We have just completed our first two weeks in our new roles as president and vice president. It has been a whirlwind of activity, made easier by the remarkable work of our union over the past four years and the guidance of our outstanding staff. We had the chance to meet many of you as we traveled the state this past year, but for those we haven't met, we want to take this opportunity to outline our vision.
Our top two statewide priorities for this year, which come from conversations with hundreds of members, are increasing funding for education from preK through higher education and winning a moratorium on high-stakes testing. We will achieve our goals as a union through All In campaigning, building stronger locals and helping our members build their union muscles.
We want to urge you to exercise those muscles right now by letting your state representative and senator know that increasing funding for preK-12 schools by updating the foundation budget formula is critically important. Please go here to contact your legislators and ask them to let the foundation budget conference committee know that you support Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz's version of the bill, with a phase-in of no more than five years. It would generate more than $1 billion for public schools when fully implemented.
What does building stronger locals mean in a practical sense? We have been asked if we prefer a "service" model for the MTA or an "organizing" model. That presents a false dichotomy. The question we need to ask is: "What does democracy look like in a union and in a local?" To us it means continuing to shift the culture in every building and on every campus to one where the members are in control of their circumstances ― where they are the ones identifying the problems, deciding collectively what the solutions are and taking action together to accomplish their goals, supported by our talented MTA staff in helping to facilitate this process.
Max and I have complementary experiences that span the age spectrum of students. I have been an elementary school teacher in Concord for 28 years, most recently teaching kindergarten. Max is a professor of architecture and director of the historic preservation program at UMass Amherst. I was president of my local and have served on the MTA Board of Directors; Max was president of the Massachusetts Society of Professors and has been on MTA's Executive Committee and Board of Directors.
Both of us are deeply committed to unions, to workers' rights, to our students and to the common good. We believe that all of these values are interconnected. Our efforts to stand up for our members will fail if we don't stand up for all workers. Our efforts to stand up for the students in our classrooms will fail if we don't also stand up for them and their families in their communities ― for decent pay and health care, paid family and medical leave, safe streets and freedom from fear of family separation for immigrant children. After all, we know that our students' living conditions impact their learning conditions.
The Supreme Court's blatantly political, anti-union decision in the Janus case will be a major challenge for all of us. But because we are transforming our union to engage more members, amplifying our voices on behalf of public education and fighting for economic and racial justice, we are optimistic that the overwhelming majority of MTA members will recognize that we are stronger together than apart. We hope you will join us in continuing to be All In for your rights and dignity as a proud union member.
We look forward to meeting many more of you in the months ahead as we work together for a better union, better working conditions and a better world.
Merrie Najimy, MTA President
Max Page, MTA Vice President