Your union, your voice:
MEA-MFT Rep. Assembly
More than 200 locally elected MEA-MFT delegates gathered in Billings March 26-27 for the annual MEA-MFT Representative Assembly (RA). Along with a full work agenda, delegates had plenty to celebrate: MEA-MFT’s tenth birthday, new MEA-MFT members of the year, and an unshakable sense of unity and camaraderie.
MEA-MFT kicked off its tenth anniversary celebration with a recognition of its historic efforts to organize a new MEA-MFT local at MSU-Bozeman. Executive Director Erik Burke presented MSU Bozeman’s first-ever delegates with commemorative tenth anniversary pins. MEA-MFT officers then distributed tenth anniversary pins to all delegates.
Delegates also heard congratulatory messages from Superintendent Denise Juneau and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. Both applauded MEA-MFT’s 10 years of unified actions on behalf of public education and public services.
“It’s time to organize and empower”
RA delegates gave a thunderous ovation to keynote speaker Dennis Van Roek-el, president of the National Education Assoc. (NEA), one of MEA-MFT’s two national affiliate along with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
“I think it’s great that I get to be part of your tenth anniversary,” Van Roekel said. “It’s a rich history.”
Van Roekel talked about the last 18 months in America, saying, “I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. I didn’t expect the depth of this economic crisis. I didn’t anticipate the depth of anger, that some were willing to do almost anything to defeat those with whom they disagree.”
Dennis Van Roekel
Acknowledging imperfections in the health care bill recently passed by Congress, Van Roekel said, “Don’t underestimate the significance of this vote. Elimination of pre-existing conditions alone is huge. Congress will be tweaking and changing this for years.”
On the Obama Administration’s controversial Race to the Top grants and blueprint for public schools, Van Roekel said, “NEA and AFT are not going to let our members’ rights to collective bargaining and due process be rolled over by some half-baked reform idea.” To roars of approval from RA delegates, he added,
“We need to leave No Child Left Behind…behind.”
Van Roekel continued, “We do not accept the status quo in public education. But if you really want to transform education, you must involve all the adults involved. Mandates from outside won’t do it. Blaming and scapegoating won’t work. We are the ones in the schools every day. Ask us and we will work with you.”
Despite frustrations and concerns, Van Roekel said, “There has never been a better time than now. I want to take advantage of this time. We have all this passion, commitment, and resources. This is not the time to give in, give out, or give up. It’s time to organize and empower.”
Taking care of business: Representative Assembly actions
Over two days of hard work, delegates accomplished the following:
• Adopted standing rules clarifying how vote totals are allocated to participating delegates.
• Adopted Constitutional Amendment #1, allowing the MEA-MFT Board of Directors to delay electing successors in cases when a statewide office becomes vacant.
• Adopted Constitutional Amendment #2, clarifying the membership status of the MEA-MFT president to assure that current and future holders of the office can continue to run once elected.
• Adopted Constutional Amendment #3, allowing the MEA-MFT Board of Directors to fill vacant seats on the board until an election can be held.
• Elected statewide officers: Eric Feaver, president; Dave Severson, vice president; Jeff Greefield, secretary-treasurer; Janet Spracklin at-large delegate to the NEA RA; and Cecil Crawford, director-at-large.
• Heard presentations by candidates for U.S. Congress: A.J. Otjen, an MEA-MFT member; Dennis McDonald, Tyler Gernant, Sam Rankin. Incumbent congressman Dennis Rehberg was also invited to address RA but was unable to attend.
• Heard a presentation from Beth Baker, candidate for the Montana Supreme Court.
• Approved New Business Item 1 to consolidate two MEA-MFT governance districts into one.
• Approved New Business Item 2 to introduce legislation to authorize reimbursement for state employee training expenses required by the state of Montana .
• Approved New Business Item #4, authorizing MEA-MFT to oppose proposed ballot initiative CI-105. CI-105 would “prohibit state or local governments from imposing any new tax on transactions that sell or transfer real property” (see page 10)
• Approved New Business Item #5, authorizing MEA-MFT to support Ballot Issue #24 that would create a “Montana Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Drug Free Plan.”
• Approved New Business Item #6, authorizing MEA-MFT to support Ballot Issue #25 that would cap the annual interest rate lenders may charge on certain loans (e.g. “payday” or car title loans) to 36%.
• Approved New Business Item #7, directing MEA-MFT to develop a fact sheet on Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Accounts.
• Approved the MEA-MFT Legislative Program, 2010-11 budget, and 2010-11 dues.