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AFT Massachusetts Calls for Full School Reopening This Fall

The last year has been incredibly difficult for students, for educators, and for parents, but the light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight. With the state’s vaccination campaign continuing to progress and the approval this week of a vaccine for children ages 12 and over, there is a clear pathway to full school reopening this fall. With a new administration in Washington, our school districts are finally receiving the resources they need to recover from the pandemic. However, we have major work to do to overcome a lingering lack of trust within communities hit hardest by COVID-19, and to ensure that full school reopening this fall is done safely and equitably.
 
This summer, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach, supported by federal funding, to prepare our school buildings and systems for a safe reopening in the fall. In September, we need major investments to provide students with additional academic support through tutoring and smaller class sizes, as well as social-emotional support through counselors and other mental health professionals. We especially need additional support for students with special needs, English language learners, and other students who have struggled the most during the pandemic.

The A. Philip Randolph Institute: A Voice for Black Workers Promoting Racial, Social and Economic Justice

As a union, we know there is no economic justice without racial justice. For decades, Black labor union members have organized to win social, political and economic justice for all working Americans through the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
 
“Asa Philip Randolph was a legendary figure in the labor movement and the civil rights movement, and we’re carrying on his work today by bringing the entire labor movement together in the fight for racial justice at work, in our schools, and throughout our communities,” says McInnis. “We invite members from local unions to join us in raising the voices of Black workers and advancing the cause of social and economic justice for working families throughout Massachusetts and across the nation.”

Celebrating Our Paraprofessionals

Wednesday, April 7 is Paraprofessional Appreciation Day, a national day when we celebrate our paraprofessionals and highlight the contributions of paraprofessionals to their students and schools. Over the last year, paraprofessionals have gone above and beyond to meet the needs of students and support the work of our schools under incredibly challenging circumstances.
 
“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,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “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.”
 

AFT Massachusetts Statement on Anti-Asian Violence

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.

Unions Respond to Governor Baker

The administration’s mischaracterization of educators as somehow seeking to take vaccines away from the sick and elderly is untrue and defamatory. Several union leaders had a cordial meeting with Secretary Marylou Sudders this morning concerning the Last Mile Vaccine Delivery Plan, which has been endorsed by health experts across the state. Secretary Sudders asked if we thought she should divert vaccines from other high-need groups to give to educators, and we emphatically declined. 

We suggested, instead, that some of the doses designated for educators via the mass vaccination sites be sent to local communities so they could be administered to school employees efficiently and effectively at the local level, with facilitation by firefighters and nurses.  

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. 

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.”

An Open Letter to the New Bedford Community

Paraprofessionals, or Paras, provide instructional, behavioral, and other support to students, especially students with special education needs such as physical or developmental disabilities. That work includes everything from helping students with schoolwork to feeding and diapering them. A typical day includes de-escalating behavioral issues, helping students communicate, supporting students with physical disabilities move about the classroom and building daily living skills. Paras are often simultaneously working as educators, caregivers, guidance counselors, and translators – all wrapped up in one job.

This year has brought widespread recognition and thanks for the work that essential workers do, but kind words don’t pay the bills. There’s nothing more essential than caring for and supporting our highest-needs kids. It’s time for the New Bedford Public Schools to do the right thing, and give us the raise we deserve.

 

AFT Massachusetts Responds to DESE Reopening Push

Educators share the goal of safely returning as many students to physical classrooms as possible. The way we do that is by investing in the school safety measures we've been demanding for almost a year: rapid surveillance testing, ventilation upgrades to prevent transmission, and vaccinations for educators and for our students' vulnerable family members. In districts across Massachusetts, educators are working with parents and administrators to overcome the obstacles to safe school reopening, and we've successfully reopened many school buildings for the highest-need students with proper safety measures in place. Even amid this winter's high levels of COVID-19 transmission, more than half of Massachusetts educators are now teaching in the classroom.

But throughout the last year, our state government has prioritized indoor dining, casinos, and other venues that lead to high levels of community spread, rather than focusing on curtailing community transmission and reopening school safely with surveillance testing and ventilation upgrades. Amid the Baker administration's failed vaccine rollout, the state is the one obstacle standing in the way of the plan developed by the teachers and fire fighters unions to vaccinate educators in their local communities.

Holding Down Healthcare Costs With Healthy Food, Standing Desks

“My involvement with wellness programming started when the rising cost of insurance premiums made me think outside the box,” said Cindy Yetman. “I believe our partnership with the City of Amesbury and MIIA Blue Cross Blue Shield to offer health and wellness programming has allowed our health insurance premium rates to maintain some stability.”

“We have been able to offer better benefits for our city employees in our most recent renewals.” she said. “In the past we actually were able to decrease dental premium costs and add more robust coverage. I believe the benefits for our city and our employees has made this work worthwhile.”