Massachusetts Teachers Association
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Rally for a Better Commonwealth draws activists from around the
A crowd of a few hundred people converged on Copley Square to 'Rally
for a Better Commonwealth' on Saturday, May 14.
The rally, which took place at the close of the MTA Annual Meeting
of Delegates, attracted educators, workers, union and community
leaders and supporters from across the state who gathered at Copley
Square to call for a renewed investment in the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. That reinvestment, MTA President Paul Toner and
others told the crowd, needs to include more revenues to protect
services that are vital to the long-term health of children,
seniors, our communities and our economy.
"Here’s how bad it has gotten," Toner said.
"Today, the richest 1 percent of Americans receive a quarter of all
income and have 40 percent of all the wealth. In fact, they have as
much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of Americans combined. This is
a bigger concentration of wealth at the top than in any other modern
industrialized country. It is also the biggest gap the U.S. has seen
since 1929. You don’t need to be a history major to know what
happened in 1929!
"And the situation is getting worse. As you
know, Wall Street and the bankers caused our recent economic
crisis. They were bailed out by us, the taxpayers. Instead of
being humble and contrite about all the damage they have done,
they are brashly showering bonuses on themselves like there is
"The picture looks bleak, but we do have some
powerful tools on our side. We have the facts. We have fairness. We
have justice. And we have people – 107,000 in the MTA alone, and
millions of working men and women in our state and country who make
up the bottom 90 percent."
Toner encouraged rally participants to start
educating people about An Act to Invest in Our Communities – a bill
to increase the income tax and also increase the personal exemption
to reduce the impact on low- and moderate-income families. The
legislation would also increase the state taxes on capital gains and
dividends – the lion’s share of which are paid by those who are
wealthy enough to pay a bit more to support the common good and play
their part in creating a better Commonwealth, he added.
Greater Boston Labor Council President Rich
Rogers offered his prescription for "a better Commonwealth, which
included protecting collective bargaining rights for public sector
workers and restoring them for private sector workers, fighting for
universal health care, and designing a more equitable tax system.
"We don't have a spending problem, but a revenue
problem," he added. "Corporations and the rich in this nation and
our Commonwealth need to start paying their share."
MTA Education Support Professional of the Year
Jean Fay demanded that working people by heard.
"I'm from Amherst, where only the 'h' is silent,
and believe me, I've got something to say," said Fay. "I am a
kindergarten paraprofessional working in a Massachusetts public
school. After 13 years of dedicated service, I still make less than
$17,000 a year. And yet, there are some people who say I am the
problem, that we are the problem.
"To the health care CEO getting a million dollar
severance check, to the corporations paying zero taxes, to the bank
getting bailed out with taxpayers' dollars -- I am not the problem.
We are not the problem," said Fay, earning cheers from the crowd.
"It is important to remember that all our voices
are important and need to be heard. Never forget that the vote of
someone who earns less than $20,000 a year is just as meaningful and
just as powerful as the vote of a CEO who makes millions," she
Joe LeBlanc, president of the Massachusetts
Community College Council, called for a reinvestment in the state's
public higher education institutions.
The repeated cuts to public higher ed, LeBlanc
said, "undermine our present and future economic growth and cut at
our heart and soul."
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice Organizing
Director Jennifer Doe called on the crowd to take action and help
spread the word about the need for increased revenues.
The rally was co-sponsored by the Boston Teachers
Union, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, Greater Boston
Labor Council, Jobs with Justice and the MTA.
Massachusetts Teachers Association
Thursday, May 5,, 2011
Campaign for Our Communities 2011
Hundreds of people from across the state,
including two busloads of MTA higher education members, crowded into
Gardner Auditorium in the State House on May 5 waving yellow fliers
marked “Invest in Our Communities.”
They were on hand to show their support for a
bill carrying a similar name and theme: An Act to Invest in Our
The legislation, filed by Senator Sonia
Chang-Diaz in the Senate and Rep. Jim O’Day in the House, would
raise $1.37 billion in revenues by increasing the state income tax
rate while also increasing the personal exemption in order to
eliminate or reduce the impact on low- and middle-income families.
Speaker after speaker rose to testify on the need
for more revenues to protect services that are vital to the
long-term health of children, seniors, our communities and our
“I am president of the Massachusetts Teachers
Association, and I am also a parent,” Paul Toner said at a press
conference before the hearing. “We talk about closing the
achievement gap between rich and poor. The only way we are going to
be able to do that is provide students with excellent schools and
also good wraparound services – the human and social services they
need to be successful.
“It’s not just K-12,” he continued. “Our higher
ed campuses are in desperate need of new resources. Tuition and fees
have gone through the roof. We need to keep our public higher ed
system not only excellent, but affordable.”
Rosemary Jebari, president of the Framingham
Teachers Association, testified about the “slow erosion of services”
in public schools she has witnessed in recent years. The impacts
include increasing class sizes, the loss of social services, a lack
of books and supplies and costly new fees for extracurricular
activities and bus service.
Joseph LeBlanc, president of the Massachusetts
Community College Council and chair of the MTA Higher Education
Leadership Council, noted that “more courses are being taught by
adjuncts that at any time in our history.
“I say shame on us,” he added.
Adjunct faculty members work hard for low pay and
no benefits, he explained. Meanwhile, their students are deprived of
the advising services that full-time faculty are able to provide
Like many of the speakers, LeBlanc talked of the
need for a fairer tax structure to provide adequate revenues in the
face of growing inequality in the U.S.
“While these continue to be great times for the
haves, the have-nots are struggling,” he said, describing how many
of his community college students must work full time in order to
Several speakers talked of the severe cuts in
social services, including home care services for the elderly and
Others emphasized that cutting services is “penny
wise and pound foolish” since Massachusetts attracts highly educated
talent because the state has cultural amenities, good schools and
safe, attractive communities.
Shauna Manning, president of the Classified Staff
Union at UMass Boston, said, “Most UMass graduates remain in
Massachusetts after graduating, working and paying taxes in the
state. There is a significant return on every dollar the state puts
into public education – it is a long-term investment in the state
economy and our communities.”
William Brooks Harrelson, president and CEO of
Accordare, Inc., a small software services company in Arlington,
took part in a panel of business leaders who told legislators that
raising his taxes would actually be good for the business climate
because the budget cuts taking place right now are making
Massachusetts a less attractive destination.
“The cuts mean that smart, mobile professionals
move away,” Harrelson said. He added that someone posted a message
on Arlington’s community e-mail list stating, “Life isn’t fair, but
it’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to make it all better.”
“In fact it is,” said Harrelson. “That’s what
taxes are about. Cooperation, mutual betterment, development of a
better society. This is what we do together.”