Members Go ALL IN to Protect Public Education
Conversations at heart of campaign
MTA members gathered during an open session at the Summer Conference to begin the work of
the All In membership campaign. One-to-one conversations are central to the initiative.
Photo by Scott McLennan
By Scott McLennan
U nions across the country are bracing for the impact of a case brought to the U.S. Supreme Court that could strip them of their
right to collect “fair share” fees from nonmembers
— even though the unions would still be required to
represent them and even though nonmembers would
still benefit from collective bargaining agreements.
The case, Janus v. AFSCME, is named for Mark
Janus, an Illinois public employee arguing that
paying an agency fee violates his rights under the
First Amendment. The fate of the case will not be
known for months, since the court has not yet said
whether it will hear it.
But the MTA is already helping locals create
plans to stay strong and engaged in anticipation of a
Supreme Court decision against unions, whether in
Janus or one of several other cases like it.
“Union members understand the value of
belonging to their locals and the power that gives
them to shape their workplaces and their students’
learning environments,” said MTA President Barbara
Madeloni. “Opponents of organized labor are
banking on a financial incentive to make members
quit, but people are smarter than that. Our members
understand what it means to have a voice in their
Member-to-member conversations are at the
heart of the All In campaign, which locals across the
state are designing to keep membership robust and
to make clear to new educators and other potential
members why joining is so important.
Danette Day, a professor at Fitchburg State
University, is a member of the Massachusetts State
College Association. She sees unionism as being
inexorably intertwined with her work as an educator.
When she began teaching in 1989, taking a job
teaching English at Wachusett Regional High School,
the full implications of belonging to her local union
were not clear to her.
Day said she appreciated the work of her
bargaining team in settling good contracts. But
over time, as she moved to other jobs in private
schools and then worked on advanced degrees before
returning to the classroom as a college lecturer,
Day’s understanding of unionism deepened.
“As I got older, I understood the power of the
union and the power of solidarity,” Day said. “We are
empowered to do the right thing for others. I might
be in a great place with my work, but that’s because
of all the things union members did before me.”
Like Day, Audrey Murph-Brown has
experienced a changing relationship with her union
over the course of her 25 years in the Springfield
Public Schools. Membership, she realized, is
dynamic and empowering.
“I see the All In campaign as a transformative
opportunity,” she said. “If you want the union to do
something, don’t call the union office to see what to
do. Recognize that you are the union and that you
can take on an issue.”
The Springfield Education Association has
played a key role in Murph-Brown’s passion for
opening avenues of opportunity to educators of color,
something she sees as crucial in a community where
so many of the students are black or brown.
“Children need that visual. If they see
themselves in their teachers, it will improve their
self-esteem. That’s definitely an educational piece
that Springfield can do better with,” she said.
Knowing that they have protections against
retaliation, educators can question the use of
evaluations that influence career growth, Murph-Brown noted.
“Sometimes it’s not about taking on big actions,
but just confronting micro-aggressions,” she said.
When a big action is required, however, union
power is essential. Such was the case when Everett
teachers went on strike in 1989. Richard Liston was
president of the Everett Teachers Association at the
time and recalls that educators were fighting for
more autonomy in the classroom.
“It was not so much about salaries but about
things like preparation time and the ability to
meet with colleagues for curriculum planning,”
said Liston, who is now chair of the MTA Retired
Over the course of his 40 years as a teacher,
the union was responsible for improving wages
and benefits, Liston said. But just as importantly,
the union impressed upon administrators the value
of having educators’ voices involved in decisions
affecting students and their schools.
Virginia Rutter, an activist at Framingham State
University who, like Day, is a member of the MSCA,
echoed some of Liston’s sentiments.
“I see the All In campaign as a
transformative opportunity,” said
Audrey Murph-Brown, a member
of the Springfield Education
Association. “If you want the union
to do something, don’t call the
union office to see what to do.
Recognize that you are the union
and that you can take on an issue.”
Please turn to MTA members/Page 19