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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - March 2022

Message from Beth Kontos

The days are getting longer, and my daffodils are showing their happy faces once again. Spring is a time of increased energy and rejuvenation which I see reflected in actions around the state. Please see the stories below for the recent success of AFT Massachusetts locals as well as the continued fight for fair wages for our paraprofessional units. I look forward to seeing many of you at the BTU Paraprofessional conference on April 9th and then again at the AFT MA annual convention on May 7th.

Winning a Contract During COVID

When the Holliston Federation of Teachers began negotiating a contract agreement in late 2019, things went about as smoothly as they could. Using a form of negotiating called “interest-based bargaining” that brought both sides together to focus on the best interest of Holliston schools, students, and community, the union and the Holliston School Committee reached an agreement on March 12, 2020. According to a letter sent to teachers by the School Committee, the agreement was reached “with integrity and good faith on both sides.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools, restaurants, and other public spaces in Holliston and across the country, concerns emerged about the potential for financial hardship at municipal governments. Remembering the last recession, many city and town leaders expected years of financial hardship and the need to raise significant revenue or make major budget cuts.
“Despite our agreement, members of the School Committee were concerned about the potential impact on town finances and began to express concern about the cost of our contract,” said President Jamie Cutone. “We asked them to ratify our deal, and come back to us if actual financial concerns developed so we could solve the problem together.” READ MORE.

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.” READ MORE.

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.” READ MORE.

#AFT Voices Member Spotlight Series

#AFTVoices is proud to present, Erin Sutton! This series aims to uplift the voices, members, staff and educators that make up AFT Massachusetts.
Erin is the Secondary Art Teacher of the Year, working at Lynn Classical High School.
"I value the union as a way for educators to be seen as professionals who are skilled in their craft. We need to be giving educators more of a voice in how they’re school days go and how they run their classrooms. Educators work incredibly hard to advocate for students, providing them the best education possible. That's best done when educators and staff are empowered."

Annual Paraprofessionals and School Related Personnel Conference

If you are an AFT paraprofessional or school related personnel (PSRP), you’ll want to join your colleagues from across the state at the AFT Massachusetts Boston Teachers Union Annual PSRP Conference on Saturday April 9th from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm!

Even before the pandemic, paraprofessionals and school related personnel were feeling stressed out, overworked, underappreciated, and underpaid. PSRPs have rightly focused on student mental health, but educator health and well-being are equally important.
Join us on April 9th to focus attention on your needs by supporting your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. You will have the opportunity to participate in a few workshops, collaborate with colleagues and have the chance to win gift baskets and gift certificates focused on health and well-being. Breakout sessions include:
  • Social Emotional Learning for Adults
  • Healing Circles as a Restorative Self-Care Practice
  • Restorative Yoga for Burnout Recovery
Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to support your health and well-being as well as to build connections with other fellow PSRPS throughout the Commonwealth. Registration is open until March 30, 2022. Lunch will be served outside under a tent and attendees are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing for our restorative yoga program! Click here and register today!

2022 Annual Convention

After the battles and hardship of the last two years, we’re ready to
Emerge Stronger!
at the 2022 AFT Massachusetts Convention
Saturday, May 7, 2022
IN-PERSON: IBEW Local 103 Union Hall located at 256 Freeport Street in Dorchester
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve fought hard to win critical workplace protections, protect our students and the public, and adequately fund our public schools and colleges. As we emerge out of the crisis phase of the pandemic and into a changed world, it’s just as important that we continue fighting to deliver the schools and libraries our communities deserve, the services and staffing our students need, and the workplace protections AFT members rely on.
On May 7, join AFT Massachusetts members from across the state to celebrate our victories, discuss the battles we face, and be inspired to act. We’ll hear from speakers, including:
  • AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos & Secretary-Treasurer Brant Duncan
  • Juana Bordas, President of Mestiza Leadership International and author of Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age
  • Leaders from across the state

We’ll hear about important initiatives on this year’s statewide ballot, present Distinguished Service Awards and scholarships, and further develop our collective strength as educators and organizers.

Save the date, and join your fellow educators and AFT Massachusetts members in celebrating our success and organizing for our future! Contact your local president and ask how your local elects delegates to the convention!

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