More than 1 million members strong, the AFT's Public Education unit has become a major force for preserving and strengthening a national commitment to reclaiming the promise of American education. It all began more than 100 years ago: A group of Chicago teachers, reasoning that theirs was a noble profession, organized themselves to share resources and build respect for the invaluable work they were doing. Those early efforts led to the birth of a national teachers union in 1916 that has been in the vanguard of every major advancement in American public education ever since.
The AFT represents higher education faculty (including both full- and part-time), professional staff and graduate employees, in all sectors of higher education—public and private, two-year and four-year institutions of higher education. The AFT Higher Education division's mission is to help our affiliates and their members prosper in the face of political, economic and technological forces challenging the most basic assumptions about the union's role on campus.
As a union of professionals, AFT Public Employees division is committed to improving the quality of government services we provide to our communities. Reclaiming the promise of high-quality public services is about fighting for first-rate public services that our support communities and keep them safe, healthy and vibrant. It’s about fighting to ensure that our communities’ tax dollars are properly invested back into the community, and that those resources are used responsibly and safely. Finally, it’s fighting to make sure public employees are well-prepared and supported so they can provide our communities with the high-quality services the public needs and deserves.
Paraprofessionals & School-Related Personnel
The AFT has organized paraprofessionals and school-related personnel since the early 1930s, when the first PSRP affiliate, the Education Secretaries of Chicago, was founded. Today, the AFT PSRP division sets a foundation for high-quality education by supporting meaningful professional development, promoting health and safety in the workplace, and demonstrating the importance of a strong and just work ethic in a bully-free environment. Most important is its commitment to safe and welcoming schools and colleges for students who deserve high-quality food programs; reliable school buses; clean, secure buildings; efficiently run offices; and well-trained staff.
Help AFT Massachusetts celebrate the service of an educator, librarian, nurse, or school related personnel whose leadership has made our union stronger. Nominations are now being accepted for our 2024 Distinguished Service Awards!
The AFT Massachusetts Distinguished Service Awards are presented annually to AFT Massachusetts members who have demonstrated an outstanding level of service and dedication to their local union. The 2024 Distinguished Service Award Winners will be honored at the AFT Massachusetts Convention Awards Dinner on Friday, May 3, 2024 at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
In recent years, Massachusetts libraries have been increasingly affected by a coordinated, nationwide effort to bar or restrict access to books and programming that extremist groups find objectionable. According to the American Library Association, Massachusetts saw 45 documented attempts to censor books and other library resources in 2022 — the fourth highest number of any state. 90% of reported book challenges were demands to censor multiple titles - and of those demands to censor library books, 40% sought to remove or restrict more than 100 books all at once.
“The members of the Massachusetts Library Staff Association fully support the concept of intellectual freedom: the right of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment,” said Patricia Kelly, Head of Reference at the Lynnfield Public Library and President of the Massachusetts Library Staff Association. “We are so proud and grateful that our union siblings in the NSLC, AFT Massachusetts, and MA AFL-CIO have joined us in support of libraries, library programs, and access to information for all.”
Every year AFT Massachusetts awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to eligible high school seniors who are dependents of AFT Massachusetts members. The awards, named in honor of former AFT leaders Kathy Kelley, Albert Shanker and Sandra Feldman, and for long-time AFT Massachusetts field representative Jay Porter, are awarded on the basis of a labor history exam administered by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
For students taking the labor history exam, you are not just learning about the history of unions and about groups of people who wanted better wages. You are learning about the history of working people, just like you and your families, who fight for justice and equality. As you engage with these resources, remember that you will inevitably be part of this story, too, and it's up to you what role you will play.
“At a time of active union organizing across the country, it’s important for young people to understand the role labor unions have played in our state and country’s history,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “AFT Massachusetts is proud to offer these college scholarships to students who are part of our union family.”
More than a hundred students, parents, educators, community activists, union leaders, researchers, and concerned citizens – many wearing blue Thrive Act t-shirts in solidarity – descended on the State House on Oct. 4 in a passionate display of support for the Thrive Act, a landmark education bill that was given a hearing that day before the Joint Committee on Education..
“Passing the Thrive Act is the equivalent of proclaiming to the nation from the dome of this beautiful State House: The painful, destructive era of test-blame-shame-and-punish is over,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos in her written testimony. “There is a better way to do things, and Massachusetts will once again show the way.”
The AFT has always been a solutions-driven union, and our new campaign, launched during TEACH on July 21, proves it once again with a fresh, practical approach to strengthening public education. As AFT President Randi Weingarten pointed out during her keynote speech, the $5 million, yearlong campaign, “Real Solutions for Kids and Communities,” stands up against attacks on public schools and offers real-world solutions to build up, rather than break down, our communities.