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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - September 2022

A Message from President Beth Kontos

The new school year is in full swing, and I hope you’re enjoying being back in the classroom. This month, I’ve loved attending Back to School fairs hosted by our locals all across the state. We’ve been able to support several events with donations of books through AFT’s ‘Reading Opens the World’ Initiative, and it’s great to see the smiles on students’ faces when they receive a new book.
We’ve been busy this month supporting our locals who are engaged in contract campaigns. AFT Massachusetts members in Lawrence, New Bedford and Chelmsford, and at Essex Tech and Berklee, are all working hard to win strong contracts with better pay, benefits, and working conditions, and our team has been busy supporting them during events, petition drives, and bargaining sessions.
Vote Yes on Questions 1 and 4 By November 8
As the November Election approaches, we’re also deeply focused on passing two important ballot questions: the Fair Share Amendment (Question 1) and the Work and Family Mobility Act (Question 4).
A YES on Question 1 will would create a 4% tax on the portion of a person’s annual income above $1 million and require – in the state constitution – that the funds be spent only on transportation and public education. 99% of us won’t pay a penny more, and we’ll have $2 billion a year, every year, for better roads, safer bridges, reliable public transportation, and public schools from pre-K through college. A YES vote is key to making the long-term investments we need in our schools: from hiring more teachers, paraprofessionals, and counselors to provide students with more one-one attention, to upgrading our crumbling school buildings with better air conditioning, heating, and ventilation.
Have you joined a canvass for Question 1 yet? Many AFT Massachusetts locals are holding canvasses and phone banks in support of Question 1, and you can always find a campaign event near you at
We’ve been working to pass the Fair Share Amendment on the ballot for years, but another question is more recent. A YES on Question 4 will keep in place the “Work and Family Mobility Act,” a current state law that allows all drivers in Massachusetts to be properly vetted for drivers licenses (by providing proof of identity, date of birth, and residency), pass required tests and buy insurance, regardless of their immigration status. A YES vote means safer roads and better tools for law enforcement to do their jobs. In 17 states with similar laws, passage led to declines in uninsured drivers and hit-and-run crashes. That’s why this measure is endorsed by over 60 law enforcement officials statewide — including most sheriffs, district attorneys, and all 42 police chiefs in the Massachusetts Major Cities Chief of Police Association.
For have applied to vote by mail, ballots will be starting to arrive soon. Please make sure you vote YES on Questions 1 and 4 on or before Tuesday, November 8th.
Apply for the Limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness Waiver By October 31
But even if you’re eligible for the broad debt forgiveness plan, you should also make sure you know about the Limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Waiver, which could grant you even higher amounts of loan forgiveness. Some AFT Massachusetts members have seen tens of thousands of dollars in debt wiped out entirely!
PSLF cancels federal student debt for people like teachers and school staff, college faculty and staff, healthcare workers and other public employees after they pay 10 years’ worth of student loan payments. The Limited PSLF Waiver was announced by the Biden-Harris Administration last year, and it temporarily relaxes many of the PSLF Program’s traditional rules and enables borrowers to receive credit toward loan forgiveness for past periods of repayment that would not otherwise qualify for PSLF. However, most borrowers need to take specific steps by October 31 of this year in order to get forgiveness, or to get much closer to forgiveness, through the waiver.

2022 Leadership Conference

I’m excited to see many local leaders and fellow members at our 2022 Leadership Conference – October 29 at the Boston Teachers Union Hall! Hear from speakers and attend workshops to build your knowledge as a local union leader and organizer. Learn how other AFT Massachusetts locals are winning strong contracts and other organizing victories. Support our endorsed candidates, including Maura Healey for Governor, to help build a stronger, more inclusive Commonwealth. Work on passing the Fair Share Amendment – Question 1 on the November ballot – to deliver billions of dollars in funding to our public schools by taxing the ultra-rich. Attend the 2022 Leadership Conference, and you’ll leave as a stronger, more confident leader with the tools you need to build union power in your local. Click here and register today!

