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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - December 2023

A Message from Beth Kontos

It’s been a busy year for AFT Massachusetts, from advocating at the State House to organizing with our locals and member activists across the state. As schools take their winter breaks, I wish you all a relaxing vacation and a happy New Year!
New Contract Victories This month, I’m proud to highlight two of our locals that recently won strong contracts by organizing together. After a months-long contract campaign by the North Reading Federation of Paraprofessionals that featured rallies on the Town Common, paraprofessionals speaking up at School Committee meetings, and parents and students voicing their support for the union’s priorities, the union reached a new 3-year agreement that will deliver record wage increases of 20-30% for the district’s hard-working paraprofessionals, the highest increases in the local's history.
And following four months of negotiations, The Wentworth Institute of Technology Faculty Federation, AFT Local 2403, which represents the faculty and librarians at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, negotiated a 3-year contract that includes a salary increase of 16.5% over three years, the addition of lecturers as members of the union, and a host of other workplace benefits. These victories are only possible because of the strength we have when we work together as a union. Congratulations to the North Reading paras and the Wentworth faculty on their historic contracts!
Supporting Our Public Higher Education Members On December 4, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed the supplemental budget that funds collectively bargained and overdue pay raises for tens of thousands of public employees, including AFT Massachusetts members at UMass Dartmouth. Passage of the budget had been held up by legislative deliberations over unrelated policies, delaying funding for these desperately needed pay raises.
Along with other members of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO’s Public Sector Task Force, we worked hard to get the state worker contracts funded. That meant daily calls to strategize, dozens of visits to legislators, and organizing our members to show up in person and call their legislators. Thank you to all the AFT Massachusetts members who advocated for the legislature to reconvene and fund these contracts so that working families will receive the raises they've earned!
Brant and I were also honored to attend the UMass Dartmouth Faculty Federation’s celebration of scholarship and union service this month, and were thrilled to honor our members for their outstanding work during the previous year.
Reading to Students It’s always a delight when I get the chance to visit schools and read to students. This month, I joined Salem Teachers Union President Ann Berman, Salem Mayor Dominick Pangallo and Salem Superintendent Stephen Zrike at the Saltonstall School to read Something, Someday by Amanda Gorman to the first grade students. I also joined Superintendent Pontes, Fall River Federation of Paraprofessionals' Stacey Alves and Kim Luz in Fall River to read to students at the Doran Community School. At both schools, we were able to distribute books to students through AFT’s First Book program.
Climate Corner In partnership with Mass Audubon, we are looking for AFTMA members and students who envision a Massachusetts in which our schools are vibrant examples of equitable climate resilience. The Climate Resilient Schools Coalition is a diverse network that empowers teachers, students and community members to catalyze rigorous climate education and infrastructure improvements in Massachusetts schools by passing and implementing climate action resolutions at the district level.
Are you interested in this work? Do you believe school infrastructure and curriculum should work in harmony to protect students from, and prepare students for the effects of climate change? Fill out this brief, 2-minute survey to learn more and connect with organizers statewide. And check out this toolkit to help you begin to green your schools from our friends at UndauntedK12.
Additionally, I am on the board of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO’s Climate Jobs Massachusetts coalition. Our goal is to win a sustainable and just future for our Commonwealth, and it is critical that this work begins in our schools. To that end, we’re supporting three bills that would promote green and healthy schools and public colleges, guarantee a just transition for those whose current professions are at risk, and include protections for workplace standards like safety and project labor agreements.
Here are some other resources for AFT Massachusetts members:

We organize. We inspire. We protect each other. We unite. We motivate. We win.

This year, AFT Massachusetts members are celebrating…The Power of We at the 2024 Annual AFT Massachusetts Convention!
When we are united as union members, we can accomplish enormous things. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the impact of our collective power as we worked to pass and implement the Student Opportunity Act, state legislation that is delivering transformative investments in our public schools. We helped build a statewide grassroots campaign to win the Fair Share Amendment, which is now funding education improvements statewide: from providing free school meals for all students and building green schools, to making public college more affordable and rebuilding our transportation infrastructure.
Now, as our students experience greater needs in the wake of the pandemic, we’re organizing to win strong contracts that deliver the schools, libraries, and colleges our communities deserve. We’re fighting for the services and staffing our students need, and the strong benefits and workplace protections AFTMA members rely on. And we’re standing up to intolerance – working to protect our communities from extremists who want to ban books, restrict free speech, and reverse societal progress on racial and gender equality and LGBTQ rights.
On May 4, convention delegates from across the state will celebrate our victories, discuss the battles we face, and be inspired to act. We’ll welcome new members of our union, celebrate new affinity groups, hear about important initiatives, and further develop our collective strength as educators and organizers. Contact you local president for additional information.

A Conversation with Kim Kelly

Kim Kelly, the author of "Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor", will be speaking at the Boston Teachers Union Hall on February 4, 2024 to discuss how past labor struggles and organizing tactics can inform our practices today. The "Conversation with Kim Kelly" is co-hosted by AFT Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers Union - please register ahead of time.


2024 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!

Student Debt Clinics for AFT Members

Questions about student debt? AFT is hosting virtual student debt clinics on January 9 at 7 PM ET to help our members navigate their debt. Learn more about PSLF and how you can save with Summer.
➡️ Register:

Upcoming Events

  • Student Debt Clinics - January 9, 2024
  • Conversation with Kim Kelly - February 4, 2024
  • 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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