This spring was the 166th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Teacher’s Association, of which USA is a part, as Educational Support Professionals--ESPs.
There were 2,778 Delegates seats eligible, reserved for membership participation. 1,036 members attended. Considering all that is going on politically right now, the low attendance was surprising to many of us.
(If you, as a USA member, want any original portion of the meeting information, just ask one of the delegates please. The overview, a compilation of delegate statements who were willing to share responses, is at the end.)
Election at the MTA Annual Meeting:
In those cases where the number of candidates is equal to or less than the number of seats to be filled, or are unopposed, MTA does not conduct an election. Donna Johnson, of USA was certified as the At-Large ESP Director on the MTA Board of Directors for a three year term commencing 1 July 2011. (There were no other elections for which USA delegates needed to vote.)
Proposals to Amendments of Bylaws and New Business Items:
There were many proposals to amendments of the MTA bylaws, and a few new business items, which we have outlined below. Also, not surprisingly, the dues inched up again a tad. The Massachusetts Teachers Association has an ambitious year planned for its membership.
- USA/MTA/NEA total membership dues going up by about $20 total for the year.
- MTA – going up by $11 total for the year. (Full breakdown available on USA website under: Membership, Dues Information)
How dues rates are set:
The dues we see in our paychecks is composed of three levels; local which is USA; state which is MTA; and national which is NEA.
USA dues are set by a vote of USA members, and it will not be increasing.
MTA dues are set by a vote of the MTA Annual Meeting delegates in adopting a budget--which creates dues levels by dividing the estimated number of FTE members next fiscal year into that budget total.
NEA dues are set by a formula applied to the national average salary for that category of members--in our case, .0087 times the national average salary of ESP workers. We do not yet know whether the amount of NEA dues for ESP will change next year.)
Also, the delegates vote on a special assessment for a "Public Relations/Organizing Campaign" which has been approved for several years. This year the vote to approve an amount for our category of ESP members of $15 on top of the $268 dues was passed.
New Business Items:
Delegates approved a Motion to endorse Len Paolillo, from MTA running for NEA Executive Committee again. In 2008 he was elected to a three year term to (the NEA Executive Committee.) He is a Sociology professor at the Mass. College of Liberal Arts in North Adams.
Delegates failed to approve a Motion to endorse and expand Boston Parent-Teacher Alliance (PTA) “against cuts, privatization and school closures.”
Delegates failed to approve a Motion to organize “Coalition for Worker’s Rights Against Budget Cuts and All Cuts in Services” and to establish an outreach committee with Central Labor Councils for demonstrations and media campaigns, as it is counter a position of the MTA Constitution. It also had a $6,000 price tag on it.
Delegates failed to approve a Motion to take the First Steps to Endorse Single Payer Health Insurance in Massachusetts by educating members and collecting signatures to have a binding referendum on Single Payer as a question on the 2012 state ballot. This item had no budgetary allocation attached to it; signature gathering would be all voluntary. (It is noteworthy, however, that everyone speaking on this motion and subsequent motions regarding Single Payer health insurance including those opposed to this motion was in support of Single Payer.)
Delegates failed to approve a Motion that MTA and its Governmental Division will have as a top priority support in the Massachusetts legislature for the current House and Senate Single Payer Health Insurance legislation, known as “Medicare for All.” This proposal was presented by MSP VP Max Page and UMass professor, Dan Clawson. (Again, it is noteworthy, however, that everyone speaking on this motion regarding Single Payer health insurance including those opposed to this motion spoke in favor of it, in general.)
Delegates failed to approve a Motion to support the “Act To Invest in Our Communities” – a statewide tax referendum which would raise significant revenue for the state, while protecting the Middle Class and our vulnerable public systems. (We, as delegates, found this failure to support this bill to raise significant state revenue confounding, particularly in lieu of the fact that it would tax the top 1% and protect the remainder of the population while restoring urgent funding to our educational and state systems.)
Delegates approved a substitute motion, to refer this NBI to the MTA Exec. Comm., for the original Motion to provide financial help for Part/Full Time Release Presidents, with the MTA Executive Committee determining how much the reimbursement to locals would be.
Delegates approved a Motion to increase the number of meetings with our local Presidents and MTA, with an additional cost of approx. $75-110,000, over the amount of the $35,000 originally proposed for 2011-12.
The presiding officer ruled “out of order,” not permitting a vote on, a Motion to Oppose politicians who attack Collective Bargaining.
Delegates approved a Motion to Reject the use of student’s standardized tests scores to evaluate teachers.
Delegates approved, unanimously, a Motion to educate all MTA memberships in identifying the local and national players of the anti-education/ anti-worker groups including their funding by using MTA communication networks (including a presentation at the next MTA Annual Meeting on May 11-12, 2012).
Delegates approved a Motion to endorse the “Healthy Workplace” Bill (House Bill 2310, Senate 916) to target bullying issues in Massachusetts schools and workplaces.
