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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - January 2024

A Message from Beth Kontos

It’s been a quick start to the new year at AFT Massachusetts, with several developments on the state budget and a busy schedule of events and advocacy throughout the state. Here are some updates about our union’s activities and priorities this month.
State Budget and Advocacy Update Last week, Governor Healey introduced her budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning in July. Her proposal would fully fund another year of Student Opportunity Act implementation, directing an additional $263 million in Chapter 70 aid to local school districts next year. You can see initial estimates of how much your district would receive under the Governor’s proposal here.
It also includes funding to expand access to universal preschool for 4-year-olds in the state’s Gateway Cities, with a goal of reaching all 26 cities by 2026. However, amid a downturn in state revenue growth, the budget also includes budget cuts in some areas, and limited new investments in others. Stay tuned for more information and advocacy tools as we analyze the budget over the coming weeks.
Because state tax collections have fallen short of expectations over the last six months, the Healey-Driscoll administration this month also announced $375 million in mid-year budget cuts to bring the state budget into balance. The 9C cuts do not directly impact Chapter 70 local school aid, including the Student Opportunity Act, but many earmarks in the state budget have been severely reduced and may have local impacts. You can find the full list of local earmarks impacted by the 9C cuts linked here.
Advocacy alert: do you have prior parochial teaching service? If so, pending legislation supported by AFT Massachusetts, H.2639, would allow you to buy back that service, so that it be credited as years of teaching service towards your retirement. Join this Facebook group to connect with other members advocating for this bill, and contact your legislator to ask them to cosponsor H.2639.
AFT Massachusetts Around the State I attended the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast in Boston and ran into several BTU members as well as Senator Ed Markey. The program featured several beautiful performances from the Boston Arts Academy Spirituals Ensemble. Congratulations to three Boston students who were awarded scholarships: Yaribel Marcelino Romero from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, and Abdulhaleef Sotunbo and Hasina Whittaker, both from the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.
Secretary-Treasurer Brant Duncan and I joined BTU officers in reading to 4th and 5th graders at the Blackstone Elementary. Together we donated more than 300 copies of Love is Loud, a non-fiction picture book documenting the story of oft-overlooked civil rights icon Diane Nash, and the chapter book Nikhil Out Loud.
I also joined with members of the North Shore Labor Council and the Merrimack Valley Labor Council to deliver a petition to the management of Ana Jacques Hospital in Newburyport, calling on them to bargain in good faith and deliver safe staffing levels for the hospital’s nurses.
Please check out the AFT’s latest Union Talk episode. It has a very special guest, Zerlina Maxwell, a radio host, writer, commentator and social justice advocate speaking with Randi Weingarten.
Save the dates: Our Paraprofessional Conference will take place this year on April 6. And on Saturday, May 4, we’ll celebrate ‘The Power of We’ at the 2024 AFT Massachusetts Convention in Boston. Save the dates, and join your fellow educators and AFT Massachusetts members in celebrating our power and organizing together!
Climate Corner Join us on Feb 8th as we partner with Mass Audubon for the inaugural meeting of the Climate Resilient Schools Organizing Network. 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. On February 8 from 4pm-5pm, join us to learn and share your experiences introducing and winning climate action resolutions in school districts.
KidWind with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office calls upon students in kindergarten through 8th grade from around the nation to create artwork about the theme Beautiful Wind Energy. Two winners from each grade will receive $200 and the chance to show their work at the nation’s annual CLEANPOWER 2024 conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota May 5–8, 2024 alongside the World KidWind Challenge. Winning artwork may also be curated at the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington D.C., where thousands of energy officials pass by daily. All work must be submitted through the online form linked here by 12pm CST March 22, 2024.
Calling for a Bilateral Cease-Fire in Gaza and Promoting a Two-State Solution and an End to the Weaponization of Hate  AFT Executive Council Adopts Resolution Unanimously Calling for the End of the Israel-Hamas War by Negotiated Bilateral Cease-Fire, Promoting Steps Toward a Two-State Solution for Israeli and Palestinian Self-Determination READ MORE.
Solidarity with Newton Educators The families of Newton have a right to expect the education and learning needs of their children will be addressed in the public schools. The committed educators of the Newton Teachers Association are fighting for their students by demanding progress at the bargaining table on essential classroom issues. AFT Massachusetts stands in support of the educators of Newton receiving a fair contract and calls on school administrators to immediately negotiate contracts that are good for students and fair to teachers.
Read on for more updates on AFT Massachusetts’ work this month:

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.

Wentworth Faculty and Librarians Win New Contract as the Result of the Union's Patience, Determination, and Unity

The Wentworth Institute of Technology Faculty Federation, AFT Local 2403, which represents the faculty and librarians at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, recently negotiated a strong three-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.
“Winning our new contract was the result of our union's patience, determination, and unity,” said Ted Rooney, an Associate Professor of English and President of the Wentworth Faculty Federation. “Those are the fundamental elements of any successful union initiative. The union negotiation team established ambitious goals for the contract, remained steadfast in the face of management resistance to union demands, and refused to accept unreasonable proposals from management. At all times, meanwhile, the negotiating team had the full support of the union membership, which was made clear during the several meetings the negotiating team held to update members.” READ MORE.

Lowell Middle School Offering In-School Barbershop, Free Haircuts, Thanks to Efforts of AFT Member

Lowell Public School Community Manager Gayl Hurley is in her 25th year as an educator, and she’s always looking for new ways to support students and their families at the Sullivan Middle School in Lowell, where she works.

Last school year, Hurley brought in a barber a few times to provide free haircuts for students, and the response was overwhelming. Within a few days, nearly 60 students signed up.
Hurley, United Teachers of Lowell union rep who is in her 12th year in the Lowell Public Schools, immediately began working to set up the first operational barbershop in a middle school in Massachusetts. With the support of a federal Community Schools grant awarded to the district, she was able to open “Husky Kutz” this past fall. READ MORE.

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 February 8 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:

Upcoming Events

  • Conversation with Kim Kelly - February 4, 2024
  • Student Debt Clinics - February 8 and 19, 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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