Here is the truth that MASS and MASC need to hear and accept. The biggest obstacle to in-person learning is a deadly virus that is raging uncontrollably through our state, including in our schools. Beyond that, we are challenged by the absence of federal and state leaders who will provide the support and resources we need to get the virus under control and allow schools to reopen safely. We need to stop the spread generally through sound science-based public health measures, backed up by relief for the people and businesses most severely impacted. And schools specifically need in-school COVID surveillance testing, improved ventilation, more PPE, and more staff to enable smaller classes, among other mitigation measures.
Stunningly, instead of citing these obvious challenges and proposing real solutions, MASS and MASC have chosen to point the finger at educators and their unions. How sad, demoralizing, and destructive.
“As COVID-19 rages out of control, Wentworth faculty and librarians are working tirelessly to continue to teach and support our students, delivering content in ways many of us haven’t done before,” said Greg Sirokman, Professor and the President of the Wentworth Faculty Federation. “But many members of our campus community are at increased risk of severe illness if they are exposed to COVID-19, and many are fulfilling their professional duties while also managing childcare responsibilities or caring for an aging parent.
“Along with the Women’s Caucus, the Faculty Federation has been negotiating so that faculty members’ and librarians’ jobs would not be at risk if they declined to put their health and lives at risk in the middle of a pandemic. We particularly emphasized the necessity of accommodations for members in CDC high-risk categories for COVID-19. We also requested scheduling accommodations for faculty and librarians who are primary childcare deliverers,” he said. “Unfortunately, the administration has refused to even negotiate our requests. After months of trying to work with President Thompson and his administration, we have no confidence in their ability to lead our academic community in the midst of this pandemic.”
“Working together is our strength,” says Dr. Grant O'Rielly, President of the UMass Dartmouth Faculty Federation. “The UMass Dartmouth unions have accomplished so much by working together on health & safety issues, the salary giveback to protect jobs across the campus, and outreach to local legislators asking that the UMASS President's Office use the system contingency funds to support the faculty, staff and students working and learning together.”
Union members continue to advocate for the UMass system to tap into the system’s stabilization fund, which contains more than $114 million designated to “provide budgetary stabilization for operations due to unforeseen and/or uncontrollable circumstances to ensure responsible long-term financial stability.” Members say the COVID-19 emergency is exactly the situation the stabilization fund was meant to address.
“Privatization of maintenance services, attrition of staff, and the UMass trustees’ unwillingness to use the 100 plus million dollars in reserve; these things underscore the lack of appreciation many members feel,” says Saul Friedman, Vice President of the UMass Maintainers. “UMass President Marty Meehan is out of touch and needs to release some of the reserves to save jobs.”
“As public schools and colleges struggle to educate students safely this year, the legislature must provide the resources to address students’ many needs,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Health and safety of course remains the number-one priority, but young people also require enhanced educational opportunities; better and more reliable Wi-Fi and devices; expanded social and emotional supports such as mental-health, guidance, and school nursing services; reliable access to no- cost healthy food and to stable housing; and so much more.”
“Now more than ever, students burdened by debt and facing a difficult job market need affordable public higher education,” she continued. “But severe budget cuts at our community colleges, state universities, and UMass campuses are leading to layoffs and furloughs when they should be offering more support to students, not less. The COVID-19 pandemic and recession have caused unprecedented trauma and disruption for students and workers in our public schools and colleges. Now more than ever, we must fully fund public education to support students and families through this crisis.”
“AFT Massachusetts congratulates President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris on their decisive victory, and we look forward to a peaceful transition to the Biden-Harris administration in the coming months,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos.
“We’re relieved that we will have an administration that will listen to scientists and focus on getting COVID-19 under control so we can get back to school safely. We’re glad to have new leadership in Washington that will prioritize investments in our economic recovery, not seek to starve the public services that are needed to rebuild America. And we’re thrilled to have a First Lady in the White House, Jill Biden, who understands the needs of educators because she is an educator herself. The results of this election belong to everyone who voted, volunteered, and marched in the streets to demand a government that prioritizes working people over wealth and power.”
“Many legislators with a background in law or government don’t understand what our classrooms are really like, or struggle to relate to the challenges that educators, students, and families face every day. When it comes to legislating for our schools, there’s no replacement for a lawmaker with real-world teaching and parenting experience,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Teresa English has the experience, the ideas, and the energy to help deliver the schools we and our students deserve.”
“The BFT is excited about having somebody who truly understands education from the ground up as our state representative from Billerica,” said Dave Adams, president of the Billerica Federation of Teachers. “We look forward to having a representative that will advocate for full and fair funding for our schools, who will follow the science when it comes to the pandemic, and who will lead on issues of social justice.”
“Teresa is an empathetic and effective educator in the classroom, and a passionate and courageous advocate in her union and the community,” said Lawrence Teachers Union president Kim Barry. “Those of us who have seen her work first-hand know that we need her fighting for us in the State House.”
“PreK-12 schools need more state funding for ventilation upgrades, cleaning supplies, and additional staff to provide high-quality remote learning and student outreach. Students across the state need more support to handle the trauma and learning loss caused by school closures, not less,” says AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Our public colleges and universities, long underfunded, must be protected from destructive cuts and layoffs as they deal with the loss of room and board revenue while preparing to educate the thousands of potential students who are looking to pursue a degree or certificate after losing their jobs in recent months.”
To ensure that Massachusetts has the resources to invest in the public services that will power an equitable recovery, AFT Massachusetts is joining the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition and 150+ community organizations, faith groups, labor unions, public health associations, and social services providers in the ‘Invest in Our Recovery’ campaign. The campaign aims to avoid destructive budget cuts that would only add to the harm the COVID-19 pandemic has caused and instead move forward with investments that improve public health, grow our economy and tackle racial inequities.
The right to vote underpins every other right we have. This year, we face four interlocking crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recession, the reckoning with systemic racism, and the consequences of climate change. With just a week left until Election Day, many votes have already been cast, but there’s still time to make your voice heard at the ballot.
“This election is about electing real leaders at all levels of government who will get COVID-19 under control so we can get back to school safely. It’s about investing in our recovery, not cutting public services that our students, families, and communities depend on,” said AFT Massachusetts Beth Kontos. “It’s about ensuring fair, unbiased federal courts that will uphold women’s rights and protect our access to affordable healthcare. This election is truly important, and with new election laws in place during the pandemic, it’s important that all AFT Massachusetts members have a plan for how you will cast your ballot.”
“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.”
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.