The 2023 MTA Annual Meeting of Delegates attracted nearly 1,000 elected representatives to the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield April 28 and 29. The two-day business session included an election of statewide and regional offices, as well as action on more than a dozen business items.
In addition, delegates to the 178th annual meeting approved an operating budget and a Public Relations/Organizing Campaign budget.
After the first day of business adjourned, several hundred members rallied on the steps of Springfield City Hall to advocate for passage of the Thrive Act and the Cherish Act, two legislative priorities of the MTA.
The Thrive Act would end the punitive uses of the MCAS, including its function as a high-school graduation exam, and mechanism for the state to take over school districts that have low scores. The Cherish Act would create a framework to provide additional funding for public colleges and universities, with the aim of allowing students to attend public higher education without incurring debt and boosting the pay and providing access to benefits for adjunct and part-time faculty.
“If we care at all about equity, we cannot continue to underfund public higher education in this state,” said Maria Hegbloom, president of the Massachusetts State College Association, who addressed the Cherish Act in comments during the Issues Forum at the business meeting on Saturday.
At the April 28 rally, speakers described the impact of standardized testing on students and educators and said state leaders need to be made aware of the true cost of using MCAS as a high-stakes assessment.
“So many of the people making the decisions don’t know the reality of our schools,” said Julia Norman, a MTA Board member and Waltham educator. The recognition portion of the annual meeting was held on April 29 and featured appearances by representatives of several notable organizations.
The Debt Collective received the 2023 MTA Friend of Education Award.
Ian Rhodewalt with the Western Mass Area Labor Federation and an organizer for The Debt Collective, a self-described “union of debtors” appeared in person at the annual meeting to accept the award. The Debt Collective is guided by two phrases, he said: “You are not a loan. And you are not alone.”
“More than one out of every two Massachusetts residents, or 55 percent of us, have student debt,” Rhodewalt said. “You are not alone.”
Student debt is an urgent labor issue, he noted. “When workers have to choose between buying groceries, or paying rent, or paying a student loan, this is a labor issue,” Rhodewalt said.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was honored with the MTA Friend of Labor Award. MTA President Max Page described Sanders as “a leading light of the progressive movement for the past two decades” who recently introduced a bill that will set a minimum salary of $60,000 for teachers.
Sanders did not attend the meeting but submitted a video statement. He thanked educators for their work and said there is no rationale for not paying them what they deserve. His bill, he said, would triple Title I funds for schools and invest in programs that support the education profession. It would require at least $60,000 a year for teachers and ensure increases over time for all educators who have made this their career. Sanders declared, “We have got to pay educators in America what they deserve.”
“This is not a radical proposal,” he said. “This is common sense.”
Two President’s Awards were given this year, as both City Life/Vida Urbana and Springfield No One Leaves were recognized. Both organizations advocate for housing justice, which is also fighting for education, Page noted.
City Life/Vida Urbana, based in Boston, is a grassroots organization that fights for racial, social, economic and gender justice. Among other priorities, it helps tenants assert their legal rights when faced with eviction.
In a video message, Mike Leyba, the co-executive director, said the organization recognizes that a commitment to fighting for housing justice is a shared effort with educators. “We see that as part of a movement for creating a liberated world.
Springfield No One Leaves is a community organization, based in Springfield, that represents residents impacted by the housing crisis and economic displacement, empowering and training them to be leaders and organizers. Springfield No One Leaves has held more than 100 public actions.
Executive Director Rose Webster-Smith accepted the award and noted that in Springfield more than 50 percent of the public school students have been faced with eviction. “If we truly want to build a more just world, we must recognize that all of our fights intersect,” Webster-Smith said.
The MTA also recognized Dani Charbonneau, the 2023 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. Charbonneau, who is a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Educators Association, left a video message for members. A commitment to fair and equitable working conditions is a commitment to fair and equitable learning conditions, she said, adding, “Our unions recognize the connection between teacher success and student success.,”
Paula Higgins, the 2023 MTA ESP of the Year, also was recognized. Higgins, a member of the Malden Education Association, received her award earlier in the spring when she was honored at the MTA 2023 ESP Conference.
As the second day of business meeting began, delegates learned that MTA membership grew to nearly 117,000 members in 2023.
The delegates then approved an operating budget of $52,221,525 for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Delegates also approved a Public Relations/Organizing Campaign budget of $1,822,200.
To support the operating budget, the annual dues will be $503 for full-time, active members, which is a $20 increase over this year. Dues for clerical staff and custodians will be $302, an increase of $12. Dues for Education Support Professionals will be $151, an increase of $6. For the PR/O budget, the dues assessment will be unchanged from this year.
“When workers have to choose between buying groceries, or paying rent, or paying a student loan, this is a labor issue,”Ian Rhodewal — The Debt Collective
In elections, Elizabeth (Wright) Tyrell, of the Andover Education Association, was elected as MTA At-Large Minority Executive Committee member. Barry Davis, recently elected president of Haverhill Education Association, was voted in to represent Region F on the MTA Executive Committee.
Holly Currier, an instructional assistant in the Andover Education Association, was elected to At-Large MTA Board of Directors for Education Support Professionals. William Karvouniaris, of the Wakefield Education Association, was elected to District 21G Board of Directors.
Phyllis Neufeld, Dale Melcher, Amy S. Wolpin and Maureen Colgan Posner were elected to the MTA Retired Members Committee.
Delegates took action on a number of business items, including having the union support the fundamental right to reproductive health care by sharing information with members about their rights and their students’ rights, and endorsing candidates that explicitly support reproductive rights.
In other action on new business items, delegates voted to:
- Publish in MTA Today and on massteacher.org a list of associations, organizations or businesses that discourage or condemn the act of joining a labor union. By 2025, the MTA and MTA Benefits will divest and disassociate from any voluntary affiliation with these entities.
- Advance to the NEA and NEA Member Benefits a request to divest and disassociate from any voluntary affiliation with association, organizations and businesses who have actively engaged in practices designed to reduce or discourage the act of joining a labor union.
- Reauthorize a Decarbonization Task Force for another year, to continue its work to move the MTA toward decarbonization by 2030.
- Publish by the 2024 Annual Meeting an updated Threat from the Right” task force report, which will shed light on the local and national network of anti-worker and anti-public education groups and their funding sources.
- Direct the MTA president to write to fellow state affiliate presidents, urging them to prioritize the pursuit of common-sense gun control legislation in their respective states, and to encourage the NEA to do the same.