Starting in 1975, Chavez was employed within the inner circles of the United States second largest teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers, where she was responsible for editing that organization's publications. She was a confidante of Al Shanker, the AFT's president. While she believed in President Shanker's personal philosophy of trade unionism, she eventually came to feel that many in the organization were intent on moving the union in another direction after Shanker's inevitable departure. She later wrote that the more she learned about the goals of these newer union leaders, the less comfortable she felt in the organization. She left the AFT in 1983.