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On the Road

with Valerie Wilk

In December, I traveled to suburban Boston to participate in the first statewide higher ed conference of the Massachusetts Teachers Association in almost 20 years. MTA President Anne Wass detailed MTA’s activism, including support for pension reform to allow faculty to move into the state defined- benefit pension plan from the defined-contribution option. She also discussed a lawsuit to secure health care coverage for part-time faculty at community and state colleges and the University of Massachusetts. Jim Rice, MTA member and president of NEA’s National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), spoke to conferees about NCHE challenges and accomplishments, including securing additional resources for NEA’s higher education program.

In his keynote, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel highlighted NEA’s advocacy with Congress and the Obama Administration on health care, pension, and education. He outlined the importance of the 2010 elections for K—12 as well as higher education employees, and urged conferees to stay involved in the political process.

I conducted a workshop about living wage campaigns with Donna Johnson, MTA Higher Education Leadership Council chair, and University Staff Association (ESP local at University of Mass.-Amherst) president.
To me, the most exciting thing about the conference was the wide range of MTA members in attendance, from veteran leaders to those attending their first statewide conference.

—Valerie Wilk coordinates NEA’s higher education activities

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