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Glenn Altschuld - Saying Goodbye to a Union Hero

Dear Colleagues,

Past CHTU President Tom Schmida wrote this wonderful tribute about our recently departed mentor, Glenn Altshuld.  I hope you take a moment to read it.
In Union,
Ari Klein
CHTU President

Saying Goodbye to a Union Hero

It is easy for us to forget that there were pioneers of our Union who left a legacy reflected in the contract we enjoy today, and in their commitment to the core values of our Union.     


On Saturday, October 19th a memorial service was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Cleveland Heights celebrating the life of Glenn Altschuld, President of the CHTU from 1970-1990. He was 89 years old.Glenn was a skillful leader,  tough and unafraid but always, always, an advocate for members’ rights, benefits, and working conditions. He built Local 795 from the ground up and provided services to his members far beyond those offered by a typical union.  

Under Glenn’s leadership in 1971 the CHTU won bargaining rights over the Teachers Association. Despite attempts to disparage Glenn and the Union, the Teacher Association’s leadership failed in subsequent attempts to regain bargaining rights in 1973 and 1975.  Glenn’s leadership brought forth an era of labor peace that lasted throughout the 1970’s. During that time, the Union ran its operations from an office inside the BOE building. Union membership grew due to improved benefits and working conditions, services to members, and  political activism. 

Glenn readily took on adversity, especially during contentious contract negotiations and 2 teacher strikes in the 80’s. Very often, those on the management side of the bargaining table viewed  Glenn as relentless, excessively demanding, and brash... they did not realize his style of leadership was what we wanted and needed, nor had they ever encountered such a skillful negotiator. Significant improvements in salaries, insurance benefits, and contract language were won, but only due to the sacrifice and steadfastness of Glenn and the membership of Local 795.  (By the way, shortly after the 1980 strike, Glenn was told that the Union had to vacate its office at the BOE; not exactly evicted, but invited to leave). 

During the late 1980s, a new superintendent arrived on the scene and with him a new era of union animus.  It was evident that this superintendent had never dealt with a union leader like Glenn. Relations between the Board and Union deteriorated to the point where the superintendent refused to speak with Glenn, so Glenn sent the Vice-President  (me) to represent the Local 795 (without much success I might add). The Board hired a union-busting law firm for contract negotiations which led to an impasse, but a last minute agreement was achieved, and a strike averted. Relations were so bad, intervention was required from the Labor Relations Institute at CSU.  In 1989, there was a dramatic shift. The new superintendent, Lauree Gearity, was appointed and a much more collegial Union-Administration relationship evolved. Glenn referred to this period of time as a “new beginning”. The following year, Glenn retired as Union President, but continued to lend his expertise and depth of knowledge  working at the union office.    

Glenn’s leadership skills were tapped early on by presidents of the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).  He was a member of the OFT Executive Committee, and served as chair of the OFT Legislative Policies Commission (the political action arm of the OFT) and was the OFT Parliamentarian. At the national level, Glenn was the chairman of the Legislative and School Finance Committee at  AFT conventions up until he left office in 1990. Additionally, Glenn helped organize the Beachwood Federation of Teachers and some other local unions. At times he even served on their negotiating teams.

One of Glenn’s major accomplishments during his presidency was creating a strong Local 795 political action presence both locally and at the state level. He developed a Committee on Political Education, a local PAC, that provided financial support to pro-teacher and pro-public education candidates. He pushed his members to become politically active as he emphasized how legislation impacts the lives and livelihood of teachers. In addition, Glenn always made sure that Local 795 was the largest contributor to district levy campaigns. Glenn developed relationships with state legislators to ensure that our voices were heard. 

 Usually, teacher unions do not get involved in Board of Education elections.  Not so here in CH-UH. Glenn believed in endorsing and actively supporting BOE candidates whose positions aligned with those of our union.

 Glenn helped draft legislation for tougher laws on child abuse and reporting, and he lobbied fiercely in support of collective bargaining rights for public employees. He would frequently make the trip to Columbus to present testimony, and meet with legislators and governors as an advocate for students, teachers, and organized labor. 

Glenn was a master teacher, beloved by his students and admired by his colleagues.  Glenn taught at every level during his career in CH-UH; elementary, middle school, and  high school. From time to time his high school students would come to our union office for “special help”, and former students would stop by just to see Glenn. During the contentious Union-Board climate in the late 1980’s, the superintendent decided to “punish” Glenn by transferring him from the high school to a middle school. A special position was created for him; “technical compliance officer” whose job it was to assist teachers in preparing discipline referrals.  As it turns out, Glenn loved working at the middle school, and declined the offer from the new superintendent to transfer him back to the high school. 

Glenn’s legacy lives on throughout the language in our collective bargaining agreement.  He negotiated trailblazing contractual provisions on maternity and child care leaves, control of insurance benefits, assault leave, and student discipline. More than 30 years ago Glenn recognized the threat that privatization poses to public employees and negotiated contract language that protects our members against subcontracting. 

Glenn remained active in union work after his retirement as parliamentarian for the Northeast Ohio AFT retirees affiliate. 

 On occasion,  Dan MacDonald, Ari Klein and I would meet Glenn for lunch and share memories and political views.  His depth of knowledge and commitment to unionism was not diminished by age, nor was his humorous nature.

We have lost a true union hero.  All of us, as Local 795 members past and present, and whether or not we knew Glenn, owe him a debt of gratitude for lifting our profession and for being a staunch defender of public education.

Tom Schmida

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