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Winning a Contract During COVID

“We engaged in a strategic escalation campaign over the course of a year: putting pressure on decision makers while building our own strength as a union,” said President Jamie Cutone. “It was critical that our membership understood that seeing the whole process through was the only chance at seeing success despite the lengthy process.”

The union created a petition signed by hundreds of teachers, school staff, parents, students, and other community supporters. Bright red yard signs that read “We Support Our Teachers - Contract for Holliston” appeared on lawns across town, buttons were adorned by staff and cars in the school parking lot displayed signs as well. During a district-wide walk-in at all four Holliston schools, staff wore red and held signs at drop-off, then walked into the building together in a show of unity. Teachers and community supporters made a presence with School Committee members, taking every chance to speak up about the hard work teachers were doing in the schools and their need for a fair contract.

Chelsea Educators, Community leaders combine forces and win big

It’s no secret that Massachusetts has been hit hard by COVID, but for low-income and communities of color, it’s been particularly damaging. Chelsea, one of Massachusetts poorest communities, have been ringing the crisis alarm for decades. This ringing came to head, however, in December 2021 when community leaders, parents, students, educators and paraprofessionals joined forces, demanding a slew of improvements for school and staff alike. After years of building power and taking collective action, the Chelsea Teachers Union won many of their demands. We sat down and spoke with Kathryn Anderson, President of the Chelsea Teachers’ Union (CTU), to see what this win for the local and the community means moving forward.

“Chelsea was hit hard by COVID,” said Anderson. “It was only made worse because our community as a whole has been underserved, underfunded, and underemployed.” Local school districts have become a magnifying glass for the intersection between community, young people, and educational workers. Anderson adds, “it’s not just about all these things coming together, but it tells the story of what districts have been going through for a very long time.” Chelsea has endured drastic budget cuts for decades, leaving educators and students worse for the wear. “The biggest pressure we’ve seen is increasing class sizes and community pressures. During the pandemic, nearly half of our student population experienced a food and /or housing crisis and over 80% of our community had lost income or had a major health crisis.” 

AFT Massachusetts Staff Profile: Anabel Santiago

As a Salem Public Schools graduate, as a student at UMASS Dartmouth, and during her years of community organizing on issues including the No on Question 2 ballot campaign, the fight for a $15 minimum wage, and COVID response efforts, Anabel Santiago has spent her life learning and working around AFT Massachusetts members. Now, as an AFT Massachusetts Organizer, she’s working with locals across the state, bringing her comprehensive community organizing experience to bear on the issues our members care about.

“It has been wonderful to watch Anabel go from being a student to an activist fighting for education equity and other issues facing families and educators across the state,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Anabel has been a part of a number of coalitions and campaigns that the AFT Massachusetts has played a critical role in and I’ve enjoyed connecting with her as our paths have crossed over the years. Her dedication to fighting for justice and on behalf of families throughout Massachusetts is admirable. The AFT Massachusetts and those on the ground she is working with are fortunate to have an organizer as determined and skilled as Anabel.”

AFT MA President Beth Kontos Criticizes DESE for Continuing Biased and Inaccurate School Rating System

DESE has proposed suspending certain school accountability measures for School Year 2021-22, citing unreliable MCAS data from School Year 2020-21, when MCAS was administered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, DESE plans to continue in 2022 with the heart of its accountability regime: the calculation of the school percentile metric, which is used to rank schools against each other based primarily on MCAS scores. DESE invited public comment on this proposal, and President Kontos’ letter was in response to that invitation.

“What troubles us greatly…is your stated intent to move forward with the school percentile metric—a metric that research shows to be biased and deeply flawed,” Kontos writes in her letter. “The disruption to MCAS data caused by the pandemic only exacerbates the problems with this metric.”

Kontos’ letter cites recent research, including from a Nobel Prize-winning MIT economist, showing that the school percentile metric and its underlying MCAS achievement measures are biased and inaccurate measures of school quality. In other words, the supposed inferiority of low-rated schools serving predominantly students of color is due to inaccuracy in the measures (standardized test achievement levels) and is not due to lower-quality education.

