Shaping policy and moving forward

Greetings,

Become a delegate to the MTA Annual Meeting! Now is the time to become a local delegate to MTA's Annual Meeting on May 8 and 9 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. The Annual Meeting is where MTA members debate, set policy and mark the course for where we are headed as a union. If you want to play an important role in making MTA policy and budget decisions, please inform your local or chapter president right away that you are nominating yourself. Each local affiliate has different deadlines and election rules. If there are more candidates than seats, an election will be held. But in many cases, no election is necessary. This is union democracy at its best - be a part of it. With luck, the snow will be gone by the time the meeting is held.

The ESEA fight is heating up. Some in Congress are pushing for changes that could make the ESEA (also known as No Child Left Behind) even worse, while others are trying to curb the ESEA's excessive testing requirements. Those of us in the latter camp need to have the loudest voices. Sign a petition here, and e-mail your U.S. senators and representative here. It only takes a minute, and if every NEA member sent an e-mail, Congress would be flooded with millions of messages from informed and active educators - a force to be reckoned with.

The MTA is moving to Quincy. Discussions about selling the MTA's Beacon Hill headquarters had been held for years before the Board of Directors voted last June to sell the building at 20 Ashburton Place and look for rental space. MTA Executive Director-Treasurer Ann Clarke explains that the new office space at 2 Heritage Drive in Quincy will "improve the functionality of our workspace and provide accessibility for more MTA members for meetings and training." The move will be completed by December. The new headquarters is accessible to the T, and there is ample free parking. Our Government Relations Division will continue to work from downtown Boston.

Summer Conference is also moving - to UMass Amherst! The MTA Summer Conference has been held at Williams College in the Berkshires for many years, but the college informed us in December that it has decided to stop renting out summer space for our type of event. We are fortunate to have a great alternative on a public university campus. We will hold the conference at UMass Amherst from Aug. 2 to 6. There will be workshops and organizing and union power trainings, as well as speakers, debates on critical issues, get-togethers, the chance to relax in Amherst's coffee shops and restaurants, and more. Come strengthen union solidarity, develop your skills and have some fun. Look for more information in the Spring edition of MTA Today and on our website, www.massteacher.org.

The minimum wage is going up, but not necessarily for public employees. The good news is that the minimum wage has risen, thanks to the work of dedicated activists - including many MTA members. The minimum wage rose to $9 an hour on Jan. 1. It will rise to $10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2016, and $11 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017. The bad news is that state law exempts public employers from having to pay their employees the minimum wage, so some of our members make less. That's true even though the law describes any wage below the minimum as "oppressive and unreasonable." Click here for an MTA Legal Services Division Memorandum. The MTA continues this fight through legislation calling for a living wage for all state employees, but we realize we must extend the battle to members who work for municipalities. Our hope is that this legislation will set the bar higher and provide leverage for members to demand that their wages reach that bar. This is an organizing opportunity for locals. Your field representative can support you in organizing a campaign involving members and the community.

Citizens for Public Schools is cosponsoring an event titled "The Health of Democracy: Privatizing Education" at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, at First Parish Cambridge (Unitarian Universalist), 3 Church St., Cambridge. Featured speakers are Julian Vasquez Heilig of California State University, Sacramento, and Suzie McGlone, a public school teacher in Boston. The event is free and open to the public.

In solidarity, and in anticipation of many great things ahead,

Barbara