AFT Massachusetts 2023 Convention: Moving Forward Together

The past year has brought important changes to the educational landscape in Massachusetts, from the passage of the Fair Share Amendment to the election of a new Governor who is a strong supporter of public education. In this new era, AFT Massachusetts is working to deliver the schools and libraries our communities deserve, the services and staffing our students need, and the workplace protections AFT Massachusetts members rely on.

On April 29, convention delegates from across the state will celebrate our victories, discuss the battles we face, and be inspired to act. We’ll welcome new members of our union, celebrate new caucuses, hear about important initiatives, and further develop our collective strength as educators and organizers

#AFTVoices: Jim Lucia highlights roll of MRU in advocating for retirees

Lucia said that the founder of MRU, Kathy Kelly, who served as past President of AFT Massachusetts, knew the political power of retirees. MRU’s roughly 2500 members are spread across the country, and volunteer their time with no compensation. COLA has become their primary focus for retirees, amid other issues, and legislation to strengthen retiree benefits and health insurance is a goal for MRU. Lucia said that more cannot be put on the backs of seniors. 

“Don't put more on the backs of seniors than they need,” he said. “We need to increase COLA bases and preserve health insurance benefits for our retirees. Local pensions, Medicare and Medicaid all need to be priorities for our retired educators. We have fought and earned them. Don’t balance budgets on the backs of seniors.”

What unions do

In AFT President Randi Weingarten’s latest New York Times  column, she describes what it is exactly that unions do. Though unions are the most popular they have been in decades, anti-union sentiment still thrives in red states and across the nation. “Several years ago, The Atlantic ran a story whose headline made even me, a labor leader, scratch my head: ‘Union Membership: Very Sexy,’” Weingarten writes in the column. “The gist was that higher wages, health benefits and job security—all associated with union membership—boost one’s chances of getting married. Belonging to a union doesn’t actually guarantee happily ever after, but it does help working people have a better life in the here and now.” Click through to read the full column.

#AFTVoices: Fighting for Justice by Living the Example - A Conversation with Joel Richards

In honor of Black History Month, we sat down with Joel Richards, Boston Teachers Union member, local activist and chair of the BTU’s Black Lives Matter committee. Joel is committed to justice both inside and out outside the classroom, ensuring that he leads by example.

As an educator, Joel feels compelled to correct the wrongs he sees running rampant throughout the education system. “I am going to do what I can to improve the lives of my colleagues and students, especially injustices experienced by students and educators of color.” When asked what motivates Richards, he smiles and says that his energy comes from a much deeper place. “I am motivated by the Christ- like mindset I have. It's urgent. It's needed. Education is very urgent to me. It always has been.” Richards said that as a Christian, he is a person who works towards justice no matter where he is.

Second Chance for Transferees for R+ Participation

Teachers Who Transferred into the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System from Another Massachusetts Public Retirement System Can Opt in to Retirement Plus. With AFT Massachusetts support, the Legislature has at long last passed a bill which allows those teachers who transferred into Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System (MTRS) or the Boston Retirement System after June 1, 2001 and before June 30, 2022 a one time opportunity to opt into RetirementPlus.

The Governor has signed legislation that offers eligible members who transferred into the MTRS a second opportunity to elect to participate in the RetirementPlus (R+) program. The R+ program, signed into law in 2000, provided eligible members with increased retirement benefits. As stipulated in the R+ legislation in 2000, members who transferred into the MTRS from another Massachusetts public retirement system (e.g., a teacher aide who became a teacher) had 180 days to elect to participate in R+. If they did not respond, they were not enrolled in R+.