Above, students, parents and Everett Teachers Association members attended a Feb. 12 City
Council meeting to speak out against proposed school staffing cuts in Everett. Danvers Teachers
Association Vice President Jody Sheehan, below left, was among the educators from other MTA
locals who joined ETA members such as Stacy Schiavo, right, in rallying before the meeting.
Photos by Scott McLennan
T he anti-union forces behind the Janus case before the U.S. Supreme Court are trying to convince workers that joining a labor union
is not in their best interest.
Throughout the MTA, however, members are
demonstrating that strong unions benefit not only
educators, but students and communities as well.
The All In campaign amplifies the work that locals
are involved in and encourages members to become
active in ways they feel most comfortable.
“Members of labor unions are fighting back
against the assault launched by the Koch brothers
and other billionaires and CEOs trying to take
away our rights and silence our voices,” said MTA
President Barbara Madeloni. “When educators have
the power to shape their working conditions, students
have better learning conditions and communities
have schools that meet their needs — not the needs
The MTA is part of a coalition in Massachusetts
that is preparing to meet head-on whatever union-
busting campaigns follow
the court decision in
Janus v. AFSCME, which
is expected before the end
Most observers are
expecting an unfavorable
outcome in the case, which
challenges the right of
unions to collect so-called
“agency fees” from those in the bargaining unit who
enjoy contract protections but choose not to become
The MTA has brought on a team of organizers
to assist local leaders with plans to strengthen and
engage educators through one-to-one conversations
between members. The MTA is also planning to hire
members across the state to participate in a summer
program aimed at expanding and continuing those
Yet even amid the climate surrounding the Janus
case, workers are organizing new bargaining units
and recognizing the influence they gain by working
collectively. Tutors in Marshfield organized recently
and settled their first contract. School tutors in
Concord and Carlisle also have organized, as have
early childhood educators in Melrose.
Department chairs at UMass Boston settled an
inaugural contract in late January, capping a drive to
have what unit president Erin O’Brien described as a
“seat at the table.”
“We felt that administration did not understand
how big the job had gotten and how poorly compen-
sated people were for doing the job,” O’Brien said.
Disputes between the faculty and the
administration typically end up in the hands of
the department chairs, who, in addition to teaching,
have several administrative duties even though they
are not managers. O’Brien said that the 37-member
Department Chair Unit functions as a sister unit to
the larger Faculty Staff Union at UMass Boston.
Establishing clarity around responsibilities
and job expectations was a big win in the contract
negotiations, and stipends went up for the chairs.
“We are a small unit with a large voice now,”
O n the other hand, the Fall River Educators’ Association is large, with more than 800 members. FREA President Rebecca Cusick
wanted to create opportunities for members to
recognize how they are connected — not only to the
other educators they work with every day but to their
broad network of union colleagues across the city.
The FREA devised Spirit Week in March,
which featured daily events ranging from gathering
socially to advocating on behalf of a municipal ballot
question to build a new high school — which passed
with the wholehearted support of educators.
“Spirit Week reminded us that when we talk
about the union, we are talking about ourselves,”
The events of that week proved valuable in
strengthening the local’s communication structure —
a key goal of the All In effort — as well as bringing
together FREA members in social settings.
“I understand that crisis is often seen as
opportunity for unions, but our members deal with
stress and negativity enough. We thought they’d
appreciate the chance to lift each other up,” Cusick
In Everett, members of the community faced
a crisis that sparked quick organizing and effective
activism on the part of the local association.
In early February, the School Department
proposed addressing a budget crisis by immediately
laying off more than 100 educators working in the
Everett Public Schools, meaning massive disruption
for students and deep cuts to many crucial programs.
The Everett Teachers Association first made the
case against the cuts at a School Committee meeting
and then organized a rally on Feb. 12 that was
attended by students, parents, community members
and educators from many MTA local associations
outside of Everett.
A mass of students wearing red and waving
“Everett Pride” signs marched from Everett High
School to City Hall. Hundreds gathered outside as
the City Council met.
During the meeting, students and parents spoke
passionately about the lengths to which educators go
to help students succeed, and educators spelled out
how devastating the mid-year cuts would be.
ETA President Kim Auger succinctly told the
council, “Students will suffer under these cuts.”
The cuts were ultimately averted for this year.
Following the meeting, Auger sent a message
of thanks to ETA members, other public school
employees, parents and community members — and
especially the students who rallied for their schools.
“What an amazing show of solidarity,” she wrote.