State labor officials have cleared the way for the newly formed Greater New Bedford Educators Union to begin negotiating its first contract with the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical School District.
“This is not only a victory for educators at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, but also a victory for our students and the communities we serve,” said Kelly Haggerty, an English teacher at the school. “Having a union allows us to speak and act as equal partners with central administration, and that will lead to a healthier, more transparent relationship between educators and administrators.”
The Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations recognized the Greater New Bedford Educators Union as the exclusive bargaining agent for teachers, guidance counselors, adjustment counselors, nurses, school psychologists and librarians at the high school. A majority of educators signed cards authorizing exclusive representation by the union.
GNBEU will negotiate working conditions with the regional district’s school committee.
“Educators having an authentic voice in the decision-making will be of great value to our school,” said Serge Moniz, a teacher in the diesel service shop. “Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech is a tremendous community resource, providing students opportunities to move into well-paying careers and serving as an asset to our regional economy. GNBEU looks forward to shaping our school’s future.”
Both Haggerty and Moniz are GNBRVT graduates. They recognized that the changing landscape for public education requires educators to organize and build collective power to advocate for the working conditions that are ultimately their students’ learning conditions. Moniz and Haggerty also said that GNBEU will lead efforts to have the high school foster diversity, inclusion and equity for students and educators alike.
Many local leaders and labor organizations in the region supported the voc-tech educators’ effort to organize a union.
“Educator unions are especially important in our society. They fight tirelessly to improve not just the lives of their own members, but the lives of students and communities across Massachusetts and this country,” said U.S. Senator Edward Markey in a letter to the regional school committee. “All working Americans should have the right to join together and collectively bargain, and the educators at GNB Voc-Tech should be afforded this same opportunity.”
“Having a union allows us to speak and act as equal partners with central administration, and that will lead to a healthier, more transparent relationship between educators and administrators.”Kelly Haggerty, English teacher at Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech.
State representatives Antonio Cabral and Chris Hendricks also sent letters supporting the GNBEU, as did several New Bedford city councilors.
The GNBEU will be affiliated with the Massachusetts Teachers Association. MTA President Merrie Najimy said that despite well-funded attacks on unions, educators fundamentally understand the value of collective power in protecting their schools. Likewise, she said, other unions and worker organizations demonstrated the solidarity of the labor movement in the state by supporting the voc-tech educators.
“The Greater New Bedford educators formed a union to achieve better working conditions for themselves and improve the learning and living conditions of their students,” Najimy said. “These educators are proof that no amount of money or propaganda can suppress people’s desire to be treated fairly and with dignity or squash their quest for social, racial and economic justice.”