News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - August 2020

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A Message from Beth Kontos

We send this note just in time to remind you to vote in the Massachusetts primary election on Tuesday, September 1st. Your voice at the ballot box has been hard won by people who came before us. AFT MA has given our support to a slate of candidates who have expressly supported our goals in public education. See the slate of candidates here. At the top of the ticket is Senator Ed Markey, who has been a champion for working people, for our students, for our climate, and for educators as important members of our society. I hope you will join me as I cast my vote to keep Senator Ed Markey in office supporting Massachusetts in Washington D.C. on September 1st.
 
The staff of AFT MA have been working with your negotiating teams to create plans for a safe return to school, whether it be remote, hybrid, or in person. We are using the latest scientific reports on air filtration to push districts to make improvements on ventilation systems and to add portable ventilation where needed. Read those reports here:  Harvard Study and MassCosh Presentation. Our joint efforts have pushed communities to clean, make upgrades to filtration systems, fix windows, and address other aspects of aging buildings that should have been done long ago. This work is not done. But your work environment and our students’ learning environment have been ignored for too long. We will continue to emphasize the need to improve these conditions. We ask for your help by contacting your school committee members and the governor for financial support for this work.
 
DESE has released “guidance” on how schools should reopen. Remember that this is simply guidance, think of it as a wish list from the department. You can access them all here. How your school reopens, whether you are in the building to teach, and how many days you will report in person for a hybrid model is up to your school committee to decide with input from the community and educators. And certainly, the infection rate in your community matters. See the COVID dashboard here. As always, we will monitor this with your local union leadership and continue to negotiate for your safety. There is new evidence that children can become ill and can spread the virus. Read the report here.  We must remain vigilant. We are pleased to see so many of our members engaged in lobbying with phone calls and emails for all the issues in front of us. Please continue to watch for calls to action by your local leadership.
 
Remember that the virus is our enemy. Find your nearest location for free testing here. We must stay united to push back and push through to a safe opening in our public schools, our libraries, and our institutions of higher education.
 

AFT Massachusetts Responds to DESE Guidelines Calling For Educators To Teach From Unsafe Classrooms

DESE released new nonbinding guidelines calling for educators in districts with remote learning in place to teach from empty classrooms, and to bring their own children into the classroom with them if they have childcare needs. In response, AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos released the following statement:

“These guidelines defy common sense, and if implemented, would put educators and our communities at risk unnecessarily. If a local community has determined that it is unsafe for students to return to their classrooms due to high levels of COVID-19 transmission, inadequate building ventilation, or other health and safety concerns, it is certainly not safe for educators – or their own children – to return to the same classrooms to teach."  READ MORE
 

Re-elect Senator Ed Markey

“Senator Ed Markey has been a supporter of public education for decades and has consistently fought for adequate funding - not because we asked him to, but because he knows that public education is the pathway to better communities,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “He grew up in a household that valued education and the rights of workers. His record in support of labor and the rights of workers to organize is second to none.”
 
“I am incredibly grateful for the support of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts,” said Senator Markey. “Our school employees and our educators are heroes. Their work is instrumental to ensuring that our children are prepared for the future. They deserve to have wages, health care, and other benefits that reflect just how vital their role is. While their usual tools of tablets and pencils have been replaced by tablets with pixels in the coronavirus pandemic, these educators’ skills and commitment remain integral to the health, well-being, and success of Massachusetts’s students.  My father was a union leader, and I learned just how critical unions are to families, to our economy, and to our democracy. I will always fight for AFT Massachusetts, and I am proud that they will fight for me.”  READ MORE.
 

Record a Video on Why Your School or College Can’t Afford Budget Cuts.

Fund Our Future is a grassroots campaign with the goal of increasing state funding for preK-12 schools and our state’s public colleges and universities.
 
We cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our students, their families, or our teachers by returning to in-person learning in our schools without comprehensive safety measures in place.
 
Our priority is protecting everyone in our schools from a resurgence of COVID-19. The state must provide the funding necessary for our schools to tackle this critical public health crisis. No one should be forced to return in-person until school districts demonstrate that adequate safety benchmarks are met to protect our kids, our families, and our communities.
 
 

Workers Rally for a Just Recovery

This Labor Day, join us in person or online for a Workers Rally for a Just Recovery! Taking place Monday, September 7th at 11:00am this day of action, inspiration, and reflection will be led by the Massachusetts Labor Movement in partnership with the Raise Up Massachusetts Coalition and community partners across the Commonwealth.  Learn more and register today!

We need your help to bring the demands of working people from across the Commonwealth, to Beacon Hill. Whatever matters most to you, your family, your community, or your line of work - the response from our government to COVID-19 and the economic recession it triggered must rise to the needs of our communities. Needs, which have never been higher. There's three ways to participate:
 
  • Pop-Up Drive-In
  • Attend the State House Action In Person
  • Digital Participation
Don’t Forget! As you register, submit the government programs, public services, or anything else that YOU care about protecting and further investing in. (i.e. fixing Lawrence school's ventilation systems, affordable fares on the WRTA, affordable housing for seniors in Springfield, etc.).
 
Lawmakers have a choice: They can let deep budget cuts drive us deeper into a recession that deepens racial and economic inequities, or we can invest in public services that improve public health, grow our economy, and reduce racial inequality. Healthcare, transportation, education, safety net programs, and other critical areas of the state budget need more support now, not less.

Member Benefits Spotlight

AFT Massachusetts will host a series of virtual benefits workshops to showcase the products and services available to AFT members through our member benefits program.
 
During the one-hour workshop, presenters will explain benefits you are eligible for, with topics including AFT Plus Benefits; Auto and Home Insurance; Supplemental Insurance; Home Financing; Long Term Care; and Retirement Planning.
 
Whether you’re looking to purchase insurance, buy or refinance a home, plan for retirement, or just see what benefits are available to you as an AFT member, you can find experienced and dedicated professionals who will work with you every step of the way to fulfill your goals.
 
What:   Member Benefits Workshop for AFT members
Where: Virtual Workshops via Zoom
When:  September – 15, 17; October – 20, 22, 24; November – 17, 19, 21 (Tuesdays at 4pm, Thursdays at 6 pm and Saturdays at 10 am)