On June 9, AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos hosted the AFT's Career and Technical Education Committee and coordinated tours of Lynn Vocational Technical Institute and Salem High School.
“We were delighted to host President Weingarten and educational leaders from across the county on the North Shore, and highlight the incredible work being done by CTE educators in Lynn and Salem,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “These schools are national leaders in high-quality career and technical education that engages students and prepares them for fulfilling and well-paid careers. It was an honor to showcase them as AFT advocates for stronger public schools in Massachusetts and across the nation.”
Lynn Vocational Technical Institute and Salem High School offer students a wide variety of CTE programs, including automotive technology, building and property maintenance, carpentry, culinary arts, programming and web design, electrical technology, medical assistance, and early education and care.
“This major victory shows that UMassD grad workers mean business! Graduate school is difficult enough. We deserve better than poverty wages. We deserve a safe place to sleep, and healthy food to eat. We deserve fair wages that allow us to focus on our work, our studies, and our research. Now that we’ve won our union, we’ll begin working to win a contract that provides livable wages and stipends, strong benefits, and better working conditions including protection from exploitation. This will improve the lives of all our grad employees, and it will give more people the opportunity to attend graduate school without having to figure out how to live on less than minimum wage,” said Lucy McGinnis, co-founder and graduate student.
“We work alongside graduate student employees at UMass Dartmouth every day, and we see how hard they work to teach students and perform research,” said Nick Gula, President of the UMassD Maintainers. “Now, it’s time for that work to be recognized and rewarded with livable wages, strong benefits, and fair working conditions.”
“Our union, over 300 members strong, sent a very clear message that when we unite as workers, we can win the wages and working conditions we all deserve,” said Cindy Yetman, President of AFT Amesbury. “This accomplishment would not have been possible without more than a year of organizing by teachers, students, parents, and community members. The School Committee and Mayor’s hard work with us on these negotiations brought to fruition the best contract our union has settled in decades. We achieved this together.”
“Fair schedules and paid parental leave are exactly the kinds of common good solutions that students, parents, and educators have been advocating for in the Amesbury Public Schools,” said Ian Opolski, a teacher at Amesbury High School. “The milestone achievements in this contract will help to make our school more successful for both students and teachers. If we continue to work together in our advocacy, we can help to ensure that Amesbury Public Schools will become the best schools that they can possibly be.”
HAPPY RETIREMENT!!!!! Wait. What? You are not ready to retire? Maybe you just began your teaching career, or you just finished your tenth year, or twentieth year, or thirtieth year? So why start to think about retirement? From day one of your teaching career, you contribute to the MTRS, the Massachusetts Teachers RETIREMENT system. Since that day you are officially a retiree in waiting.
Working together is what the Massachusetts Retirees United does best. The MRU is currently working to increase the benefits for elderly retirees who retired before 2004. In the wake of staggering inflation, retired educators are facing rising costs of basic necessities such as food, rent, gas and healthcare. Everything we can pass and advocate for, we will. Members of the MRU depend on us to fight for them.
“The milestone achievements in this contract will help to make our school both more sustainable and more successful for students and teachers,” said Debora O’Reilly, Union President and Biotechnology teacher. “This accomplishment would not have been possible without more than a year of organizing by teachers, students, parents, and community members. We achieved this together.” “As a vocational school, we teach all of our students the value of hands-on experience in our various fields,” said Cassia Gilroy, Union Vice-President and Cosmetology Teacher. “In addition to addressing concerns around workload and compensation, this contract will make great strides in recognizing the value brought to the school by our CTE teachers’ real-world experience.”
