We are now 10

Our Point of View, by MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver


June-July 2010

 

We are now 10. More united than ever.

 

This summer, the NEA representative assembly amended the NEA constitution to permit NEA state affiliates to designate all their active members, whether in education or not, NEA members. Our other national affiliate, the AFT, had already recognized all our active members regardless of the work they do.

 

So, on our special anniversary, September 1, 2010, all active MEA-MFT members became NEA and AFT members with full rights and privileges in both our two national affiliates.

 

I could not be more pleased. I hope you are, too.

 

Meanwhile, we have work to do right now. Let me make a short list:

 

• Elect a pro-government, pro-public school, union-friendly legislature willing to adopt new and enhanced revenue streams to fund public programs and services.

 

• Take our Work that Matters campaign to every corner of this state. See www.mea-mft.org/work_that_ matters.aspx. 
 

Do this and we will move our long-standing, progressive agenda forward, an agenda that includes, among other things:

 

• A real pay increase for state and university employees.

 

• A statewide health insurance pool for k-12 school employees.

 

• An enhanced Teachers Retirement System Professional Retirement Option that would provide new hires a 2 percent multiplier of final average compensation at 30 years.

 

• Unemployment compensation for classified school employees.

 

• A significant increase in the Quality Educator Payment.

 

• An increase in the state’s contri-bution to the university faculty optional retirement plan.

 

• Full reimbursement of mandated state employee travel, lodging, and training expenses.

 

• An initial state investment of state money in Head Start.

 

“Too ambitious,” you say? Perhaps. But if we don’t believe these things matter and should be done bad times or good, who else will? Plus we have a reputation of getting stuff done.

 

Since merger, in the 2005 and 2007 legislatures, with considerable help from Governor Brian Schweitzer, we helped win full-time kindergarten, quality educator payment, teacher loan repayment, a 1 percent state funded increase in the university faculty optional retirement plan, and an open and deliberative state program privatization process.

 

Even as the Great Recession dried up our state’s revenue streams in 2009, we were able to secure robust state contributions to the state employee health insurance pool and adopt a cutting edge public school teaching and learning opportunity, the Montana Digital Academy.

 

And outside the legislature, were it not for us, the Montana minimum wage might still be $5.15.
 

And we have played great defense. In concert with others, sometimes all by ourselves, we have killed bills shilling alternative teacher licensure, private/sectarian charter and pay voucher schools, transforming the legislature into the boards of regents and public education, prison privatization, and right to work — stuff that drives a dagger into the heart of what we do and why.

 

We are 10 years merged. We are fully accountable to our diverse membership to do the best we can to maintain and enhance the work we do, the work that matters.

 

And we will.