USA goes to the MTA Annual Meeting - 2008
I think that what impressed me the most was the number of delegates.  When I think of our union I think of the approximately 1000 members on this campus and the power that number represents.  I knew that we were part of a larger group, teachers and staff across Massachusetts, however I did not really feel the weight of those numbers.  Being in their delegates' presence made it all feel very real.  The meeting itself reminded me of a political convention.  It was that large, and similarly raucous.  So many dynamic people.  It was then that I realized we could really make a change.   It was empowering.  We discussed budget concerns and other issues that the union should address.  John Kerry was among the speakers.  I guess what I really came to know is the scope of our power, and how important it is to participate in the fight.
___ Doris Goodwin

Don't forget this.....

Workers have been on the forefront of social change in this country since the early 1800s when workers and farmers joined together to uncover the economic injustices of the robber barons. They pushed for the first income tax as a means to break up overconcentration of wealth resulting in the sixteenth admendment of the Constitution.

It was also during this time that the labor movement came of age.  The average American in the late 1800s worked 12-hour days, seven days a week in order to make a basic living. Children were also working, as they provided cheap labor to employers and laws against child labor were not strongly enforced. With the long hours and terrible working conditions, American unions became more prominent and voiced their demands for a better way of life. It would take persistent and consistent efforts by unions from 1866 to 1938  to achieve success when Congress proposed the Fair Labor Standards Act, establishing a minimum wage, initially $0.25 an hour, along with a maximum workweek of 44 hours; these were to become $0.40 an hour and 40 hours after seven years. Together, workers won the right for a 5 day work week which we still enjoy today.

Until the 1840s the education system was highly localized and available only to wealthy people. Reformers who wanted all children to gain the benefits of education opposed this. Prominent among them was Horace Mann in Massachusetts who started the publication of the Common School Journal, which took the educational issues to the public. The common-school reformers argued for the case on the belief that common schooling could create good citizens, unite society and prevent crime and poverty. As a result of their efforts, free public education at the elementary level was available for all American children by the end of the 19th century. Massachusetts passed the first compulsory school attendance laws in 1852.

We have a long history of activism not just in our country but especially here in Massachusetts. It has always been the collective effort of working individuals that has taken the country forward with fairness and equity.

My name is Dora Ramos and have been involved in the union under different hats.  I wanted to
share my experience at this year's MTA  Annual meeting in Boston, MA. 

I have always walked away with a lot of new knowledge to share with my co-workers and
friends.  I especially feel like I received tremendous information this year. 

I was educated in the Campaign Against Income Tax Repeal.  I didn't realize how uninformed I was, I thought this would be a great idea.  Looking at it as instant gratification.  I never realized what our tax dollars really do for us.  All the services it provides and all the people it helps.  How it keeps us safe. 

Just realizing what it would be if we couldn't afford to pay firefighters, police, teachers etc.  How much more we would have to pay out of pocket for these basic services!  Imagine being billed for every individual service?  What a hardship it would be for every family. 

As I sat in the annual meeting I was thinking of the many conversations I've had with friends and family about what a great idea tax repeal was.  I almost felt a sense of panic on how wrong we were.  Needless to say, as soon as I made it back home, I spoke to all my friends and family.  I shared the information I had received and to their amazement, they too were unaware of the consequences.  -- Dora Ramos

The most eye-opening moment(s) for me at the 2008 MTA Annual Meeting were two votes:

Since the delegates had already voted to contribute $10,000 to Mass-Care (the Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care), it seemed inconsistant to not approve related motions.  Medicare is essentially a single payer system for seniors, and H.R. 676 would extend that to everyone.  A ballot question to establish a single payer system in Massachusetts would remove health care financing from being directly connected to employement--and would remove a big problem for all unions in dealing directly with our failing health care system.  Those are complimentary.

Inconsistent votes seem to show a greater need for strategic thinking. That is probably due to insufficient information about the issue.  Debate on those two issues was very short, and the votes occurred before many delegates heard much about points in favor and against them.

The MTA Annual Meeting meeting prompted me to assess the amount of information I share within USA and MTA on health care reform.  Most people do not follow the issue closely, and it is difficult to understand without full information and perspective on its principles.  I will try to increase understanding of the single payer system and our current failing system.

It is very important for members to appreciate the serious business that delegates deal with at Annual Meetings.  If members think that delegates are simply out for a weekend trip, they are mistaken.  A $37 million budget for MTA is serious.  The direction of health care reform is serious, and the role MTA plays can make a big difference in what will effect us.  The social reform principles of unions, and of public education, are serious tasks that the Annual Meeting (the latest in a 161 year tradition) must grapple with through Resolutions, a Legislative Agenda, Budget, etc.  Delegates bear great responsiblities to advance reform and worker interests."   -Frank Olbris

                               Annual Meeting always underscores for me the need to be involved on local, state
                               and national levels of our union.  Ours is a strong union, but only because of the
                               work being done by the people involved. Annual Meeting always makes me more
                               resolved to keep vigil and do what I can to make good things happen for our workers.

                               I was most impressed by the personal stories of how Prop 2 1/2 affected people.
                               Also, Lily Eskelson's (presumptive VP of National Education Association) speech.
                               She brings brilliant humor and real concern  for education and educators at a critical
                               time.

