We Need a Union Capable of Fighting and Winning in the Court of Public Opinion: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 4
By Robert Green,
Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency. The third post looks at some of the ways we could improve our health insurance and asks members to consider whether the $300,000 QPAT removes from the plan annually is not a back-door fee increase.
Another important reason I’m once again running for MTA president is that I believe our union leadership needs to do much more to speak out in defense of public education and the integrity of the teaching profession. An effective media strategy can be a powerful means of creating pressure on the employer that can translate into real gains for our members and for public education.
Yet our current leadership seems utterly uninterested in engaging issues in the public sphere.
This was exemplified with the arrival of the Charter of Values as the central issue of public debate in Quebec. Given that this proposed legislation had such direct and severe consequences for teachers, I expected our unions to speak out. Here was an opportunity for the newly elected Mr. Sutherland to show that he could stand up for teachers and defend us in the public sphere. Sadly, unions representing teachers in English school boards were the last in Quebec to weigh in on the issue.
We Need Better Health Insurance, Not a Back Door Fee Increase: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 3
By Robert Green,
Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency.
Another reason I am running is to push for badly needed changes to our health and dental insurance. The mere mention of our insurance elicits enormous frustration from the teachers at my school. There is a widespread perception that this plan does not provide good value. The vast majority of teachers with the ability to register on their partner’s insurance plan all seem to do so.
Unfortunately neither the leadership of the MTA nor QPAT seem at all interested in working to make improvements to our insurance. While I believe that a thorough investigation into the problems with these plans needs to be done, there are two things that could be done immediately to improve these plans. The first is to actually consult the members on the cost and composition of the plan.
Our union leadership loves to tell us that these are our plans and that we have complete control over them. Yet since these plans have been established the members have never been formally consulted on their cost and composition. Perhaps members would be willing to remove the coverage of certain items in order to reduce fees? Or perhaps the members would be willing to pay more for additional coverage? Or perhaps the members would like to replace the coverage of certain items for improved coverage on others? The point is there is no way of knowing any of this as long as we have a union leadership that is unwilling to put in the work to consult the members. How are we ever to improve the members’ satisfaction with these plans if we never ask them what they think? What good is membership control if the members are never given an opportunity to exercise that control?
For an MTA that is More Transparent and Democratic: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 2
By Robert Green
In part one of this series I explained that the first reason I am once again running for MTA president is that little has changed in the last year with respect to the union’s partisan leadership style. MTA members need a union leadership that is respectful of diverse views and committed to encouraging participation.
An equally important reason that my hat is in the ring this year is that there has also been little change on the question of financial transparency and respect for the MTA’s constitution.
Once again this year a member has requested to see the union’s Visa statements. Once again the member is being denied. This should be a matter of great concern to every member of the MTA because, after all, this is our money we’re talking about. We need an MTA leadership that will run the union according to the highest standards of financial transparency. More than that we need an MTA leadership with nothing to hide!
However this is about much more than financial transparency. It is about whether or not the union’s constitution is respected. Mr Sutherland insists that his actions do not violate the constitution because he has convinced his loyal followers in the reps assembly that it is within their power to “interpret” the constitution. This argument might hold water if there was anything vague or unclear about the wording in the constitution.
Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President! Part One: We Need a Union That Favours Participation not Partisanship!
I was really hoping to take a year off from MTA elections. Though I knew Mr. Sutherland was firmly entrenched in the small clique that’s been running the MTA for years, I hoped that the MTA might become different under his leadership. At least different enough to justify taking a year off. And while in some ways he is certainly an improvement over his predecessor, there is still far too much that remains of the old MTA and its undemocratic and ineffective ways. Teachers need an alternative.
The first sign that little would change with Sutherland at the helm of the MTA came at the beginning of the very first reps assembly. Here was an opportunity to set a new tone and the very first thing Mr. Sutherland did was to launch a very personal attack on an individual member known for her dissenting views within the union. The attack involved a misrepresentation of why this member’s complaint against the MTA at the labour relations commission had been rejected. As I wrote in my blogpost “Setting the Record Straight About the Complaint Against the MTA at the Labour Relations Commission“:
Although reporting such an event to the members is entirely appropriate, it should be noted that the MTA leadership has a history of reporting events involving the Labour Relations Commission only when it suites their political interests. Rulings against the MTA, or members being paid-off in out-of-court settlements are often not reported to the membership.
It should also be noted that the member in question, Cecile Doucet-Greene, was identified by Sutherland in his presentation of the matter and had been provided no prior notice whatsoever that her case would be the subject of discussion. Given that the reps assembly agenda is set several days in advance, Sutherland and the other members of the executive had all the time in the world to notify Ms Doucet-Greene of the fact that her case would be discussed. Had this simply been about informing the members in good faith, such notice would have been provided. The fact that it wasn’t illustrates that this was an ambush, made in bad faith to score cheap political points.
It’s fine for the MTA’s leadership to disagree with elected members of the reps assembly, but playing these sorts of vindictive games is just petty. It renders the tone of the MTA’s meetings so toxic that well intentioned members don’t want to even attend let alone participate in discussions. Mr Sutherland had an opportunity to change the union’s partisan institutional culture. He has instead chosen to doubled-down in perpetuating the old culture which valued loyalty and loyalty only.