“Holliston educators care deeply about the future of our school district. Our school community deserves a leader who is able to prioritize developing relationships and can effectively collaborate with all members of our school community,” said Holliston Federation of Teachers President Jaime Cutone. “The membership of the Holliston Federation of Teachers is united in our view that we have no confidence in the leadership ability of Dr. Susan Kustka. It is time that the School Committee hear our concerns and take action to address the issues brought forward.” “Holliston Public Schools raised me. Our teachers, our support staff, and our administrators worked as one to serve the students,” said a Robert Adams Middle School educator who wishes to remain anonymous. “Never did I ever imagine feeling the tension and sadness our Superintendent fosters; and that’s exactly what our students are being exposed to now.”
After months of complex negotiations, the New Bedford Federation of Paraprofessionals has reached an agreement with the New Bedford Public Schools on a contract that will deliver significant pay increases and benefits for our members, who have spent years doing essential work for poverty wages. I'm especially proud that New Bedford Paraprofessionals will see pay increases of 14-28% over three years, bringing us much closer to the living wage we deserve. This historic contract also includes numerous new benefits, including funeral leave, recognition of the Juneteenth holiday, and increased pay for Paraprofessionals who serve as substitute teachers or who work in the district's most challenging programs. Finally, the contract also includes annual retention bonuses and longevity payments that we hope will help retain more paraprofessionals and help alleviate the staffing shortages that our schools currently face
We are the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth graduate student employees: teaching and research assistants, doctoral and art fellows, clinical and studio assistants, and more whose work helps UMass Dartmouth function every day. All across campus we teach classes, perform research, grade assignments, and countless other essential services to keep the university running.
But far too often, our work on campus is undervalued or overlooked. For example, UMass Dartmouth Graduate Assistants are paid less than 10% of a livable wage, leading to extremely difficult living conditions and severely compromised job performance. Therefore, we are forming a union with the UMassD Maintainers (AFT Local 6350) to get a formal voice on the job – and better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
“The Governor’s education spending proposal is a big step forward for students and educators in Massachusetts, and represents the Governor’s prioritization of students and their families in her first months in office,” said Kontos. “The Governor’s budget would fully implement another year of the Student Opportunity Act, resulting in more funding for our highest-need schools to hire teachers and support staff, close achievement gaps, and offer the wraparound services our students need to recover from the stresses of the pandemic. At our public colleges and universities, the Governor’s proposal would deliver significant progress on affordability for students while also protecting funding for campuses so they can deliver high-quality education and support services.”
“However, we are concerned that spending hundreds of millions of dollars on tax cuts for the ultra-rich could threaten the Commonwealth’s ability to make good on its education promises in future years,” she continued. “This budget represents only the third of six years of major increases to K-12 education spending that are required under the Student Opportunity Act. Amid record inflation that is straining school budgets, careful financing planning will be required to ensure that this promise to our highest-need students is fulfilled over the next three years. And while the Governor’s budget makes notable investments in public higher education that will begin to make up for the devastating cuts our campuses have experienced over the past few decades, even greater funding will be required to achieve our goal of a fully-funded, fully debt-free public college system.”
Along with the new gubernatorial administration comes a new legislative session, which means the introduction of numerous education- and labor-related bills.
One of the most important is the Thrive Act, which would replace the state’s failed approach to educational assessment and improvement, including the undemocratic state takeover system and the MCAS-based graduation requirement, with policies that will help all students to succeed and thrive. The Thrive Act would establish a modified graduation requirement based on coursework rather than high-stakes standardized testing, and implement a new ‘comprehensive support and improvement’ system designed to empower local communities to give students the tools and resources they need to succeed.
We’re also focused on talking to state leaders about our legislative priorities, which include:
An Act Committing to Higher Education the Resources to Insure a Strong and Healthy Public Higher Education System, An Act to Guarantee Debt-free Public Higher Education, An Act Uplifting Families and Securing the Right to Strike for Certain Public Employees, and two bills to improve educator retirement benefits, including legislation that would allow educators who didn’t properly enroll in the TARP enhanced retirement option to opt in to the program, and legislation that would ensure greater economic security for retired educators by increasing the COLA base and protect retirees from rising healthcare costs.