I think it is most important to share with the union that when thinking about the ballot initiative to delete the income tax, we need to consider how devastating that would be, not only to us at UMASS, but also regarding police and fire departments and k-12 schools in towns and cities across the state.  While it's a happy thought not to have to pay taxes, we pay them so we can have the services we need for a civilized society.  We would not be happy if the Highway Department was unable to fix the roads and bridges, or if the police didn't have enough help to take care of dire situations, or if the fire department couldn't afford to have the equipment to put out the fire if you house is involved.  I could go on, but my simple message is, please think before voting on this issue in November.   -- Sylvia Snape
As President of this local and as a citizen of this Commonwealth, I became increasingly aware of the need to work in coalition with other union members to fight against the elimination of the state income tax.  I look at the services we receive, such as firemen fighting fires, police officers patrolling our town, the resources my Dad enjoys as a senior citizen, and the education that my neices and nephews receive in our public school system.  Losing 40% of the state budget can and will have a devastating effect on these services.

One of the most eye-opening parts of the Annual Meeting for me was when the faculty, staff and teachers talked about what happened with Prop 2- 1/2. This wiped out a whole generation of teachers. I was also moved by those who spoke about the impending layoffs they are facing.  Some areas have already received their layoff notices because towns and cities are already preparing for the 40% budget cuts that an elimination of the state income tax would create. I was also impressed by Rep Marty Walsh who told us how our solidarity is what beat back the increases to our health insurance and that now we need to work together to defeat the ballot initative on eliminating the state income tax.

Finally, it is vitally important that we all talk to our family, friends and associates and tell them why eliminating the state tax would be destructive.  Taxes are a necessity if we want to receive these services we have come to take forgranted in our cities and towns.  We need everyone to rally and defeat this damaging ballot initiative.  My favorite chorus from a labor song: We will never give up, we will never give in and we'll never ever go away.  We will build a brand new future for our daughters and our sons, we will work till the the workers rise as one.  This sums it all up for me. -- Donna Johnson
This year 16 USA delegates attended the MTA Annual Meeting in Boston.   We joined with our sister Unions from the Boston and Lowell campuses along with other Higher Ed unions to represent the concerns of higher education members and those of the K-12 members across this state. 

On Friday we attended the Expo in the morning, which consisted of various vendors from Cosco to MTA Insurance.  Here we were able to talk directly with a representative and ask any questions or learn about new items.  The business meeting started at noon, and the afternoon was spent going over proposed new items, presentation of award, and special recognitions and listening to guest speakers.  One of the most impressive highlights of the day was an inspiring and powerful speech by Senator Kerry.  Afterward we had dinner at a local restaurant, and then went back to our hotel where our group of USA delegates met and had a small informal meeting on issues that affected Higher Ed and UMass. 

Saturday started early with a Higher Ed caucus at 7:30 am.  The Annual meeting resumed at 9 am, and in between we voted for MTA officers.  The day continued with the introduction of new and amended business items. We spent almost two hours reviewing  the proposed budget in detail.  We then voted on acceptance of the budget and the election results were announced. We ended the day around 3:30 pm. 

It was great learning experience as I listened and watched delegates speak "For" or "Against" motions, propose new motions, ask questions or question a particular procedure.  The nearly 1000 delegates debated policy changes, voted on the annual budget, and they all came together for these reasons:  To make public education affordable for all, to fund our schools full -- and to make education a reality and not just a dream. -- Leslie Marsland

 
What amazed me most about the Annual meeting was our contingent from this campus. We had a voice. Not an abstract voice but a real voice.

When the Higher Ed people from all across the state met (at 7:30AM!!) to caucus, that meeting was led by our own Donna Johnson. She has become quite the force in state politics and it is wonderful to see the respect she garners and savvy she demonstrates. She's involved in many committees and all I can say is it is a good thing we don't have to pay for her expertise and influence, we couldn't afford her!

Then there was Frank Olbris (who I think was born a politician) who worked the floor to get a motion passed about the single payor health care benefits. He didn't get everything he wanted but it was quite a feat to propose, defend and then maneuver the system to get the best outcome he could in a room of over 1,000 people.

And finally, one of the first time attenders, Doris Goodwin, stood to speak her mind about a motion concerning ROTC curriculums on high schools across the state and quite eloquently offerred an alternative way to look at the motion.

Umass Amherst was well represented and raised it's voice at this Annual Meeting. I stood in awe of how our little union makes such an impact in this state. Well done!   --Aggie Mitchkoski


 
Our connection to MTA and the power and importance behind that connection always becomes clearer during the annual meeting.   Higher Ed support is crucial to our working lives and the MTA annual meeting can be the place that we all work together for the same purpose.  The connection between K-12 and higher education needs to be strengthened and MTA can be the tie that binds.

It's always eye-opening to see how a meeting like this all comes together.  It can't be easy to organize so many people.

ESPs voices are important - we are important.   Think about putting your name forward next year so you can see why we all do this. -- Linda Hillenbrand
University Staff Association   -- comments can be sent to aggie@psych.umass.edu