Repeal WEP and GPO – Stop Penalizing Our Teachers and Public Employees

Everyone deserves a secure retirement, especially those who devoted their career to public service. Two federal policies, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) threatens that by substantially reducing or eliminating the earned Social Security benefits of the millions of retired teachers and public employees who contributed to Social Security through other employment. Thousands more are penalized every year as they retire from public service because their state, municipality, or school district does not participate in the Social Security system.
This unfair penalty also contributes to the current teacher and educator shortages, as it serves as a disincentive for those looking to join the ranks of teachers as a second career when they learn that the WEP-GPO penalty will jeopardize their earned Social Security benefits if they enter the classroom. Click here to add your name to our petition to tell Congress to stop penalizing teachers and public employees and to repeal the WEP and GPO now!

#AFTVoices Member Spotlight Series

#AFTVoices is proud to present Karen Tucker, Executive Board member for the Salem Teachers Union and Vice President of AFT Massachusetts! This series aims to uplift the voices, members, staff and educators that make up AFT Massachusetts.
Thank you Karen for showing us how you strive to build a profession where we all have the #FreedomToThrive!

Support Berklee Faculty

Add your voice in support of faculty at Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee! The faculty of Berklee College of Music are bargaining with administration for a contract to replace the current agreement.

To continue to provide Berklee students with a world-class education and first-rate professional training, we are asking administration to invest in faculty in the following ways:
  • pay commensurate with our professional achievements, elevated living costs, and impact of inflation
  • expanded commitment to accessible, safe, and healthy facilities
  • equitable conditions and compensation for all faculty, especially Conservatory faculty
  • increased job security for part-time faculty
  • adherence to accreditor recommendations on workload
We need your voice! Click here to tell Berklee President Erica Muhl why you support Berklee faculty. Thank you!

Repeal WEP and GPO – Stop Penalizing Our Teachers and Public Employees

Add your name to our petition to tell Congress to stop penalizing teachers and public employees and to repeal the WEP and GPO now! The WEP unfairly penalizes retirees in 15 states and Puerto Rico who have spent careers in public service but have also paid into Social Security at other points in their careers, whether while working in the private sector or in the public sector in states not affected by the WEP. The GPO denies survivor benefits to retired public service workers whose spouses paid into Social Security.
Both penalties disproportionately affect low-income retirees, and the GPO targets women five times as often as men. With the national teacher shortage reaching crisis levels, allowing the WEP and GPO to continue is lunacy. These penalties disincentivize would-be second-profession teachers from joining the teaching field, when we need to be encouraging qualified candidates to become teachers, not threatening to eliminate their Social Security benefits. There is no context in which hurting the economic security of those who choose to serve their communities is justified.

Student Debt Clinic for AFT Members

The federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program—with the changes that the AFT has secured through advocacy and litigation—is perhaps the single best opportunity to deliver money in our members’ pockets. So far, $7.3 billion has been forgiven for more than 127,000 public service workers. But there is limited time to act to secure these benefits. Specifically, the expanded opportunity to receive credit for past payments ends Oct. 31, 2022. That means AFT members must submit paperwork by this date—it’s not too late!
Attend an AFT student debt clinic webinar on October 4!
What: Student Debt Clinic for AFT Members
When: October 4
Where: in-person at the Boston Teachers Union or Online via Zoom
Registration: Click here to register! (registered members will receive a few follow up emails with details about the workshop)

Retirement Planning Workshop for AFT Members

AFT Massachusetts is hosting a retirement planning workshop on October 19 via Zoom and all members are welcome!
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 October 19, 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.  
What: Retirement Planning Workshop for AFT Members
Who: Members of AFT Massachusetts
Where: Online via Zoom
When: October 19, 2022 from 6 to 8 pm
An automated email with the details of the Zoom meeting will be sent to members that register - click HERE to register!

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