Skip to main content

News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - December 2021

A Message from President Kontos

Happy Holidays! It has been a difficult year.  Thank you all for coming to work and doing your best under very difficult circumstances.  Your students, your patients, and your patrons have all benefited from your dedication.  I hope you are all able to take some time over the holidays to enjoy family and take the time to rest and rejuvenate.  Please know that your health and safety have been foremost on our mind as we work to serve our members.  And our national president, Randi Weingarten, has released this safety refresher for education settings to guide us as we face new variants.  Remember that masking, vaccinations (including boosters for all over age 18), and ventilation are the best ways to avoid becoming ill with Covid-19.  

A very important aspect of our work is to support and celebrate the work of our members.  We have heard our members state very clearly that compensation must increase to recruit and retain staff in our schools (pre-K through higher education), our libraries, and in our healthcare sectors.  

In Chelsea, members increased actions throughout the Fall as they prepared for bargaining, culminating in a traffic stopping rally on December 8th (pictures above).  Students, staff, and families chanted as the negotiating team marched into the bargaining session together.  They were triumphant in winning their substantial demands for all bargaining units.

In Springfield, Fall River, Revere, and New Bedford, exclusively paraprofessional units, members are demanding a living wage, not a paltry percent increase.  Actions taken in Revere have resulted increases in wages, longevity, and stipends, as well as improved language around leaves and sick day buy back.  Pressure continues in other locals as well, as we highlight the important work of paraprofessionals in our classrooms.

Paraprofessionals, often behind scenes, are heart, soul of schools


By Catherine Mastronardi,  president of the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals.

Paraprofessionals are the unsung heroes of the Springfield Public Schools (SPS). We are the people who assist teachers with classroom instruction, provide individualized support to struggling students and students with disabilities, monitor bus arrival and departure, and help maintain order throughout the school. We also build strong relationships with students, who look to us for social and emotional support. In short, we help make schools tick, often working quietly and behind the scenes.
Many paraprofessionals are also Springfield residents, with children or grandchildren in the schools. As such, we are directly invested in the schools and their success. When the bell rings at the end of the school day, we take pride in the fact that we have done our part to build a better community for Springfield families. READ MORE.

#AFTVoices Member Spotlight Series

#AFTVoices is proud to present, Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, Marta Garcia!
Marta is a Multi-Lingual Learner Teacher at Witchcraft Heights Elementary, with a deep understanding of what it takes to support her students. This series aims to uplift the voices, members, staff and educators that make up AFT Massachusetts. For years, Marta has fought to build a welcoming and safe environment for her students, as well as supporting other educators in meeting multi-language learning students where they're at. "We can't forget that these students are having to survive a whole world many of us do not even know exists. If we want everyone to succeed, students and educators, we need to be trained. That's what I'm passionate about."
Stay tuned as we continue to display more of our conversations with other AFT members, showing how we collectively strive to build an industry where we all have the #FreedomToThrive!  Click here if you would like to be part of our campaign!

Member Profile: Gina O’Toole

Gina (in the picture on the left)  has been a leader in our Lynn local for years and she excels at member engagement,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “When the time came for us to hire an organizer at AFT Massachusetts, she was the natural choice.”

“Having Gina as part of our team has been an enormous help to me and the LTU” says Kim Barry, president of the Lawrence Teachers Union. “Our weeklong series of walk-ins to protest the surge of violence at Lawrence High School certainly grabbed the attention of school administrators because Gina helped turn people out.”  READ MORE.

2022 Distinguished Service Awards

Help the 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 2022 Distinguished Service Awards, which recognize substantial contributions made to the development of the union at the state and local levels, from membership building and leadership training to the advancement of political and professional issues important to the union. READ MORE.

Take the Fair Share Amendment Vote Pledge

The top 1% make their first $1 million without additional tax, after that we're asking for 4 cents on their millionth and one dollar and so on. This would raise a substantial amount of NEW revenue annually to be re-invested into our public education system and transportation infrastructure. Right now, the Massachusetts economy is working great for those at the top. But it’s time to invest in our public infrastructure, schools, and communities, so that working families across MA can receive the support and benefits they deserve. EVERYONE must pay their fair share in taxes. We must pass the Fair Share Amendment and invest in the Commonwealth.
Do you plan to vote YES to pass the Fair Share Amendment on the ballot in 2022?  Sign our pledge to become an official Fair Share Amendment Voter!

Retirement Planning Workshop

The financial professionals of Teacher Retirement Solutions (TRS) have partnered with AFT Massachusetts and specialize in providing independent financial guidance, strategies and solutions to educators, school employees, librarians and their families throughout New England.  Join TRS’ John Gregorio, a Certified Financial Planner, on January 26, 2022 via Zoom for a comprehensive workshop for prospective retirees. The Massachusetts' public employee retirement formula, Social Security and living in retirement will be among the topics discussed.  An automated email with the details of the Zoom meeting will be sent to members that complete the form linked here.

February 15th Student Debt Clinic

Over 45 million people in the United States are struggling to make their monthly student loan payments, and millions more see economic and personal opportunities pass as they prioritize paying down their debt. Does this sound like you or someone you know?

Many of these people may qualify for free federal programs that can help reduce their monthly payments and eventually lead to student loan forgiveness, but these lifeline programs are significantly under-enrolled. Thanks to new rules just put in place by the Department of Education, many folks who thought loan forgiveness was out of reach are now finding that it is finally within grasp. In an effort to help our members get access to these programs and understand these new rules, AFT Massachusetts and the American Federation of Teachers are proud to host a Student Debt Clinic which will provide information on how to enroll in Income-Driven Repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
To attend our Student Debt Clinic, you must pre-register.  Click here to register for our February 15, 2022 Student Debt Clinic for AFT Members!

Share This