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“The labor movement was the principal force that
turned misery and despair into hope and progress.”
— The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I am writing this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Across the country, schools are closed and memorial services are being held to honor Dr.
King and his legacy.
Yet even as I write, President Trump continues
his racist policies and rants. Schools are more
segregated, and students in black, brown and poor
communities are faced with underfunding and
narrow curriculums that are based on high-stakes
standardized tests. Public higher education becomes
more expensive and
further out of reach by the
day, and the gap between
the richest and the rest
I find myself
thinking: “What does it
mean to honor Dr. King
and his work? What does
he teach us about our
identity as unionists?”
workers. His analysis of the struggle for freedom
included naming the “giant triplets of racism,
extreme materialism and militarism.”
He condemned those who kept silent in the
face of oppression, holding a special outrage for the
“white moderate” — “who prefers a negative peace
which is the absence of tension to a positive peace
His was a call to know and act from “the
fierce urgency of now.” He warned against the
“tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” Dr. King
was emphatic about “the interrelatedness of all
communities and states” and the need to prepare for
and take direct action.
Our fierce urgency today includes continuing
assaults on workers’ rights to organize, racism
embedded in our institutions, economic injustice, the
exploitation of working people, and attacks on the
public good — on public education in particular. We
live in a time of unjust government action against
immigrants and the imposition of tax policy designed
to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
So how will we respond?
Dr. King teaches me that these attacks are
connected and that our response must grow from our
interrelatedness. Our struggles are the struggles of
our communities — and their struggles are ours.
That is why the MTA is a member of coalitions
such as Raise Up Massachusetts, working to win
a $15 minimum wage, paid family and medical
leave and the Fair Share Amendment, which will
enshrine funding for public education in our state
Constitution. It is also why unions and parent
and student groups are working together in the
Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance to win the
schools our communities deserve. It is why the MTA
supports groups such as Jobs With Justice and the
Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts
— because they bring together broad coalitions
organizing for the world we want to win.
Dr. King teaches me that we must be ready to
act collectively and take risks to secure justice. The
movement is not about individuals accessing power
— it is about groups acting together.
Dr. King reminds me that there are no certainties
in this struggle. There is no perfect timing. There is
preparation and there is the building of solidarity and
trust, all directed toward taking action.
In your local, this can mean escalating contract
campaigns, organizing for professional autonomy
or working with parents to end the abuses of
high-stakes testing. It can mean allying with the
community to support and protect immigrants
or holding forums to develop a vision of public
Dr. King teaches me that we have to be willing
to be unsettled and to unsettle.
Justice is not achieved with smiles and
pleasantries but through demands and conviction.
When we feel and use our power, the people who are
used to holding power — superintendents, principals,
governors and corporate bosses — will get angry,
push back, and accuse us of being disruptive and
That is to be expected and is a sign of our
effectiveness. We cannot be dissuaded from our
values because they make people accustomed to
holding power uncomfortable.
We must remember that Dr. King was murdered
while supporting public-sector union members.
The people and institutions in power, including
the FBI, were afraid of Dr. King precisely because
he understood labor power, coalitions and the
intersection of racial and economic injustice — and
because he was bringing groups together in shared
struggle. That same fear of labor and community
power is behind the assault on unions that is the
Janus case. It underlies the fierce attempts to
privatize the public sector.
The MTA is the largest labor union in
Massachusetts. When we organize, we have
tremendous power. When we act in coalitions, that
power grows exponentially.
We have it within our grasp to build a better
world. We are doing it local by local, community
by community, and across the state. That is why the
right wing is coming after us — and why we must
fully participate in the All In campaign, deepen our
coalitions, and fight to win.
When we organize, we have
tremendous power. When
we act in coalitions, that
power grows exponentially.
Baker’s budget proposal shortchanges public education
By Laura Barrett
D espite a strong economy and healthy anticipated revenues, Governor Charlie Baker’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal
shortchanges public schools and public higher
Public higher education was especially
shortchanged in the proposal, which was released on
A new analysis by the MTA shows that state
spending on higher education is down 40 percent
from its peak in 2001, taking inflation and changes
in enrollment into consideration. Students are
shouldering more of the costs of college while the
state is doing less.
Baker’s budget would do nothing to reverse
that trend. It includes a 0.5 percent average increase
for higher education operating budgets over FY18.
Community college funding would be cut by 0.1
percent, or $275,000; spending for the University
of Massachusetts and state universities would be
increased about 1 percent.
Public schools fared only a little better. Baker’s
plan keeps all districts at foundation budget levels
but does not provide them with the increases needed
to develop innovative programs and comprehensive
services for all students.
Chapter 70 funding would be increased by $103.6
million, or 2. 2 percent — about the rate of inflation.
This is inadequate in light of the Foundation Budget
Please turn to MTA/Page 19