AFT Massachusetts Annual Convention Celebrates Unity, Focuses on Organizing & Engagement

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The AFT Massachusetts convened our 51st annual convention at Boston’s Park Plaza hotel on the first weekend in May this year. Hundreds of delegates heard from local and national elected leaders who serve in the United States Congress or within the ranks of the American Federation of Teachers. The ongoing fight to provide a great public education for every child continues, but our unity has never been stronger.

The convention was also an important time to celebrate our successes and the children we teach. The Saturday session kicked off with the awarding of scholarships to children of AFT Mass members. A number of young people spoke of their goals and gratitude to the AFT for helping to make them possible.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley was an important guest speaker at the convention this year. In her first year as member of Congress, Pressley is the thick of the battle against the regressive policies of the current administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. A graduate of public schools, Pressley assured the delegates she will be our voice in Washington.

The morning always includes some fun entertainment. This year included a class from the Mildred Ave School, a K-8 Boston public school, showing off their impressive dancing skills. Folk singers Katie Cohen and Jon Feinberg returned again to lead the crowd in several spirited pro-labor folk songs.

American Federation of Teachers national president Randy Weingarten attended and spoke to the delegates about the growing power of our national union. Our fellow educators have won #RedForEd fights for more school funding in West Virginia, Arizona and Los Angeles. Their success is having an impact in Washington and on Beacon Hil.

United Teachers on Los Angeles Secretary Arlene Inouye provided a compelling perspective on the success of April’s six-day teachers strike. She attributed their success to the UTLA’s efforts to represent all members, as well as parents and students, in working toward common goals. Engaging the community as partners in the struggle was a key component in maintaining public support throughout the strike.

Our own AFT Massachusetts president Beth Kontos spoke to the delegates about the strength of AFT Massachusetts and our top priority for this year, the statewide Fund Our Future campaign. “Our public education system is underfunded from top to bottom,” Kontos told the delegates. “Through our work with the Fund Our Future coalition, we are committed to ensuring that our students and their schools have the funding they need to succeed, from preK through college.”

“We’ve waited far too long for Massachusetts to invest in our kids, she added. “It’s time to pass these bills and fix the funding now!”

The annual convention is always filled with speeches and votes to fill vacant positions within the union. They are often also time to say farewell to those who have served the union well. This year was no exception with the retirement of two long-time presidents of their local unions, Frank McLaughlin of Lawrence and Bruce Nelson of Peabody. Combined, they served the educators in their unions as president for over three decades. We can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done and wish them many happy years in retirement with their families.