Imagine you’re a teacher in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Every month around $800 leaves your check and goes directly to the teachers union. But you literally have no say about how that money is used — or even about who gets to decide how the money is used. It’s all left to an exclusive group of people who you likely have never met before — and who have their own personal political agenda.
Welcome to “democracy” in the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association has 110,000 members from across the Commonwealth — all of whom must join the MTA by law and pay union dues to both their local unions and the state union as well.
But just because they have joined the union and pay dues, it does not mean that they have a say in what the union does. Instead, only a very small portion of the membership are elected as “delegates” and are given the chance to vote on the issues the union supports on their behalf — or even who represents them in statewide leadership.
Doesn’t sound very DEMOCRATIC, does it?
This weekend is the Massachusetts Teachers Association annual meeting — and will vote on proposed bylaw amendment #5 – an amendment to introduce electronic voting — that could have the potential to change the course of the MTA for generations to come and what really happens.
Back in 2012, former college professor/MTA President Barbara Madeloni launched a scheme to take over the MTA by building a caucus of radical activists with an agenda to use the teachers union as a means to advance larger goals around their ideas about “social justice” called “Educators for a Democratic Union” or the EDU caucus.
To be clear, in their own “Who is EDU?” section of the “EDU Guide to the MTA Annual Meeting” document, they make it clear that they have no interest in representing all MTA members — only those who back their agenda:
EDU has been very successful. Madeloni, on the brink of being fired from UMass Amherst was elected President of the MTA with a hefty salary and a housing stipend, and then Merrie Najami and Max Page — also EDU members — were elected next with barely a majority of votes. Hence the last five years of MTA rhetoric focused on what some consider a radical unionist/socialist lean to the left from the leadership and a lack of focus on the core mission of the MTA: advancing the profession of educators in the classroom.
Rank and file members of the Massachusetts Teachers Union aren’t exactly happy with the direction the EDU folks have taken them — and have now organized to refocus the organization by putting the union’s direction back in the hands of members — by giving them a chance to vote directly via electronic ballot.
The new bylaw would mean no more internal union politics around getting yourself elected delegate and being woo’ed during a two day junket — just members, voting directly on who represents them and the issues they want to support.
Now for an MTA caucus that is always screaming about justice and democracy, you’d think that the EDU Crew would be up for increasing the number of people who participate in union elections. I mean increasing member voter participation — isn’t that the most democratic thing you could possibly do?
Apparently not. The EDU Caucus is very concerned about “uninformed” voters being able to vote on leadership and direction of the union.
PLEASE NOTE: The EDU Caucus of the MTA is *not* concerned about collecting upwards of $800 a year from 110,000 members of the union across the state to the tune of $43 million a year — which they can spend in any way they choose.
We will take your money — and you will shut up. YAY DEMOCRACY!
(And does this kind of “voting only by the informed” translate to our general elections as well? Should we be testing to ensure only the “informed” have the right to vote in the United States? What’s on THAT test?)
The real problem for the EDU Crew is the fact that they know that their radical agenda isn’t really supported by the rank and file membership. They have hijacked the internal elections process and got a razor thin majority of their folks elected as delegates to the annual convention, so now they have the full weight and power for speaking for 110,000 teachers in Massachusetts, the vast majority of whom either have no idea who they are — or think their priorities are insane.
Meanwhile, politicians and elected officials believe that the full force of the Massachusetts Teachers Union will rain down holy hell upon them should they dare to do something as controversial as — ask for a plan and accountability metrics around how we might spend an additional $2 billion in education funding — in reality, there’s maybe about 400 of them. MAX.
The vast majority of MTA members aren’t particularly impressed with the fact that the union is spending millions in dues money that is being funneled to progressive special interest side projects instead of working to strengthen contracts on the ground and fighting for the needs of educators in the classroom — which is like, why the union actually exists.
Educators are pretty smart. If we can trust them with our children every day, we should be able to trust them to make decisions on who runs their damn professional organization. It’s all about power, money and control — not about education, educators — and certainly not about kids.
So keep your eyes open on bylaw amendment #5.