A Madison teachers union will receive a national award for its organizational work during last spring’s protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill throughout Wisconsin.
The Institute for Policy Studies, located in Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday Madison Teachers Incorporated would be honored with the Letelier-Motiff Human Rights Award on Oct. 12, said ISP spokesperson Lacy MacAuleyet.
IPS annually presents two awards to honor those who the group believes to be “unsung heroes of the progressive movement.” One award is presented domestically and one internationally, she said.
MTI Executive Director John Matthews said the union has never received an award of this caliber.
“This is a first,” Matthews said. “[The national distinction represents] significant recognition for MTI’s leadership. MTI hasn’t slowed its effort in the movement.”
Matthews said he was personally humbled by the award and the attention MTI had received for its involvement in the progressive movement’s protests against the budget repair bill.
MTI took such a strong interest in the protests and organization against the bill because the legislation was “not about the budget,” Matthews said.
Matthews said Wisconsinites and Republicans throughout the country might try to minimize the organization’s work, but said MTI could boast several recent successes, including the acquisition of two state Senate seats and agreements reached with the local firefighter and police unions.
Because of these recent successes, MacAuleyat said MTI should be showered with praise.
“We are very, very pleased to give the Letelier-Moffitt award to the Wisconsin progressive movement,” MacAuleyet said. “Everyone was so inspired by what happened.”
She said MTI represents the progressive movement as a whole, being the first Letlier-Moffitt award presented to a movement since 1985.
ISP believes the movement will continue to steadily grow as it has over the past months, especially now that smaller unions at the state level are able to connect with larger movements, MacAuleyet said.
“A majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the government as a whole,” MacAuleyet said. “They want to bring dignity back to our country, [which is what MTI’s award represents].”
MTI’s stance on defending human rights in addition to its demonstration of the right to peaceful assembly were cited as the primary reasons for the award, she said.
The award will be presented to Matthews and MTI President Peggy Coyne in Washington, D.C., next month at what MacAuleyet calls a “banquet for the leadership of the progressive movement.”
Matthews said even after receiving this honor, MTI will undoubtedly still be pursuing the goals their organization values and remain involved in the state’s political system for years to come.
Both IPS awards are granted in memory of two IPS colleagues, Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, who were killed by a roadside bomb on the streets of the nation’s capital Sept. 21, 1976, she said.
The bomb was later traced back to an oppressive dictator of Chile at the time, a regime Letelier had fled from after their takeover of Chile’s government. The award is dedicated in their name to keep their tradition of freedom and justice alive by recognizing organizations that uphold these standards, MacAuleyet said.