 27, 1919 and the AFT sent a letter granting the charter May 31, 1919. The teachers union was formed due to the lack of salary for teachers, which was typical back then. Membership during the first year reached a high of 50 members. O.W. Flavell was the Treasurer and Edna Furman was the Secretary. Shortly after its inception on October 26, 1920, the NTU had disaffiliated with the AFT. Subsequent history is sketchy and it appears that the Newark Teachers Union, Local 86 was confronted with increasing competition from other organizations and unions to represent teachers in the area.
The contemporary Newark Teachers Union, Local 481 as we know it, sent their charter application to AFT December 17, 1936 and it was approved by the AFT December 24, 1936 with seven (7) signers. The name of the local was Essex County Federation of Teachers. In 1943, the local voted to have the name changed to Newark Teachers Union. A new charter was not issued, “paste a strip over name.” was the AFT’s reply so the original charter members of the Essex County Federation of Teachers would be preserved.
The first office of the Newark Teachers Union local was located at 57 Halsey Street in 1942, before that it was located in the President’s house at 110 Ivy Street. The local move again in 1945 to 1025 Broad Street.
President: Charles Allen, 1937-1938
Financial Secretary Miss Lenore Laros, 1937
Dr. Robert Lowenstein, 1938-1943
Hildegarde B. Wells 1943
R. Joseph Bruder, 1955
Vincent Young, 1960-1964
Frieda Barnstein, 1938-1939
Hildegarde Wismar, 1939-1941
Esther Schechter, 1941-1946
Louise Messing, 1946
Three teachers- Dr. Robert Lowenstein, Mrs. Estella Labo and Perry Zimmerman were suspended from teaching by the Newark Board of Education for invoking their 5th amendment right in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1955. There was no evidence to support this for the Labor Movement or Zimmerman but Dr. Lowenstein was identified by Bella Dodd. Dodd was a leader of the Communist party of America from the 1930s till the late 1940s when she believed there was a higher conspiracy a foot and left the party.
She was a principal witness for the McCarthy hearings about her views of educators, the AFT and universities and whether or not there were communists in the union or schools. She met with the committee the night before to specifically say that Dr. Lowenstein had met with New York City communist officials from 1940-142. The teachers were suspended and dismissed in May 1955.
The AFT helped the accused individuals through the AFT Defense Fund of $1,500. Appeals were made and stated that the teachers were dismissed for practicing their constitutional rights. The case went to the State Supreme Court and Dr. Lowenstein was reinstated in 1961. Labo was reinstated in 1957 do to lack of evidence and Perry Zimmerman chose to leave the area and dropped his case.