The Newton Teachers Association enthusiastically endorses Setti Warren’s campaign to win a second term as Mayor of Newton.
Mayor Warren is finishing what has been a remarkable four-year term. The schools are flourishing, enrollment is growing, and staff and facilities are expanding to meet the new students’ needs. Newton is on much more solid financial ground and there is more trust in city governance than there has been for decades. Indeed, the citizens of Newton expressed their trust last spring by voting yes for three overrides.
How did this turnaround happen? The public knows that the contracts the NTA and other city unions agreed to two years ago account for the lion’s share of the city’s savings. Yet you have to wonder why those who work for the city did not end up feeling resentful for footing the bill for these savings. What the public does not know is that these contracts, under far from ideal financial circumstances, not only saved the city money, they also worked for us, the city’s employees. We made sacrifices, to be sure, but we also addressed longstanding concerns of our members.
This seemed like an unlikely outcome until late in our negotiations. Our initial bargaining sessions with the School Committee progressed slowly, and by the spring of 2011, after working a year without a contract, they were nearly at an impasse. At that time, passage of a state law allowing municipalities to force their employees into the state health insurance program (the GIC, Government Insurance Commission) was imminent. We feared bargaining about health insurance was over and that, once we were forced into the GIC, negotiations over the rest of our contract would be prolonged and acrimonious.
Then, early in the summer, the city settled its contract negotiations with its municipal unions. I called Mayor Warren to say that, based on the precedent set by those contracts, I believed we could settle too. He agreed, we brought him into our negotiations with the School Committee, and in short order, we successfully bargained new contracts for our members.
Mayor Warren did not just pay lip service to collective bargaining. He was adamant that he would not take advantage of this new state law in order to circumvent bargaining. He knew that the city needed to include the voices of the people who make it run in the decisions that run it. He and his administration were transparent and honest. Most importantly, he did not treat us as an interest group pushing our own agenda, but as a full partner in finding solutions to the city’s problems. Working with the School Committee and the Mayor’s office, we were freed to use our creativity to find solutions that were better than anything we could have imagined working individually. And we did just that, which is why these contracts work for us as well as the city.
Mayor Warren has built a foundation of trust both with Newton’s citizens and with the city’s employees and the unions that represent them. We trust that our partners in the Mayors office and on the School Committee will again be fair, honest and transparent when we go back to the negotiating table this year to bargain our next contracts. Mayor Warren’s leadership inspires that confidence. That isn’t to say he, or we, will roll over. It means we trust that we will again seek and find creative solutions to shared problems.
Ted Hess-Mahan, though he presents himself as a progressive, seems to have little of substance to offer as a real alternative to Mayor Warren’s policies, so he campaigns instead by attempting to undermine the very trust in city governance that Mayor Warren has done so much to reestablish. Hess-Mahan’s plan for financial reform is premised primarily on the purported savings he imagines the city could realize by forcing its employees into the GIC. Not only is this fiscal fantasy, it is also a recipe for sabotaging the good will Mayor Warren earned by insisting that any changes to our health insurance be negotiated, and that any savings be shared. In short, Mayor Warren’s success has left his opponent little to run on but a platform that promises acrimony and conflict. We’ve had enough of that.
All signs are that Setti Warren will win this election. But more is at stake than winning. We ask Newton’s residents to view this election as a referendum on the better direction that we, Newton’s leaders, are now taking. We believe it is important not only that Mayor Warren win, but that he win resoundingly. We need to send a clear message that Newton will stay the course.
The Newton Teachers Association urges you to vote Setti Warren for Mayor on November 5.
Michael Zilles, President
Newton Teachers Association