Biggest Mass. teachers union backs Mermell for Kennedy seat

SE Mass

SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — Democrat Jesse Mermell has landed another major labor endorsement in the crowded primary to succeed Congressman Joe Kennedy III, picking up the support of the state’s biggest teachers union.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association — which says it has about 110,000 members in nearly 400 locals statewide, including in Fall River, Taunton and Attleboro — announced its endorsement on Tuesday. The National Education Association, which counts MTA as an affiliate, is also endorsing Mermell.

MTA leaders highlighted Mermell’s time as executive director of FairTest, a group that has been critical of standardized testing in schools, as well as her time on the board of Citizens for Public Schools and her recently released education platform.

“Jesse has consistently dedicated her time and energy to strengthening public education,” MTA President Merrie Najimy said in a statement. “From standing with educators in the fight to pass the Student Opportunity Act to challenging the state’s high-stakes testing regime, she has prioritized the needs of our students.”

She added, “Jesse understands that our public schools and colleges must be fully funded and fully staffed in order to reopen safely in the fall – and as a member of Congress, she will work hard to bring crucial federal funding back home to support public education.”

Mermell, a former Brookline Select Board member and senior aide to Gov. Deval Patrick, is one of nine Democrats seeking her party’s nomination in the 4th Congressional District, which stretches from northern Fall River through the Attleboros and Taunton up to the Boston suburbs.

While Mermell has lagged other candidates in fundraising, she has now received multiple coveted union endorsements ahead of the Sept. 1 primary. She already won the backing of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council last month, and also has the support of the 10,000-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 103, with its eye-catching billboard along I-95.

“These endorsements not only send a clear signal that I will be a champion for public education in Congress, but they will also be critical to expanding our grassroots organizing power across the district as we approach the Sept. 1 primary,” Mermell said in a statement. “We plan to win this election in the grassroots, and the strength and breadth of our support is unmatched in this race.”

The state’s other major teachers union, the 23,000-member American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, has not made an endorsement in the 4th District primary as of yet.

The Democratic nominee will face the winner of the GOP primary between Julie Hall and David Rosa.

Ted Nesi ( is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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