The Cambridge and Brookline Mass teachers’ unions. always fight for fair contracts
The teachers’ unions in Cambridge and Brookline, Mass., have been working without a contract since 2021. School boards in both districts declined to respond to requests from the Cambridge Educators Association and the Brookline Educators Union. Unions have demanded better learning conditions for students and increases that keep pace with inflation – school boards have responded with lockdowns and threats to impose tough measures, such as extending the day school without additional pay and the elimination of class size limits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a host of challenges for teachers and students, and for some teachers, cost their jobs or their lives. Yet school boards in Cambridge, Brookline and across the country are refusing to back their teachers, urging them to accept worse contracts and working conditions.
Cambridge Educators Association
Since the contract expired in August last year, the Cambridge Public Schools District and the CEA have only met a handful of times and failed to reach a new agreement.
Previously, Cambridge educators worked under a one-year contract signed in 2020 to avoid negotiations for a new three-year contract during the COVID crisis.
CEA’s three-year contract proposal includes many demands to improve student learning conditions, such as an anti-racism curriculum, prioritizing children’s social-emotional well-being, hiring and retaining teachers from color and providing a competitive salary to keep up with inflation and attract future teachers.
The CPS has so far rejected these requests in all areas.
During the negotiations on April 14, CPS came up with a new proposal which included items such as the elimination of class size limits at all levels, a one-time payment of $200 “in recognition of the ongoing challenges related to the pandemic” and the ability to reassign a teacher at any time without consent of this teacher. None of the CEA’s requests were taken into account.
Due to the law firm hired by CPS, the negotiations have so far taken place “behind closed doors”, but that has not stopped the union from trying to go public with the stalled negotiations.
As they could not reach an agreement, the Cambridge Educators Association and Cambridge Public Schools decided to engage a neutral mediator to assist in the negotiations.
Brookline Educators Union
The BEU has also been working without a contract since 2021. The union demanded that the Brookline school board commit to hiring more teachers of color, granting professional status to retain those workers, hiring more staff, and securing wage increases to keep up with inflation.
The two sides almost reached an agreement in October 2021. “So suddenly their lawyer shows up negotiating with a new package of proposals: decrease union rights, remove professional judgment from teachers and what staff meetings they can attend and extend the primary school day without pay,” BEU President Jessica Wender-Shubow told Liberation News.
In the spring of 2020, the BSC laid off about 360 educators after mismanaging the budget. The uproar from teachers and the community caused BSC to back down quickly and they rehired almost all the workers who had been made redundant.
Many of the laid-off workers were recently hired employees of color who had not received professional status. The BSC says it’s important for them to hire more staff of color, but a true commitment to racial justice would mean offering these teachers professional status – as the BEU demands.
It is illegal for public employees to strike in Massachusetts. In order to intensify, the BEU has implemented a work policy for the rule in December 2021, which means that teachers will not work after the end of the school day.
Wender-Shubow shared with Liberation News that teachers knocked on more than a thousand doors asking community members to raise their voices.
Currently, BEU and BSC are in mediation.
The demands of BEU and CEA teachers benefit both teachers and students, but their respective school boards have shut them down. As Wender-Shubow noted, education is “run like a lean machine.” But teachers and students are not machines. Public education is a public good – its degradation harms the millions of ordinary people who depend on it to teach their children.
Follow the Cambridge Educators Association on their website. To support the Brookline Educators Union, find updates on their website and sign their petition.