"A Walk With BIll"

While teaching social studies at Banneker Jr. High School, William H. Simons joined Local 27 of the American Federation of Teachers in 1948.  Little did he realize then that his life would never be the same.  In May 1964, he was elected president of the Washington Teachers' Union.  Prior to his assuming this position, he had served as a building representative, corresponding secretary, and parlimentarian of the Union.  He had played a piviotal role in the formation of Local 6, the Washington Teachers' Union, which was chartered as a result of the merger of three locals in the city: Local 8 which was the union of white teachers, Local 27 which was the union for colored teachers, and Local 856 which was an intergrated local of attendance officers.

In 1964 the teachers in the District of Columbia did not have the benefits of collective bargaining.  Bill Simons immediately emabarked upon the goal of achieving bargaining rights for the teachers.  Along the way, he was instrumental in getting the Board of Education to change its meeting time from 2:00 in the afternoon to 7:30 at night.  This made it possible for teachers and the community to observe the Board at work.  The time change also enabled Bill to dramatize before the Board the concerns of teachers.  Before achieving collective bargaining, he gained for teachers the right to review their personnel files and to smoke in the schools.

President John F. Kennedy's Executive Order 10988 which provided collective bargaining for federal employees was adopted by the District of Columbia for all employees except teachers, police, and firefighters.  The Union had urged the Board of Education to adopt the Executive Order.  However, the Board refused.  This proved to be a blessing in disguise as the Executive Order severely limited the scope of bargaining.  Bill, with the assistance of the AFT and the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO, which was then headed by Nicholas Zonarich, began an intensive organizing drive which resulted in a tremendous victory on April 26, 1967 for the Union over the local affiliate of the National Education Association.  From that historic moment the meteric career of Bill Simons began to soar.

A native of Washington, DC, William Henry (Bill) Simons was born on June 1, 1924, the fifth child in a family of eight children, to the late Alfred E. and Mattie G Simons.  A product of the DC Public School system, he attended John F. Cook Elementary School, Shaw Jr. High, Dunbar Senior High (Class of 1940), and Miner Teachers College (Class of 1947).  His college education was interrupted by a stint in the Army during World War II in the European Theater of Operations.  He obtained a Masters of Arts Degree from New York University in 1949.  Further graduate studies were pursued at Howard University, American University, and the City University of New York.  In 1948 he married the former Elaine Valerie Davis.  The are the proud parents of Sheryl Patrice of Philadelphia and Wilma Lorraine of Atlanta.

During his twenty-five years of president of the Washington Teachers' Union, the following are among his many notable accomplishments:

  • Negotiated seven contracts with the Board of Education.
  • Orchestrated the first walkout of teachers in the District of Columbia on March 7, 1968 in a massive lobbying effort on Congress for a salary increase.  This resulted in an 18% salary increase.
  • Organized employees of the National Child Day Care Association and the Hospital for Sick Children.
  • Led two successful teacher strikes in 1972 and 1979.
  • Provided the opportunity for teachers to be respected as professional employees.
  • Raised the average salary of teachers in the District of Columbia to the second highest in the nation.
  • Established the Washington Teachers' Union Scholarship Fund which has provided financial assistance for 56 graduates of the senior high schools in the District of Columbia.

In addition to Bill's outstanding service as president for the Washington Teachers' Union his activities in the Labor Movement in the metropolitan area and the nation include:

  • Delegate to the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO and its Recording Secretary
  • Vice President of the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO
  • Delegate to conventions of the AFT, the AFL-CIO, the Maryland State and DC AFL-CIO, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • One of five founders of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and Treasurer since its inception
  • Representative of the AFT in Brazil in 1969
  • Representative of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in Israel in 2028
  • Secretary for MWC,AFL-CIO Community Services Agency

Bill's record of community service is as extensive as his record of service in the Labor Movement:

  • Recording Secretary of the Woodridge Civic Association
  • Participant in the March on Washington, August 1963
  • Consultant with the Department of Justice, Boards of Education of Detroit and Philadelphia, and New York University
  • Lecturer at American University, Federal City College, Bowie State College, Howard University, University of the District of Columbia, and George Mason University
  • Panel member of symposium, "The Bakke Case: An Assault on Affirmative Action," Los Angeles, California, December 10, 1967
  • Board member for the Washington Urban League, United Way of the National Capital Area, Teaching Profession Program Advisory Committee, Employment Services Advisory Council, Unemployment Compensation Commission, the DC Tax Study Commission, and the Emeritus Foundation
  • Chairman of the Community Education Commission, Federal City College
  • Board member Unemployment Compensation, and the Washington Convention Center
  • Member of the DC Democratic State Committee 1968-72 and 1980 to present;  Alternate National Committeeman for the District of Columbia since 1990
  • Delegate to Democratic National Conventions 1968, 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988

Bill treasures the many awards and recognitions which he has received:

  • Meritorius Service Award, Teaching Professions Program, 1990
  • Washington Urban League Outstanding Service Award, 1990
  • Walter Bergman Human Rights Award from the Michigan Federation of Teachers, 1986
  • Certificates of Merit from the AFL-CIO and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists for going to jail after protesting apartheid in front of the South African Embassy, 1985
  • William Simons Recognition Resolution of 1984, the Council of the District of Columbia
  • Distinguished Honoree, National Committee for Labor Israel, 1984
  • Union Teacher Press Association Award of Merit for the Best Editorial, 1981
  • Outstanding Labor Leader, Washington Area, MWC, AFL-CIO, 1980
  • Consumer Justice Award, Greater Washington Chapter, Americans for Democratic Action, 1980
  • Certificate of Appreciation for Meritorius Service to the District of Columbia, Mayor Marion S. Barry, Jr., 1980
  • Certificate of Award in Recognition and Appreciation of Outstanding Service, DC Congrss of Parents and Teachers, 1979
  • Distinguished Alumnus, Class of 1947, DC Teachers College, 1974

The Friends of William H. Simons take great pride in paying tribute to an outstanding citizen of the District of Columbia.  We are certain that you will agree with us that he is indeed worthy of such and honor.




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