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Two important documents from Milwaukee’s teachers’ union

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

In May, Bob Peterson was elected president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the largest teachers union in the state of Wisconsin.

Peterson is well known as a founding editor of Rethinking Schools and a long-time advocate of social justice unionism.

Peterson detailed "why and how" to reinvent the MTEA:

  • In a speech to the union convocation, he described what he calls the reinvention and the reimagining of the MTEA. The themes of the speech and its analysis of where teacher unions have fallen short has a broad relevance for teachers in Philadelphia and across the country.
  • He also gave a PowerPoint presentation that describes how teachers could organize themselves at the school level to implement a social justice vision of teacher unionism. Teachers would organize around "six leaders in each school."

Peterson’s victory by a 16-percent margin is one more important indication that teachers, battered by the recession and attacks from corporate education reformers, are turning away from traditional business unionism toward a model that embraces teaching, learning, and building alliances with students, parents, and the community.

I hope Notebook readers will read these documents and think about how they might relate to our circumstances here in Philadelphia.

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