Summer is a great time for union activism

Greetings,

I hope your summer is off to a good start. The temperature is warm and the issues we are facing remain hot. There is a lot going on. I, along with 178 fellow Massachusetts delegates, took part in many lively debates, caucuses and discussions about education, social justice and the future of our union at the NEA's Representative Assembly, held July 3 to 6 in Orlando. Read about some of the highlights here.

The debates were sometimes contentious, but the excitement was palpable. The assembly engaged in discussion and debate about the issues that are most pressing to our students and our communities, including racism and the ways we tell our history - from the violence we did to Native Americans to the Civil War and its aftermath. As we talked about testing, curriculum and other issues, it became very clear that we are at a crossroads in education. Will we, the educators, drive the future of our profession and public education or will corporate interests continue to erode public education and collective bargaining rights? This was at the heart of many issues debated at the RA. It is also at the crux of many debates here in Massachusetts. Please help build a stronger union by acting on the issues described below.

Urge the U.S. Senate to Reduce Testing

Act now! The U.S. Senate is voting this week on a new federal education law to replace No Child Left Behind. The bill before the Senate would end federally mandated high stakes for schools and teachers. That's progress, but the proposal maintains annual testing in grades three through eight. The MTA supports Montana Senator Jon Tester's amendment, which would require testing in just one grade each in elementary, middle and high school. Click here to send a letter to Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey urging them to support the Tester amendment and other provisions that would reduce testing in our public schools.

Fight Workplace Bullying!

While there are laws to protect students from being bullied - and there should be - there are no laws to protect public employees from being bullied by their employers. That needs to be fixed. The MTA is backing House 1728, which has been filed by Representative Peter Kocot (D-Northampton) and co-sponsored by 36 other legislators to protect public employees from abusive bosses. H. 1728 would: 1) Establish legal remedies for public employees forced to work in an abusive work environment; and, 2) Require the employer to take actions to address complaints of bullying. MTA members are urged to testify on H. 1728 or submit written testimony. The State House hearing will be at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21, in Room A-2. For more information, contact MTA lobbyist Julie Johnson at jjohnson@massteacher.org.

Support Education Equity for Immigrant Students

The MTA is supporting legislation to help expand education opportunities for immigrant students. Senate 654 and House 1061 would allow students who have attended a Massachusetts high school for three years and have graduated or received a G.E.D. to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities and be eligible for state financial aid. These bills will be heard by the Joint Committee on Higher Education at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 15, in Room B-2 at the State House. For more information on the Education Equity Act, contact the Student Immigrant Movement.

Get Your Free Books Here - Jump-Start Our Union

Let's use book and discussion groups to build on the activism we generated this year - from the forums to our collective bargaining campaigns to the Week of Action. How to Jump-Start Your Union is a book that provides clear, specific and inspirational ideas for organizing your local and building union power. The MTA will provide you with FREE copies of Jump-Start if you form a group and agree to read and discuss the book. For more information, e-mail Ari Mercado in the Division of Governance and Administration at amercado@massteacher.org.

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

Barbara