By Laura Barrett
L ast year’s wildly successful No on Question 2 campaign laid the foundation for the current state of MTA activism, while the new All In
initiative is designed to take it to the next level.
Thousands of members participated in the No
on 2 effort, either informally through conversations
with friends and relatives or formally through phone-banking, canvassing, social media messaging and
other efforts. They played a critical role in defeating
the proposed charter school cap lift by a huge
The challenge after any hard-won campaign is to
keep the momentum going.
“We need to continue to build relationships and
effective structures in our locals because that gives
us power,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni.
So far, the election of President Donald Trump
and appointment of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy
DeVos have been strong motivators for public
Trump administration policies helped drive
thousands to the May 20 Rally for Public Education.
Backed by the MTA and other members of the
Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, the rally
featured student performances, speeches, creative
signs and a brass band that led MTA Annual Meeting
delegates to Boston Common. The goal was not just
to oppose the Trump/DeVos agenda, however.
“People in Massachusetts deeply value public
education, and they deeply value the public good,”
said Madeloni, addressing the fired-up crowd.
“When we are defending our public schools, we are
defending our vision for a better world.”
A nti-Trump sentiment has aided MTA member turnout at several other large events, including the Boston Women’s
March for America on Jan. 21, rallies in support of
immigrants and the environment, and, recently, the
40,000-strong “Fight Supremacy! Boston CounterProtest & Resistance Rally” on Aug. 19.
The MTA recommended Worcester teacher
Alexizendria Link as a speaker for that event, and
she gladly obliged.
“We need to address how the residual effects
of slavery cause the disparities we are seeing within
the educational system,” Link told the massive
crowd on the Common. “A Eurocentric curriculum
and implicit bias push our children of color onto the
margins when they should be in the center. They
are not uplifted to a place where they can learn, to a
place where they are valued — and it’s time we do
something different. We can start by fully funding
Link’s path to activism went through her
union. She became involved with the Educational
Association of Worcester for one simple reason: She
“There was no pressure,” she said. “This person
just said to me, ‘This might be something you are
interested in.’ And I was.” Since then, the high
school English teacher has participated in local
contract campaigns, served as a delegate to the
MTA Annual Meeting and the NEA Representative
Assembly, and worked to defeat Question 2.
Thomas J. “T.J.” Howell, president of the
Belchertown Teachers Association, agrees with
Link that engaging members through face-to-face
conversations is “huge.”
F irst, they mapped their buildings to enable the local to get information to members quickly. “I’d tell a few people and then they would
spread the word to other people, who would pass the
message on to their designated contacts,” Howell
explained. “A lot of people dismiss e-mails and
text messages now. Person-to-person conversations
are much more effective. They don’t just spread
information — they build relationships.”
They used their new strategies during the
Question 2 campaign, and the same structures were
in place to help during a contract fight. Educator
Cara Lapenas led the crisis team that planned and
implemented actions and developed messages to
reach out to the community.
Among other events, the team organized a
toy drive and “meet and greets” with parents. At
one gathering, two participants became inspired to
run for the School Committee, ultimately defeating
two incumbents who had not been supportive of
Another way to build power is to create stronger
ties with community and labor groups. Donna
Johnson, president of the 1,000-member University
Staff Association at UMass Amherst, did just that
in support of the USA’s campaign for respect and
equitable benefits for her members. Johnson was
contacted by a group of women working for labor
Worcester teacher Alexizendria Link spoke for educators at the Aug. 19 “free speech”
counterprotest on Boston Common, saying that “a Eurocentric curriculum and implicit bias
push our children of color onto the margins when they should be in the center.”
Photo by Sarah Nathan
Another way to build power
is to create stronger ties with
community and labor groups.
Donna Johnson, president of the
1,000-member University Staff
Association at UMass Amherst, did
just that in support of the USA’s
campaign for respect and equitable
benefits for her members.