For the last several days, we have been at the NAACP national convention, held in Boston for the first time in more than four decades. It has been a powerful experience to be in dialogue and solidarity with NAACP members and leaders, at a moment of rising hatred, a rollback of rights by the U.S. Supreme Court and state legislatures, and a wave of right wing-induced attacks on the freedom to learn.
We spent Monday evening with NEA President Becky Pringle, U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley, MTA members, and hundreds of youth and college activists. Tuesday is “Labor Day” at the convention, with dozens of labor leaders coming together to focus on the ways that the labor movement can and must be fully allied with the NAACP and the fight for racial justice.
But our attention Monday was drawn away for a time, to the state Legislature, which finally (a month late!) produced a budget.
After 107 years of a flat income tax system, and five failed statewide campaigns to introduce progressive income taxes in our state, we were victorious last fall in passing the Fair Share Amendment! Make no mistake – that historic victory was only possible because of the engagement of MTA members, the commitment of our funds and the work of our staff.
On Monday, the Legislature passed its first budget with Fair Share funds as part of the revenue stream. The budget includes $100 million to create more environmentally friendly school buildings, $150 million more in financial aid for students attending public colleges, with a commitment to win free community college for all, and much more. Check out our statement to learn more about the details of the budget.
As important as what is in the budget is what is not: expensive and unnecessary tax cuts for the rich. We hope the delay in presenting tax reform means that voices of integrity within the Legislature maintained their refusal to bestow unnecessary, ill-conceived and frankly immoral tax cuts to the wealthiest people in the state.
These are the first round of victories – your victories – the ones you as MTA members, as locals, and as the largest union in New England won with our partners in the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition.
This budget represents the first $1 billion, with a half of that going to public education. The Legislature cautiously decided to assume that the Fair Share Amendment would generate $1 billion in its first year: We believe it will be closer to $2 billion, every year.
Despite these victories, there is still so much more we need to do to win big for our schools, colleges, members and students. We have small and rural districts that are suffering under the existing state funding formula. We have Gateway Cities, like Brockton, which are pulling back on funding their schools, and laying off dozens of members. We have a crying need for more counselors, mental health professionals and librarians in our schools in the wake of the pandemic. The Legislature also failed in its obligation to fund the higher ed contracts, which we will continue to fight for as a union.
With those challenges in mind, all of us in the MTA will continue to work tirelessly with the Legislature to build on this strong budget, and make sure our school districts and campuses spend the funds you all secured in the ways needed most.
We look forward to seeing many of you in Amherst, starting this weekend, for the MTA Summer Conference.
The bargaining never stops. Gloucester ESPs are holding a rally before bargaining at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, August 9, at Gloucester High School. And Haverhill ESPs are bargaining at 2 p.m. on Thursday, August 10, at the Nettle Middle School. Please show up in solidarity.
Here is a thoughtful perspective on the Teamsters victory by veteran union organizer Jane McAlevey. She celebrates the tangible victories for members (especially for part-time workers), but also wonders about what might have been gained with further pressure.
Max and Deb