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AFT Local 29: Panama Canal Zone Records

Identifier: LR001000

Scope and Content

Important subjects covered in the collection are: Central Labor Union - Metal Trades Council Labor Legislation Panama Canal Company / Canal Zone Government Dept. of Defense Schools Dual School System Treaty Involuntary Transfers Tropical Differential

Among the important correspondents are: Kolodny, Jules Parfitt, Governor H.R. Ligtenburg, John Parker, Governor David S. Meany, George Seldon, David Megel, Carl Shanker, Albert

Series Description: Series I, Local 29, 1918-1921: Correspondence of the first teachers' union in the Canal Zone.

Series II, Local 227, 1930-1974: Sub series A: Office Files, 1930-74: Minutes, correspondence, newsletters, reports and officer and committee material of the Pacific Side Teachers Association. Sub series B: Financial Material, 1931-74: Bank, expenditure, dues and membership records of Local 227. Sub series C: Topical Files, 1937-1974: Files relating to the various interests and activities of Local 227.

Series III, Local 228, 1935-1974: The incomplete files of Local 228, the Atlantic Side Teachers Association.

Series IV, Local 29, 1974-81: Sub series A: Office Files, 1974-81: Minutes, correspondence, newsletters, reports and officer and committee material of the merged AFT Locals. Sub series B: Topical Files, 1974-81: Files relating to the various interests and activities of Local 29, including material on the Treaty negotiations.

Series V, Central Labor Union-Metal Trades Council, 1949-81: Sub series A: Minutes, 1949-80: Minutes of CLU-MTC meetings. Sub series B: Topical Files, 1949-81: Files relating to the interests and activities of the CLU-MTC and its member unions. Material on the Panama Canal Company/ Canal Zone Government and on the Treaty negotiations is included.


  • 1918 - 1981


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


AFT Local 29 was chartered in 1918 by teachers in the American schools of the Panama Canal Zone. It became inactive in 1921 after failing to maintain a large enough active membership. In 1933, two new locals were chartered with the aid of the Panama Canal Metal Trades Council (MTC). Local 227 represented the teachers of the Pacific side of the isthmus, and the smaller Local 228 represented those of the Atlantic side. In 1940 the Metal Trades Council became a Central Labor Union (CLU-MTC) under the AF of L to better serve member unions, which included police, fire-fighters, the Panama Canal Pilots Association, the AFT locals, and other employees of the Panama Canal Company/ Canal Zone Government (PCC/CZG). Canal Zone labor tried to maintain salaries comparable to those paid civil servants in Washington, D.C. In addition, a 13-20% Tropical Differential, a salary bonus for government employees living under adverse tropical conditions, was usually paid.

Problems facing teachers through the early 1970s included obtaining clean safe housing, protection for the jobs and salaries of teachers who married, and payment for extra-curricular assignments. The AFT urged the two locals to join in order to strengthen their position in negtiations with the Schools Division. A merger took place on Sept. 1, 1974. This merged local was reissued local number 29.

Soon thereafter, treaty talks took place between the U.S. and the Republic of Panama. As a result, the long separate American and Latin American schools systems in the Zone were merged, and in 1979 all U.S. schools in the Zone were transferred to the Department of Defense Dependents School System (DoDDSS). Under the Panama Canal Treaty, the Canal Zone no longer exists, and AFT Local 29 has become the Panama Canal Local 29.


7.5 Linear Feet (15 MB)


Collection contains correspondence, office files, financial materials, subject files, and minutes. The issues facing teachers in this zone were clean safe housing, job protection, salaries for married teachers and assignments. Important correspondence are with Governors Parfitt and Parker, Jules Kolodny, George Meany, David Seldon and Albert Shanker.


Arranged in 5 series – Series 1 (Box 1), Series 2 (Boxes 1-9), Series 3 (Box 9), Series 4 (Boxes 13-15), and Series 5 (Boxes 13-14). Folders are not necessarily arranged beyond the series level and are listed in the order in which they appear.

Series 2 is divided into 3 subseries. Series 4 and 5 are each divided into 2 subseries.


The papers of American Federation of Teachers Local 29, Panama Canal Zone, were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in December of 1980. Additional material was accessioned in February of 1981.

Related Materials

AFT collections


24 photographs, most related to poor housing conditions, have been placed in the Archives Audiovisual Collections. AFT and AFL-CIO pamphlets received with this collection are available in the Archives Library.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in July 1984.
Guide to the AFT Local 29: Panama Canal Zone Records
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA