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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - November 2023

A Message from Beth Kontos

As we approach the end of the year, the AFT Massachusetts team has been busy advocating at the State House and organizing with our locals and member activists across the state. Here are some updates about our union’s activities and priorities this month.
Climate Corner - This month, I travelled to Washington, D.C. with other members of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO to attend a Climate Jobs Convening. There, I shared details of our priority climate bills, especially “An Act relative to healthy and sustainable schools,” which would establish a statewide goal to decarbonize public schools, public universities, and community colleges by mandating and facilitating energy audits, efficiency upgrades, and solar power.
The bill’s requirements for prevailing wage and responsible contracting practices will create good union jobs and prioritize hiring among environmental justice communities. By focusing on pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, the act would ensure that these opportunities are generating family-sustaining careers for our students, not just one-time jobs. And making renewable energy and efficiency upgrades will generate critical energy cost savings for our educational institutions, while protecting the health of educators and our students. Click here to learn more.
Advocating for Public Employees at the State House and in Washington D.C. - Last week, the legislature ended their formal sessions for the year, but failed to pass the supplemental budget that would fund collectively bargained, already agreed upon, and desperately needed pay raises for tens of thousands of public employees, including AFT Massachusetts members at UMass Dartmouth. State employees have gone above and beyond over the past few years, working incredibly hard throughout the pandemic to support students, keep our campuses and government offices operating, and help vulnerable families across the state. Their families don't deserve to suffer this holiday season because of legislative deliberations over unrelated policies.
I was proud to rally with public employees at the State House last week to demand that the legislature reconvene immediately and fund these contracts so that working families won't be shortchanged.
I was also incredibly proud to see our own Cathy Mastronardi, president of the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals, join Senator Ed Markey in Washington D.C. for the introduction of the Paraprofessional and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights, a resolution that would call for living wages, good benefits, and fair working conditions for the paraprofessionals, classroom assistants, bus drivers, custodial workers, and others who serve as the backbone of our education system. You can watch Cathy’s speech here, and I look forward to the conversation on the floor of the Senate.
Paid for by Fair Share - This month, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the passage of the Fair Share Amendment. On November 8, 2022, Massachusetts voters passed Question 1, and chose a fairer tax system, guaranteeing that the richest one percent will pay more to fund our public schools, colleges, roads, bridges, and public transit.
This month, we were excited to learn the details of how Fair Share revenue will be used to expand access to financial aid for public college students. Thanks to Fair Share, the state's MassGrant Plus financial aid program will now fully cover tuition, fees, and books for Pell-Grant eligible students in Massachusetts who have the lowest incomes, and increase financial aid to middle-income students by up to 50% of tuition and fees. 25,000 students will benefit from lower tuition and fees.
The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition that led the campaign to pass the Fair Share Amendment, which AFT Massachusetts is a proud member of, has launched a new campaign, Paid for by Fair Share, to let people know what Fair Share is already paying for, and what our votes to pass it are doing for all of us in Massachusetts. From providing free school meals for all students and building green schools, to repairing roads and bridges and expanding access to public transit across the state, you can see the impact Fair Share is having at
AFT Massachusetts Organizing - AFT Massachusetts’ annual Massachusetts Leadership Conference was held at the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School on November 4. Around 100 participants heard from speakers and attended workshops to build their knowledge as local union leaders and organizers, and left as stronger, more confident leaders with more of the tools they need to build union power in their communities.
Is your local looking to build on current Career & Technical Education programming to take it to the next level? The AFT’s Center for School Improvement 2024 Leadership Institute is coming up January 18-20 in New York City, and this year’s CSI Institute will focus on how to build a better bridge between experiential learning and work through career and technical education, internships and apprenticeships. Experts and enthusiasts from all walks of CTE will explore the latest trends, share insights, and network with like-minded individuals. With an impressive lineup of speakers and engaging sessions, it is an event you will not want to miss. The deadline to sign up is December 15.
Here are some other resources for AFT Massachusetts members:


Distinguished Service Awards Program


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. Contact your local president to nominate a member today!

Scholarships for AFT Families

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 December 5, 13, and 19 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.

The Labor Guild's Workshop Series

Running a meeting, or exercising your rights as a member, can be challenging. Union bylaws typically require meetings to comply with Robert’s Rules of Order. This workshop will give Chairs and Members the tools they need to have more effective union meetings that will be in compliance with their bylaws. Recording secretary responsibilities and meeting notices and minutes will also be covered. Learn more.

Upcoming Events

  • Student Debt Clinics - December 5, 13, and 19, 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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