I hope that you are staying safe. Thank you for your dedication to Baltimore’s youth and community, and thank you for your leadership and service.
Throughout the fall, union staff were focused on adjusting to the new pandemic environment we are in, and on organizing and negotiating to protect union members, our students and the community. From July through November, my negotiating team and I spent weeks in bargaining sessions with the district. After hearing members’ concerns, I put 46 proposals across the table to keep members safe, including hazard pay, employer provided Wi-Fi hotspots, compensation for your increasing Wi-Fi bills, access to PPE (including N95 masks), and many others.
At the bargaining table, BCPSS consistently refused many of the protections the BTU proposed and without mutual consensus between the union and the district, a proposal “dies.” Despite the district’s initial unwillingness to do more than the bare minimum required by law, we were able to secure important protections for employees, including the right to grieve violations of the district’s Health and Safety Guide. Thank you to every member who put pressure on the district during negotiations by emailing the board, speaking up at public comment, wearing your BTU shirt, and participating in BTU-led days of action. These actions made an impact every step of the way and led to our wins.
With the teacher contract expiring at the end of June 2021, I will be bringing the district and the BTU negotiations team together again this coming Spring to continue fighting for the protections you deserve. When we fight, we win, and as I’m at the bargaining table, I need the union behind me, making noise, and speaking up about the challenges we face and the BTU’s commitment to protecting schools and the community.
In the next round of contract negotiations, I am asking each BTU member to participate in actions coordinated to put public pressure on the district and make our demands known. Whether you post on social media, participate in a phone bank, write an op-ed, sign a petition, demonstrate in solidarity, or wear your BTU T-shirt, your actions show solidarity with your co-workers and demonstrate the BTU’s strength. Participate in (or lead) a Contract Action Team at your school building, and encourage your coworkers to complete the contract survey developed by the BTU leadership to figure out the membership’s priorities. I encourage members to think beyond our schools for contract negotiation. What demands should we make around racial justice, community development, climate justice, or immigration? Our public schools can no longer be called upon alone to save the city, and I’m not alone in believing that there is an interconnectedness among these struggles and that we can’t win one without addressing the others. Baltimore’s teachers, paraeducators, paraprofessionals, secretaries, clinicians, counselors, librarians and central office staff are the beating heart of this district and this city, and we work tirelessly to make a difference. We deserve to be heard.