Boston Public Library Staff to Hold Unity Gathering After Multiple Hateful Incidents Disrupt Children’s Rooms at Local Libraries

Union Invites Public to ‘Fill the Library with Love’ to Begin Healing, Stand Up to Hatred and Bullying! In the wake of several separate incidents of disruption and hate at local libraries, the members of the Boston Public Library Professional Staff Association have called for a public show of unity and kindness. On Saturday, February 19 at 12:00 noon, at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library, union members will be standing out and speaking up at a ‘Fill the Library with Love’ unity gathering to support staff and patrons who have been through these attacks and show love for the safe space that the library offers our community.
 
In three separate recent incidents, a group that is opposed to masking, vaccines, and diversity came into children’s rooms at the Central Library and the Hyde Park Library to protest COVID protection measures. While there, they intimidated and harassed members of the public and staff at the library and refused to leave when asked. During another incident at the Central Library, a bust of Maya Angelou had gasoline dumped on it. These actions created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear that should never exist in the library.

Starbucks Workers Deserve a Voice at Work

"Starbucks workers in Greater Boston are at the forefront of the national campaign to form a union, and they have the full support of AFT Massachusetts and the 23,000 educators, librarians and school employees we represent," said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. "Like union educators, Starbucks baristas know that a union means a real voice in the workplace, better wages and benefits, and protection against abusive management. Right now, Starbucks workers are working for less than they deserve, while the company ignores their valuable ideas.

Solidarity with the Springfield Paraprofessionals

Join us and stand in solidarity with the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals on February 14th at 4:30 PM as they fight for a living wage!

Springfield para educators have gone two years now, through the pandemic, with no contract! They have been active in negotiations with the Springfield School Committee and have seen little progress and a lack of respect for their work on the other side of the negotiation table.

America’s Parents Express Overwhelming Support for Teachers, Their Unions and Public Education

A supermajority of U.S. parents give their public schools and teachers top marks for their Herculean efforts to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, fresh polling shows, with perceptions of teachers unions soaring to record highs.

Black parents and parents in urban areas in particular feel that teachers and their unions have played an overwhelmingly positive role, and they blame the virus—rather than the professionals charged with their kids’ care—for difficulties during the pandemic.

Overall, 72 percent of parents say their school provides excellent or good-quality education, and 78 percent endorse the quality and performance of their teachers, up 7 points from 2013, according to a new national survey by Hart Research Associates and Lake Research Partners. 

Teachers unions are seen by parents as a more positive force in education today than prior to the pandemic, mirroring public polling conducted over the past year and tracking record high support for the labor movement as a whole.

AFT Massachusetts Staff Profile: Charlotte Kelly

"Charlotte is a tenacious organizer who takes every opportunity to talk with educators, families, and community members to do what is best to support public education in Massachusetts,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “I'm thrilled to have her on our growing team as we work to reinvest in our students and their schools, recover from the disruption of the pandemic, and build a brighter future for education throughout Massachusetts."

Charlotte’s years of organizing work make her well-equipped to support AFT educators as we organize in our school buildings and in our communities, building deeper relationships with parents, community groups, and youth. It also gives her the experience to help win our upcoming fights, like the campaign to pass the Fair Share Amendment, the ballot question which would fund transportation and public education by creating a 4 percent tax on annual income over $1 million.

AFT Massachusetts Calls for Return to Remote Learning to Keep Students and Families Safe

“The tests provided by the state allow for testing of all teachers and staff, and that should proceed. It should then be followed by a period of remote learning until the current wave of infections abates.
 
“This is not the time for finger pointing. It is time for Governor Baker and Commissioner Riley to accept the fact that we are in the midst of a runaway public health crisis that is beyond our control. They must acknowledge that returning students to school on Monday will inevitably make the crisis much worse.”