Delegates approved a Motion to create a study committee to investigate the benefits, costs and feasibility of database software for complete membership management.
(NBI)#14 and 15
Delegates approved a substitute motion to refer to MTA Exec. Comm. both) Motions to (have) MTA encourage all members to comment on Project 1A Teacher/ Administrative Evaluation during the present comment period as to two points of language in the guidelines of evaluation.
Bylaw Amendment Proposals
Bylaw Amendment #1 to Article III, Section 2A and 3A: Proposal to Permit Charter School Employees to join MTA (Rules Committee recommended 8:0, MTA Board recommended 53:4)
(Delegates failed to approve this motion: membership voted not to allow Charter School employees to join MTA.)
Bylaw Amendment #2 to Article IV, Sections 2A and B, Section #3A and B): Proposal to Change Part-time dues and minimum base salary dues (Rules Committee recommended: 8:0, MTA Board recommended 55:0)
(Makers of the motion withdrew their motion in favor of a study first by MCCC, the Community College local.)
Resolution Changes (Policies to guide MTA actions)
All Resolutions Passed. (Summaries given here are not the specific language of changes, however most were simple wording changes. Anything marked “new,” however, were added amendment protections for the membership.)
Amend (new) C-7:
Design Construction - to increase safety, energy-efficient, well-constructed, accessible, functional, adaptable to persons with disabilities.
Academic freedom, add "and/or syllabi" after "curriculum."
Time to Teach, add language for electronic communication as a burden on practitioners in defining a reasonable workload.
Amend (new) F-3:
Respectful work environment free from bullying, retaliation and harassment.
Employee Assistance Program – language change from "substance abuse"
to "about these issues"
Diversity – language change from "transgender" to "gender identity"
Non-discriminatory practices in education: add "gender identity"
Bullying – added "retaliation" and "staff" to language
Amend (new) I-4:
Conflict Resolution – Approved nonviolent conflict strategies.
Amend (new) I-20:
MTA advocates the use of union-made products (and services).
The USA delegation in 2011 was smaller than usual. The convention really focused on three issues: the teachers wanted protection against being evaluated by their students’ standardized test scores; the taxing the wealthy legislation was voted on (and amazingly rejected); and, single-payer health care was discussed rather extensively.
The delegation got pretty stuck on the first idea, however, of gaining protection from MTA on the MCAS situation and the convention didn’t move off that topic too often. Single Payer Health Insurance in Massachusetts and “An Act to Invest in Our Communities” (two initiatives that would benefit so many) never made it past the discussion phase, however.
There were fewer new business items (NBIs) than usual, fewer bylaw amendments, and no Standing Rule amendments. The dues increase was smaller than some years, but larger than others. There was a well-organized higher education caucus, and other caucuses were active, though some were changing their goals. The Western Mass. Caucus did not submit floor items this year, but successfully set its goal of contributing $10,000 to Mass-Care, the Mass. Campaign for Single Payer Health Care.
The ESP’s apparently are to help the teachers by supporting fair evaluations, protecting benefits and with community building, but do not want to allot much funding to reach for that goal. The money has to be spent wisely, but Charter school representation, launching a petition for Single Payer Health Insurance (which would mean they couldn’t take bargaining for our healthcare benefits away because the state would be providing them across the board) and reaching out to family groups in the community were all voted down.
They also talked about the economy and who to vote for. MTA and NEA leadership tell us to vote Republican if you think the wealthy should not pay their fair share of taxes – or pay anything at all in many cases – and the middle class should continue to take cuts in all regards to bare the weight of the recession. The Dems are for raising taxes exclusively on the wealthy and corporations, back to where they were before the giant tax cuts for the wealthy of the 2000-2008 era and being continued (and which come up again for renewal in 2012), however, the majority of MTA are K-12 teachers and could not get off the fear of standardized testing teacher evaluations.
Single-Payer Healthcare took front and center stage for a brief chunk of time. It was the first time people seemed to recognize how much money we actually would save ourselves and what a good political move it would be to skip over the bargaining of healthcare specifics.
The "Rally for a Better Commonwealth" that was held in Copley Square, about 4 blocks from the Hynes Convention Center where the MTA meeting was held, happened as the MTA Annual Meeting was at its end late in the afternoon. It was a small group of inspiring speakers.
The following members were elected to serve as USA delegates to the 2011 MTA Annual Meeting:
Andy Steinberg *
Barbara Hastings **
Deb Warner **
Donna Johnson *
Emily West **
Frank Olbris **
Linda Fish *
Margaret Ludlam *
Matt Leber *
Pat Hardnett *
Robin Coolbeth *
Donna Johnson served as delegate ex-officio, as an MTA Board member.*
Members marked with an asterisk (*) attended the convention.
Delegates presenting this report are marked with a double asterisk (**) and all double asterisk members also served at the 2011 MTA convention.