Members are All In for union solidarity
By Scott McLennan
E laine Valk remembers what it was like to work in the Sutton Public Schools before education support professionals formed a union.
While she can list numerous beneficial changes
to pay and working conditions for Sutton ESPs
since they organized 10 years ago, Valk said that
developing a collective voice has been the union’s
“Having that collective voice has been the
biggest benefit,” said Valk, a speech-language
pathology assistant who is president of the Sutton
Education Support Professionals Association. The
situation today is a vast improvement over working
in circumstances in which each person had to fight
individually, she said.
With that in mind, members gathered a few
weeks ago to work on “BRAG” statements — which
help educators delineate the benefits, resources,
achievements and goals of their association and spark
conversations about shared interests and values.
T he work is connected to the All In organizing campaign now underway in MTA locals across the state, which will provide members
with the opportunity to reflect on the value of
belonging to a union and talk to each other about
the future — including what will happen after a
case called Janus v. AFSCME is decided by the U.S.
MTA President Barbara Madeloni said the fact
that there will soon be a ruling in the Janus case,
which seeks to eliminate the ability of public-sector
unions to collect fair-share or “agency” fees paid
by those who choose not to join, makes this a
critical time to ensure that educators understand the
importance of standing together as members.
“Membership is the source of our power,”
Madeloni said. “Educators know what their students
need to be successful, and we use our collective
The Janus case will determine whether unions
can continue to collect fees from nonmembers they
are legally obligated to represent. Agency fees cover
the cost of negotiating and maintaining the contracts
that benefit all members of a bargaining unit, but
they exclude the cost of activities that are related to
political activities such as lobbying.
Labor leaders, including Madeloni, characterize
the Janus case as yet another union-busting tactic
by the right wing. It is widely expected that the
Supreme Court will rule against unions’ ability to
collect fair-share fees.
The All In plan involves holding one-to-one
conversations between union members. Valk said
that has some people moving outside their comfort
zones, so members will use their BRAG statements
to help guide the conversations.
“We are going to start simple,” Valk said. “I
want to have short conversations that make people
understand: You are the union.”
The leadership has been working to dispel the
false assertion that the union is separate from those
it represents. Valk likes to quote Sutton Education
Support Professionals Association Vice President
Charlie Petry, who tells members, “If there is
something about the union that bothers you, tell us
Lately, the local has been chalking up more
memorable victories than complaints. It recently
renegotiated the terms of “full-time” employment,
helping many workers gain access to better benefits.
“Without the union, nothing gets done when
someone has a problem. We saw that for many
years,” Valk said. “But with the support of the union
behind members, things get done.”
For more information on the All In campaign,
please visit massteacher.org/allin.
taking part in the
All In campaign.
From left to right
are President Elaine
Valk, Chris Chase,
Sallie Robert, Pat
Johnson and Kerrie
Photo by Scott McLennan