No, We Won't Back Down


Last week I wrote about the MTA Annual Meeting of Delegates and some of the votes that were taken and motions passed. Not all motions passed. One in particular that did not pass has garnered a lot of media attention. The motion on a new business item called for the MTA to publicly recognize and congratulate the National Teacher of the Year, who happens to be a Boston charter school teacher. As presiding officer of the meeting, I did as I do with all motions - managed floor debate and then asked for a vote. The delegates voted not to endorse the new business item.

One might think this was a good idea or a bad idea, but the decision resulted from a democratic debate and discussion. One might think that in the same week that President Donald Trump released a budget that is a clear and present danger to public education and a health care proposal that could undercut our schools through cuts to Medicaid - all within the context of a frightening assault on our democracy - reporters would leave this story where it belonged: off to the side.

But instead, this vote unleashed a torrent of attacks on the MTA - on you and me, on all of us - first from a leader of the Yes on 2 campaign, on to a blogger who regularly writes against unions, and next to The Boston Globe, which stood firmly in the Yes on 2 camp last fall. The fury and outrage are startlingly disproportionate to the perceived offense. Unless, I suppose, the offense goes back to winning the No on 2 campaign last fall.

When we won No on 2, it was an amazing victory for our coalition, for students and for public education. But it left a lot of very powerful people very angry. Twenty-six million dollars is a lot of money to throw away on what was seen as a sure thing. Having lost on charters, it's no surprise that our detractors are trying to attack us on a side issue.

We will keep returning to what matters: fully funding public education for all students, a moratorium on high-stakes testing, autonomy and respect for all educators, and public schools as places where we grow and nourish democratic engagement. We have much to do. The fight is not over.

And Just What Are We Up Against?
It is important that we develop our understanding of why public education is under attack and who is leading the charge. Who is paying for those ballot questions and lawsuits? This article is a longish read, but it is the result of years of research into the corporate interests behind the assault. It will give you a sense of just what we are up against - as if their distractions and attacks were not evidence enough - and why we have to be strong, stand arm in arm, and fight back. Go here to read the article.

Building Union Power to Face the Assault
I have been telling you about some of the successes that members are having across the state as they organize building by building to grow rank-and-file activism and leadership. This is exactly the kind of organizing for power we are going to need in the years ahead.

Last week, I had the opportunity to hear from representatives of the Nevada Culinary Workers' Union Local 226. They talked about how they organize every day to keep a 92 percent membership level in a "Right to (Be Exploited in Your) Work" state. The key: one-to-one, member-to-member communication about the issues that matter to the members, developing rank-and-file leader organizers, and using union power to take strong stands for working people.

These are exactly the kinds of actions we are building here in the MTA, from Worcester to Plymouth, Carver to Springfield, Northfield to Ipswich: members leading the way as they fight for the schools our communities deserve. How do we learn to do this work?

Union Academy at MTA Summer Conference
Come to UMass Amherst for several days of learning how to build member engagement and union power through grievances, social justice work, contract campaigns and more. Let's grow our solidarity and strength in a beautiful setting and enjoy some good fun, too! Learn more and register here.

Less Testing/More Learning Campaign Continues
Join MTA members, parents and community members for our fifth meeting of the campaign to end the madness that is high-stakes testing. We will gather on Tuesday, June 27, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at MTA headquarters in Quincy to plan for our fall campaign. Sign up here. Bring a friend - or two.

42nd Northeast School for Women in Unions and Worker Organizations
If you cannot make it to the MTA Summer Conference, consider attending this conference, also being held at UMass Amherst, from July 22 to 26. You will have an opportunity to learn from and with people building worker power across industries. This kind of coalition work is essential to our success in the years ahead. Go here for more information.

Sign On to Support Immigrant Worker Rights
Across the Commonwealth, working people who are undocumented are being exploited by greedy bosses. Living in fear of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, they experience wage theft and fear of retaliation for speaking out on the job. Read about one such incident here. Talk to your local leaders and the leaders of community organizations about signing on to stop this exploitation.

In solidarity,