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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - October 2023

A Message from Beth Kontos

(Pictures left to right) Holding the line with the UAW - Reading visit with the Boston Teachers Union's leadership - At the MA AFLCIO Convention

It was a busy month for AFT Massachusetts members, and it was wonderful to see so many of you at State House hearings, on picket lines with the UAW and MNA, at the MA AFL-CIO convention, and in our local schools and libraries. Here are some updates about our union’s activities and priorities this month.

Climate Corner -  A new state report says that Massachusetts needs a detailed plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop more clean energy, and prepare for more severe weather events as a result of climate change. And one of the priorities identified in the report by Governor Healey’s climate chief is “a comprehensive plan for decarbonization of existing public schools in the Commonwealth and coordinated policies to ensure new public school construction is decarbonized” – a top priority for AFT Massachusetts and me personally. Green schools aren’t just better for the environment, they’re better for our students and for everyone who works in our schools. I’m glad to see the Healey Administration embracing the need for green schools, and look forward to working with them on this important issue.
AFT Massachusetts at the State House - More than a hundred students, parents, educators, community activists, union leaders, researchers, and concerned citizens – including dozens of AFT MA members and leaders – descended on the State House on Oct. 4 in a passionate display of support for the Thrive Act. It was incredible to see such strong support for this critical legislation, and hear the powerful testimony from educators and community members. You can read more about the hearing here.
AFT Massachusetts Standing with Our Labor Partners - At this month’s Massachusetts AFL-CIO convention, I was thrilled to help elect Chrissy Lynch as the statewide labor council’s first woman president. I’ve worked with Chrissy and newly-elected MA AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Brousseau for years, and our future as a statewide labor movement is bright with them leading the AFL-CIO.
During the convention, AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos, Secretary-Treasurer Brant Duncan and BTU President Jessica Tang were re-elected as MA AFL-CIO Vice-Presidents At-Large. RTC Chairwoman Marilyn Marion and BTU Political Director Johnny McInnis were also re-elected as Vice-Presidents At-Large as representatives of their affiliate organizations: the Alliance of Retired Americans (ARA) and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute (APRI). United Teachers of Lowell President Paul Georges was re-elected as well, representing the Merrimack Valley CLC.
Several resolutions were adopted, including a resolution by the Massachusetts Library Staff Association in support of intellectual freedom in our libraries.
Amid a historic year for labor, we at AFT Massachusetts are standing in strong solidarity with several local unions who are on strike right now for better wages and working conditions. I’m proud to stand with nurses at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute-Merrimack Valley who took to the picket line last month. While healthcare executives are making millions and getting huge raises, nurses are being told to do more with less. That’s unacceptable.
I also participated in an AFT National Day of Solidarity with striking UAW autoworkers from Mansfield to support their historic stand-up strike against the Big 3 automakers. The automakers have made record profits in recent years, and their CEOs have seen their compensation increase by 40%. Their workers deserve a record contract too.
AFT Massachusetts around the State - I was delighted to visit several local schools this month to read books to students and meet with local educators. In Lynn, I visited the Harrington, Washington, and Ingalls schools, and in Boston, I joined BTU President Jessica Tang at the Mario Umana Academy K-8. First and second grade students at the Umana received a copy of Just Ask by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and award-winning artist Rafael Lopez, as part of the AFT’s Reading Opens the World Initiative and in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Resources for Union Members - Thanks to a new contract and support from AFT, Amesbury paraprofessionals now have access to high-quality professional development, fulfilling a goal of recent contract negotiations. Read more about how Amesbury paras won this important new benefit here.
AFT Massachusetts’ annual Massachusetts Leadership Conference will be held on November 4, 2023 at the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School. Hear from speakers and attend workshops to build your knowledge as a local union leader and organizer, and you’ll leave as a stronger, more confident leader with the tools you need to build union power in your local. Contact your local president to register.


Dozens Testify in Support of Thrive Act—Take Action Today

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.” READ MORE.

AFTVoices: Amesbury Professionals Participating in High-Quality Professional Development Thanks to New Contract, Support from AFT

“In our recent contract negotiations, one of the highlights was that paraprofessionals will now participate in professional development half-days when they occur in the school calendar,” says Cindy Yetman, president of AFT Amesbury Local #1033. “We know that professional development needs to be a high-quality experience for paraprofessionals that can increase their success in the classroom. So, we took on the responsibility of partnering with school administration and AFT national to provide high-quality professional development experiences.”
“Paras were extremely appreciative of the meaningful PD that was provided,” says Amesbury paraprofessional Lauren Snay. “It went a long way in showing that the district is recognizing us as valuable professionals.” READ MORE.

Massachusetts Labor Movement Backs Intellectual Freedom in Our Libraries

In recent years, Massachusetts libraries have been increasing 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.” READ MORE.

Advocating for a World Class Public Higher Education System

All are welcome to attend our November 14th UMass Dartmouth Higher Ed for All community meeting!
Public higher education campuses, including the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, the state universities, and community colleges, play a vital role in the economy of our state, both from the immediate activity of faculty, staff and students as well as in preparing a well-educated workforce for the future. High-quality and affordable public higher education is essential to our Commonwealth, serving as a key driver of our economic vitality, a catalyst for civic participation in our democracy, and a pathway to good jobs and the middle class for thousands of Massachusetts residents.
Join the UMass Dartmouth Faculty Federation, the UMass Dartmouth Maintainters and other members of the UMass Dartmouth community to learn about two pieces of legislation that would establish a blueprint for a world-class public higher education system: the Cherish Act and Debt-Free Public Higher Education Act.

2024 AFT Massachusetts Labor History Scholarship Program

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.

“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.” READ MORE about the program and register before the December 22nd deadline!.

Student Debt Clinics for AFT Members

Questions about student debt? AFT is hosting virtual student debt clinics on November 15, 20 and 28 at 7 PM ET to help our members navigate their debt. Learn more about PSLF and how you can save with Summer.
➡️ Register:

Retirement Workshop for AFT Members

AFT Massachusetts is hosting a retirement planning workshop on December 11, 2023 at 6 pm 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 December 11, 2023 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 register.

Long-Term Care Discount Program

Long-Term Care Insurance [LTCi] is a vital part of financial planning as it is designed to protect your retirement income and your family’s lifestyle. LTCi pays for the expenses associated with needing care for an extended period of time at home or even a stay in a long-term care facility.
AFT Massachusetts is hosting an informational meeting on the attributes of LTCi and the discount available to AFT members on November 8, 2023 at 6 pm via Zoom and all members are welcome!  An automated email with the details of the Zoom meeting will be sent to members that register.

Upcoming Events

  • Annual AFT Massachusetts Leadership Conference - November 4, 2023
  • Informational Meeting Highlighting the Long-Term Care Discount Program for AFT Members - November 8, 2023
  • Student Debt Clinics - November 15, 20, and 28, 2023
  • Retirement Planning Workshop for AFT Members - December 11, 2023
  • Annual AFT Massachusetts Boston Teachers Union Paraprofessionals and School Related Personnel Conference - April 6, 2024
  • Annual AFT Massachusetts Awards Dinner - May 3, 2024
  • Annual AFT Massachusetts Convention - May 4, 2024

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