News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - November 2022

A Message from President Beth Kontos; Supporting our Students; Earn Your Master's Degree in Labor Studies; Berklee Faculty Union Members are Stronger Together; Peabody Paraprofessionals Reach Tentative Contract Agreement with School Committee; AFT Massachusetts Statement on Passage of Question 1 – the Fair Share Amendment; and Retirement Planning Workshop for AFT Members.

Voting for democracy and a better life

In the leadup to the midterm elections, pundits predicted a red wave, even a tsunami, based on polls, historical precedent, and steep gas and grocery prices. But I had my doubts. I spent the weeks before the elections talking to voters and traveling on the AFT Votes bus, rolling through a dozen states with more than 50 stops. In a year when kitchen table issues, democracy and our freedoms were on the ballot, many people told me that the elections came down to a choice between, on the one side, election deniers and extremists stoking fear, and on the other, problem-solvers working to help the country move forward. Many races were close, but Americans turned the tide from a red wave to a swell of support for progress and problem-solvers. Read the full column here.

Peabody Paraprofessionals Reach Tentative Contract Agreement with School Committee

“An agreement such as this has been a long time coming for paraprofessionals in Peabody,” said Doreen Blaisdell, a Paraprofessional from the South Memorial Elementary School. “Pay for paras has dramatically increased in nearby communities in recent years and I am proud to see Peabody join that trend.”

“Recent achievements such as the passage of the Student Opportunity Act and the Fair Share Amendment have provided our schools with the resources to finally take steps to recognize the critically important work done by paraprofessionals to support our students,” said Eric Blake, President of the Peabody Federation of Teachers. “The PFT appreciates the School Committee’s recognition of the importance of paraprofessionals.”

Berklee Faculty Union Members are Stronger Together

“This contract was one of the strongest bargained in the past 20 years and was the result of an incredible team effort, solidarity of the faculty, and the overwhelming support of the students,” said Will Silvio, President of the Berklee Faculty Union, AFT Local 4412.

Under the new contract, all faculty will receive a 3% raise each year and, additionally, a one-time 2% bonus in the first year. Meanwhile, the wages of the lowest-paid faculty members will increase by up to 19% over the same period due to adjustments to the minimum wage for each faculty rank. This provision is especially important for faculty who came to Berklee as part of the 2016 merger with Boston Conservatory. Additionally, part-time faculty who teach in the Boston Conservatory program will now be paid for office hours and department meetings, like other part-time Berklee faculty.

"I'm thrilled we brought home a strong contract,” said Andrew Shryock, Secretary-Treasurer of the Berklee Faculty Union. “What's just as satisfying was to see so many people come together around a shared vision for Berklee where faculty can do their best work and provide a world-class experience for Berklee students.”

2023 AFT Massachusetts Scholarship Program

Every year AFT Massachusetts awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to eligible high school seniors who are dependents of AFT Massachusetts members. The awards, named in honor of former AFT leaders Kathy Kelley, Albert Shanker and Sandra Feldman, and for long-time AFT Massachusetts field representative Jay Porter, are awarded on the basis of a labor history exam administered by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. 
“Now more than ever, it’s important for young people to understand the role of labor unions in our country’s history,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “AFT Massachusetts is proud to offer these college scholarships to students who are part of our union family.”

Earn your Master's Degree in Labor Studies at UMass Amherst

Members of AFT Massachusetts are building power across the education and library sectors and influencing labor organizing across the Commonwealth. As we look to the future, we are hungry to deepen our understanding of the labor movement we come from and how we can become better leaders for others. We are the backbone of our communities and have a responsibility to ourselves and others to use our collective power to make all our lives better. That’s why we’re glad to announce this historic opportunity to earn your Master’s Degree in Labor Studies at the UMass Amherst College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

“This program is not only one of its kind, it is the foundation we need. We can only know where we’re going, when we understand where we’ve been and the Master’s Degree in Labor Studies gives members just that. As our communities look to us for answers and guidance, this program harnesses the power of our collective history and power.” Beth Kontos, AFT Massachusetts President.