MTA Annual Meeting highlights

Delegates to the MTA Annual Meeting, held May 11 and 12, 2012, in Boston, reelected President Paul Toner and Vice President Timothy Sullivan, approved the annual budget and were addressed by recommended candidates Elizabeth Warren and Joseph P. Kennedy III. MTA Friend of Education awards were conferred on Congressmen Barney Frank and John Olver and the MTA Friend of Labor Award on Secretary of Labor Joanne Goldstein.

Following a brief list of business items, the Saturday business session opened with a rousing speech from MTA's recommended candidate for U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren, who emphasized the importance of public education in preserving the American Dream. Warren was a special needs teacher in a public school before going to law school.

"I'm someone who believes we need a strong cop on the beat to make sure someone doesn't steal your purse on Main Street or your pension on Wall Street," Warren told the crowd.

Retiring Congressman Barney Frank was honored as an MTA Friend of Education for his many years defending public service and reining in financial service giants. Fellow retiring Congressman John Olver, who could not attend the Annual Meeting, was also honored with the Friend of Education award.

In introducing Frank, MTA President Paul Toner said: "The list of issues he has taken on is long and impressive. He has been out front on civil rights, civil liberties, affordable housing, job recovery, environmental protection, Social Security fairness, women’s reproductive health issues, financial reform, health care, public education at all levels, and financial debt.

"Frank, the first member of Congress to come out as a gay man, has long championed civil and gay rights. He recently told The Boston Globe that his decision to come out in 1987 was calculated, because the only way to fight prejudice is to serve as an example. 'Prejudice is based on ignorance,’' he said. 'And the best way to counterbalance it is with a living example, with reality. At the time, of course there were gay politicians, but we had been very successful in hiding who we were. And by hiding we inadvertently helped perpetuate the stereotypes about us. So I had to do it.'"

"Congressman Frank is known to be someone who will not suffer fools gladly," Toner said. "In fact, some of his colleagues in Congress have had to learn 'Barney Speak,' which means get to the point – and fast.'"

In accepting the award, Frank said he plans to turn the tables in retirement "and make fools suffer" in his new role as an advocate. Pledging to make sure that educators have the resources they need in the future, he said, "We have the money. We misallocate it."

Frank also gave a strong endorsement to Joseph P. Kennedy III to fill the retiring Congressman's seat. Kennedy also addressed delegates as MTA's recommended candidate for that seat.  

Of Olver, Toner said: "During his tenure in office, John Olver has been ranked among the most liberal members of the House and has championed a wide range of issues that matter a great deal to working families. He has fought to increase workers’ rights and benefits, expand access to affordable health care and improve education and job training.

"He’s sought adequate funding for students and Massachusetts public schools. And he’s worked to increase the amount of aid available to students through Pell Grants and cut interest rates on college loans to ease the financial burden that young people are facing today."

Secretary Goldstein is the third recipient of MTA's Friend of Labor Award.

"Throughout her career in law and public service, Joanne has advanced the rights of workers to good jobs with living wages in safe workplaces. As Secretary of Labor, she oversees five important agencies: Unemployment Assistance, Career Services, Labor Standards, Industrial Accidents and Labor Relations," Toner said in his introduction.

"Joanne is not just a friend of labor in general, but of the MTA in particular. Shortly after she took office – before we had had a chance to reach out to her – she asked to meet with us so she could learn about our major labor concerns. Since then, she has been extremely generous with her time and expertise. She has been helpful to us on a range of issues, including helping us make the pension and municipal health insurance bills and regulations better than they otherwise would have been and helping us shape and advance our early childhood education organizing drive."

Adam Gray, the 2012 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, talked about the extraordinary efforts needed to help low-income urban students reach their potential. He also stressed the importance of educating new members on the value of unions.

Elizabeth Warren, Joseph Kennedy and Barney Frank

MTA delegates heard from Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, Congressional candidate Joseph Kennedy and retiring Congressman Barney Frank.

Scenes from Annual Meeting

Toner and Sullivan Reelected