Now more than ever we must fight: When we do, we win. The drumbeat of austerity — belt tightening — is on the rise. Our public colleges and universities, along with our public school districts, are forcing layoffs and furloughs rather than fighting hard for the resources that public services and the economy need to rebound from the current crisis. Read the inspiring stories below about members fighting against cuts and for the respect we all deserve!
We need revenues — not cuts and layoffs. It is both practical and necessary that resources come from the federal, state and local governments, starting with federal. But it won’t happen without ongoing collective action. To start with, if you haven’t done so already, please send a message to your U.S. senators urging them to support and improve on the HEROES Act — and to your House members, thanking them for their support and urging them to stand firm for a powerful relief bill. This $3 trillion measure would provide direct aid to the unemployed and others in need, along with about $1 trillion to state and local governments and to education, from preK through higher ed.
In addition to borrowing, Congress should pay for this by rolling back the multibillion-dollar giveaways to the top 1 percent both in the 2017 tax bill and in the first CARES Act. In fact, American billionaires became $434 billion richer during the pandemic.
On to state revenues. Seventeen of those billionaires, not to mention thousands of millionaires, are from right here in Massachusetts. Fortunately, there are many ways to tax the very wealthy and corporations that have been profiteering — even during the pandemic — from tax loopholes so that we can protect our members, our schools and colleges, and the common good. The MTA is developing progressive tax proposals based in part on the research of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. To win, we’ll need healthy pot-stirring actions at the local level. Stay tuned.
At the local level, we are urging cities and towns to turn their efforts from making cuts to fighting for resources to make sure our schools have enough funding to educate students safely in the coming year. Schooling is expected to cost more money and require more staff than in normal times. Now is not the time to be laying off educators — essential workers. Ask your school committee to pass this resolution.
At the higher ed level, in addition to pressing the state and federal governments to provide needed funding, members are demonstrating against campuses seeking to balance their budgets on the backs of their staff members and faculty.
Here’s some of what is going on.
UMass Lowell Unions Fight Back
Members of the Maintenance and Trades Union and Classified/Technical Union forced UMass Lowell administrators to rescind layoff notices sent to 82 employees by organizing a caravan with coalition unions and their supporters. More than 100 cars rolled through the campus and on to deliver a letter to Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney’s home. The message was simple: We are Essential, Not Expendable. The unions forced the university to bargain over the terms of furloughs, protecting some of the lowest-paid workers on campus, and to conduct weekly meetings regarding health and safety.
Congratulations to New MTA Members in New Bedford
The newest member of the MTA family, the Greater New Bedford Educators Union, has been officially recognized as a union by members of the New Bedford City Council. The MTA is now the official bargaining agent for more than 200 teachers, guidance and adjustment counselors, nurses, school psychologists and librarians at the Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School. Congratulations, educators!
EAW Members Lead ‘Caravan of Respect’
More than 100 vehicles took part in the Educational Association of Worcester’s Caravan of Respect on May 21. Educators there want a voice in remote-learning plans that currently put too much emphasis on data collection and not enough on incorporating ESPs in supporting and teaching students during the shutdown of school buildings.
Reopening Schools and Colleges in the Fall
The question I hear the most these days is, “What is going to happen with schools and colleges in the fall?” No one knows the answers yet since we don’t know what the virus will be doing by then — but we are on the case. The MTA has a seat on a school reopening task force that has been established by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It’s too large a group with too few rank-and-file educators to have had meaningful discussions yet about the challenges ahead, so we also have been meeting separately with teams of MTA, AFT Massachusetts and BTU members from across the state to develop our own recommendations. Higher ed unions and student organizations that do not have seats on the governor’s higher ed reopening task force are demanding a multiunion committee, with student representation. The MTA and your locals and campus chapters will be playing a vital role in addressing three interconnected issues: health and safety, including mental health; teaching and learning, both remotely and in person; and funding and resources.
Union Leadership and Activism Scholarships
An MTA grant will provide a limited number of scholarships for a new master’s degree program track in the Labor Center at UMass Amherst that will put our members — ESPs, teachers and others in preK-12 through higher education — at the center of the issues and debates around education, labor, and economic, social and racial justice. MTA members applying for the scholarships must be accepted into the limited-residency Union Leadership and Activism for Educators Program. This summer, because of the coronavirus crisis, the program will be conducted online. Learn more about the program. The deadline to apply is June 15. Email Jan Morrissey at email@example.com to express interest.