News form AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - March 2021

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Message from President Beth Kontos

Happy Passover and Easter to those who celebrate!
 
Vaccines:  March has been a whirlwind of activity as our staff and local leaders continued negotiating for safe working conditions for all our members.  We give credit to President Biden for increasing the vaccine production, but it was your advocacy at the state and federal level that helped changed when we could register for the vaccine.  The President’s order to make all preK-12 staff vaccine eligible on March 11th forced the governor’s hand to open the vaccination sites to more people.  Additionally, the state has set aside four dates for vaccines exclusively for school staff and childcare workers.  The three remaining dates are April 3rd, 11th, and 18th.  Finally, all adult residents of Massachusetts become eligible to receive the vaccine by April 19th.  Everyone may use the pre-registration system to request an appointment at one of the seven mass vaccination sites or register at a pharmacy near you.  
 
2021 Paraprofessional Appreciation Day --  The past year would not have been possible without our paraprofessionals – period. When schools closed a year ago, paras stepped up to make sure students received food, help with technology, and the other resources necessary to create a safe learning environment at home. This school year, paraprofessionals dealt with ever-changing job descriptions as they worked to support students in remote, hybrid, and in-person learning models. As we work to safely return more students to full-time in-person learning, paras are at the front lines, ensuring that students stay safe and receive the academic, emotional, and social support they need to get back on track. For years, paraprofessionals have done this critical work, often without the pay and gratitude they deserve.  As we work to recover from the pandemic, AFT Massachusetts is committed to lifting up the important work that paras do every day, and demanding that their work is properly recognized and rewarded.
 
From everyone at AFT Massachusetts, thank you to our paraprofessionals for the amazing work they do every day!
 
My Statement on Anti-Asian Violence --  On March 16, a domestic terrorist took the lives of eight people at multiple spas in Atlanta, Georgia. The victims, predominantly Asian women working in the service industry, were targeted because of their race, their gender, and their jobs.
 
This violent attack comes amid a period of rising anti-Asian racism, encouraged by some of our country’s political leaders, that has led directly to a disturbing increase in violent attacks and other hate crimes being committed against Asian Americans across the country.
 
AFT Massachusetts members and leaders stand with our Asian American and Pacific Islander members, students, families, and the entire AAPI community in grieving the victims of Atlanta shootings and other recent attacks, and denouncing anti-Asian racism and violence. We see your pain and we share your anguish.
 
We also recognize that racism and violence against Asian Americans is not new, but reflects hate and prejudice that has been present throughout our history as a country. As a union, we pledge to continue fighting together against racism and misogyny, and to do the work necessary to protect our vulnerable members, students, and community members.
 
Together, we will mourn, we will organize, and we will continue to fight to build a truly just and equitable society that protects all people from violence and hate.
 
AFT Massachusetts members and leaders stand with our Asian American and Pacific Islander members, students, families, and the entire AAPI community in grieving the victims of Atlanta shootings and other recent attacks, and denouncing anti-Asian racism and violence. We see your pain and we share your anguish.
 
We also recognize that racism and violence against Asian Americans is not new, but reflects hate and prejudice that has been present throughout our history as a country. As a union, we pledge to continue fighting together against racism and misogyny, and to do the work necessary to protect our vulnerable members, students, and community members.

Online Events for AFT Members

AFT members are welcome to participate in the events listed below and asked to follow the links to register in advance for the Zoom events.

The American Rescue Plan is Now the Law

 

On March 10, President Biden signed the hugely important and broadly popular American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion bill designed to help working families and those Americans hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 70 percent of Americans—including majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents—support the American Rescue Plan.
 
Passage of this bill wasn’t a sure thing. Your senators needed to hear from you about how important it was to have a coronavirus rescue and economic stimulus plan that helped working families—not another giveaway to Fortune 500 companies and the mega-rich. Your senators needed their constituents to let them know that the real danger wasn’t the price tag, but in passing a bill that was too small.  Read more and thank your Senator today!

The US House Passes the PRO Act to Support Workers’ Right to Organize

The ability of working people to join together to collectively bargain for fair pay and working conditions is a fundamental right. When working people join a union, they have a voice on the job and the ability to collectively bargain for wages, benefits, and working conditions. Unions are crucial in fostering a vibrant middle class and reducing income inequality. When unions are strong, they set wage standards for entire industries and occupations, they make wages more equal within occupations, and they help close racial and gender wage gaps.
 
“Over the last year, we’ve seen clearly just how important unions are for working people. By joining together through our union, we can win safer working conditions, earn better pay and benefits, and advocate together for public policy changes that we would never get on our own,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “We also know that when more workers have a strong union, it improves wages, benefits, and working conditions for all workers because even non-unionized employers must compete to attract qualified employees. But after years of attacks on union rights, millions of private-sector workers face significant obstacles when they want to join a union. The PRO Act would change that, allowing millions of workers to organize and bargain for their collective rights.”  Read more and take action!

Standardized Tests and the Pandemic

"Standardized tests have always measured poverty, not learning. In the middle of a pandemic that has disproportionately affected Black, Latino, low-income, English learner and special education students, we don’t need a test to tell us that those students have fallen behind,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Students need more learning time, not more time spent preparing for and taking standardized tests.”
 
“It’s disappointing that the federal government bowed to pressure and maintained the federal testing requirement, but we’re glad they acknowledged that this year’s test administration must look different, and that no student should be brought back in person just to take a test,” said President Kontos. “Now, the state needs to shorten the remaining test as much as possible, eliminate any punitive accountability measures linked to standardized testing, and reallocate test-related funding to where it’s really needed – in the classroom, helping students learn.”  Read more and take action!