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Mike Offner
Writer and lifelong student.

MA Teachers Union Marches Forward, Defying Concerns of Bigotry

OPINION

As the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) readies for its Board of Directors meeting this weekend, some of its members and families across the state are expressing concerns about the union’s biased by-laws and resolutions, marginalizing the union’s Arab, Jewish, Muslim and Palestinian members and public school families at a frightening and divisive time.

The MTA also appears to demonstrate bias against other marginalized minority groups.

MTA President Max Page and Director of Communications Amanda Torres-Price have corresponded with me via email, but have declined to meet, speak via phone, answer any questions, or allow me to observe the proceedings of the Board of Directors this weekend.

(Anyone wishing to contact this author about this piece or any other matter can use the “Contact Me” link above).

MTA excludes Arabs, Jews, Muslims, and Palestinians from “minorities”

While the MTA has an “Ethnic Minority Executive Committee Member,” individuals who “count” as minorities are limited per the union’s by-laws:

With this definition of “minority”, the following groups are excluded: Arabs, Jews, Muslims, and Palestinians.

Also excluded are Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, LGBTQIA+ individuals, people with any kinds of disabilities, and countless other marginalized groups who apparently do not “count” as “minorities” to the MTA.

Although the MTA seems unaware or indifferent, according to the US Department of Labor, people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the workforce:

Although the term is most often used to refer to differences among individuals such as ethnicity, gender, age and religion, diversity actually encompasses the infinite range of individuals’ unique attributes and experiences. As the nation’s largest minority — comprising almost 50 million individuals — people with disabilities contribute to diversity, and businesses can enhance their competitive edge by taking steps to ensure they are integrated into their workforce and customer base.

MTA Locks Down Its Website

Under scrutiny and pressure from multiple constituencies, the MTA has increased the portions of its website that are locked down and no longer publicly viewable.

However, under the MA Public Records Law, MTA materials are public records, as they are invariably created by, seen, sent, or received by employees of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, such as the more than 100,000 union members who are employees of public school districts in the state.

Data from the MA Department of Education indicate that statewide, about 86% of educators are white and about 5% are Black:.

The numbers for the MTA are almost certainly weighted even more toward white membership, as the large Boston Teachers Union, which has minority representation much higher than the state overall, is not among the MTA’s local union affiliates, according to the MTA’s own list of its locals:

State data indicate that the Boston Public Schools staff composition is about 29% Black and 50% white.  (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the MA population overall is about 79% white and 10% Black).

Data for Boston (not part of the MTA) and the state are below:

MTA Exploits Hamas-Israel War for Political Ends with Ignorance and Bias

This exclusion of marginalized minorities, with Arabs, Jews, Muslims, and Palestinians all under unprecedented stress since the Hamas-Israel war began with the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7, 2023, is largely at odds with the spirit of federal and state laws, including the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. (Depending on a variety of factors, these laws might or might not apply to the MTA in any specific circumstances).

Despite a search of publicly available information revealing that the MTA has rarely if ever made any comments or taken any position on global affairs, in December 2023, the Board of Directors adopted two resolutions.

One makes reference to developing “curriculum resources for learning about the history and current events in Israel and Occupied Palestine, for MTA members to use with each other and their students.”

While “current events” presumably refers to the Hamas-Israel war taking place in Gaza, the term “Occupied Palestine” appears to reveal the MTA’s ignorance, as Israel made a complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

While Israel has retained a presence in the West Bank, the Hamas-Israel War is not occurring there, other than perhaps some small proxy conflicts.

The MTA does not appear to realize that the West Bank and Gaza are geographically separate and have separate controlling powers, with the West Bank controlled by Fatah and Gaza controlled by Hamas.

While appearing to attempt to “virtue-signal” sympathy for Gazans, the MTA has never, apparently, based on publicly available information, adopted any statement or resolution about:

MTA motions of concern to many MTA members and public school families across the state include the following:

Despite concerns from many members, the MTA appears to be planning to go forward this weekend with a session on “Dismantling Systems of Oppression”.

Though it is unclear what that means, some of the MTA’s Jewish members and allies are concerned that this will mean advancement of a narrative that Jews are “white, colonial settlers implementing apartheid and genocide,” consistent with the widely concerning “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” narratives and implications:

Some Local Unions Oppose MTA’s Resolutions

Some of the MTA’s local affiliates have opposed the MTA’s unprecedented resolutions.

For example, The Newton Teachers Association (NTA) released a statement opposing the MTA’s resolutions:

The Bedford Education Association (BEA) also rejected the MTA’s resolutions:

MTA Refuses to Amend or Apologize for Resolution, in Contrast to Minneapolis Federation of Teachers

Even after meeting with dozens of frightened and concerned Jewish MTA members and allies, MTA President Max Page has apparently refused to make amends regarding the MTA’s resolutions, which some view as exploitive and anti-Palestinian in their ignorance and insincerity and anti-Jewish in their provocative but unsubstantiated demonization of the world’s only Jewish state.

By contrast, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals (MFT), who had passed a resolution similar to that of the MTA, apologized for doing so with recognition of the harm and division that such arbitrary and biased wading off mission into tragic international affairs can cause:

MTA “Convicts” Israel of Genocide, Despite International Court of Justice Not Doing So and In Contradiction of Ugandan Woman Judge’s Opinion

Despite the International Court of Justice (ICJ) not having convicted Israel of genocide, and experts having a range of opinions on what the court’s ruling signifies (not ordering a halt to military operations, indicating that proceedings should continue because genocide is “plausible”), the MTA has held fast to its resolution that Israel’s military response to the Hamas terror attacks is “genocidal,” despite the MTA being in no apparent position to evaluate the likely hundreds if not thousands of pages of legal arguments and evidence.

Further, the MTA does not appear to have acknowledged in any way the dissenting ICJ opinion of Ugandan Judge Julia Sebutinde, which states that the Hamas-Israel war is a “historically a political” conflict, and “not a legal dispute susceptible of judicial settlement by the Court”:

The MTA appears to have issued no resolutions on apparent horrific crimes against humanity in Yemen, Sudan, Syria, China, or Pakistan — with no explanation as to why the MTA apparently felt compelled to issue an unsubstantiated statement of criminal guilt against the only Jewish state in the world.

The MTA also does not appear to have issued any resolutions about recent or historic human rights violations in the United States, and the agenda for this weekend’s Board of Directors meeting does not indicate any development of curriculum alongs those lines, though it is not possible to be certain what the MTA intends to address, as MTA leadership has indicated they will not allow outside observers and will not grant interviews or answer any questions about the Board Meeting or related matters.

About the Author
Mike Offner was born and raised in Newton, MA, and is a graduate of the Newton Public Schools, Yale University, and Harvard Law School.