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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - May 2020

A Message from President Beth Kontos

I write to you today as we hit the horrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from COvid-19 in the United States.  That number brings great sadness to our lives and our work as many of us know someone we lost or someone presently ill.   As educators, we fear for the safety of our students, clients, and patients and the health of our coworkers.  We have translated that fear into action by supporting our community with heroic actions in our jobs but also by feeding all those who experience food insecurity.  I am proud to watch you all in action.   Please know that we, at AFT MA, think about your needs daily as we go about our work to protect your rights in the classroom, the library, the university, and in the hospital.  We are working diligently to move to a safe re-opening of our schools in September.  We know that won’t look like anything we have done in the past.  We may have a hybrid model, we may work in shifts, we may be continuing with distance learning, but we will wear face masks and use hand sanitizer to protect each other.  Our  libraries may be offering curbside pick-up and online support.  And our nurses will continue with offering the specialized care they have always provided.
I ask you to do all you can to support the HEROES Act as described below.  Funding  is critical to the success of our work.  We serve the public.  It can’t be done on an austerity budget.  And more than anything, please assume best intentions as you go about your work, smile on your next Zoom call, thank someone for their work, and take a break to enjoy the spring weather.

Pass the House HEROES Act

The House version of the HEROES Act is a vital step toward helping our country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief package provides valuable resources for testing, tracing, and hospital support to aid safe reopenings, and funds our states, cities, towns, and schools.

The relief offered in this package combats the virus by providing $75 billion for necessary testing, tracing and hospital support, which are critical for reopening safely. It also invests nearly $1 trillion in state and local aid, including $100 billion for public schools and public colleges.
We know that to survive this pandemic, we need a massive investment in our communities and schools. For parents to go back to work, we must be able to reopen schools and reopen safely. That includes physical distancing, smaller class sizes, nurses in schools, testing and tracing. Since the beginning of the shutdowns, we’ve seen the vital role public schools play in the daily lives of parents and the entire community. Reopening is going to require more resources, not fewer. That’s why it’s so alarming that Republicans are already threatening to gut this bill.
Click here and then "start writing" to tell your lawmakers: Pass the House HEROES Act.

AFT Members Supporting Mobile Food Markets in Lawrence

Like so many others across America, AFT Massachusetts teachers and school support staff are putting aside their own fears during the COVID-19 pandemic to help maintain a sense of normalcy for their students. One big area of focus for AFT Massachusetts members is food security. Educators across the Commonwealth are working hard to ensure that students and their families have food during this crisis.

In Lawrence, members of the Lawrence Teachers Union (LTU) regularly volunteer with the Greater Boston Food Bank's Mobile Market in Lawrence to support their students and community.  Click here to read more.

Virtual 34th Annual Statewide Paraprofessional Conference

If you’re an AFT paraprofessional or school related personnel (PSRP), you’ll want to join hundreds of your colleagues from across Massachusetts for the AFT Massachusetts - Boston Teachers Union Annual Conference for Paraprofessionals & School-Related Personnel, on Thursday, June 11th.

From 4 to 6 pm via Zoom, we will celebrate our PSRPs, provide workshops to support you and your students, and provide opportunities to build connections and learn from PSRPs in other schools and districts across the Commonwealth.  Click here to register.

Virtual Student Debt Clinic for AFT Members

AFT Massachusetts will host a Student Debt Clinic for members on June 16th at 4:30 pm to present information about managing student loan payments and student debt forgiveness.
In this 120-minute session, AFT’s Student Debt Clinic provides:
  • Information on how to enroll in income-driven student loan repayment programs;
  • Help in enrolling in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
Click here to register.

AFT MA Holds Remote 2020 Convention

AFT Massachusetts members gathered remotely on Saturday to celebrate the union’s past successes and organize for our future during for the union’s 2020 annual convention, with the theme “Let’s Keep Winning: Advancing Educational and Workplace Justice Through Union Activism.”

During the telephone town hall convention, Beth Kontos was reelected as President of AFT Massachusetts, and Brant Duncan was reelected as Secretary-Treasurer. These AFT Massachusetts leaders spoke about the union’s victories over the past year, from the Fund Our Future campaign that won a historic $1.5 billion school funding commitment at the state level, to growing political engagement in last year’s local elections and successful contract fights across the state. They also addressed the many challenges that educators, students, and parents face as we respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Click here to review our 2020 Convention Report distributed to the delegates and here to read the article about the convention.

AFT Massachusetts Announces Recipients of 2020 Distinguished Service Awards

AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos and Secretary-Treasurer Brant Duncan are thrilled to announce the winners of the union’s 2019 Distinguished Service Awards.
The Distinguished Service Awards are presented annually to AFT Massachusetts members who have demonstrated an outstanding level of service and dedication to their local union. Click here to read about this year’s winners.

AFT Massachusetts Announces Recipients of 2020 Scholarship Awards

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. The exam includes questions covering the history and structure of the labor movement in America, legislation affecting American workers, child labor laws, minimum wages, civil rights, safety and more, as well as a 500-word essay based on a current labor issue.  Click here to read about this year's winners.

Member Benefits Spotlight

AFT PLUS is the name of the member benefit programs available to AFT members and their families. Many of the programs are provided through Union Privilege, the benefit arm of the AFL-CIO; others are unique to AFT and are coordinated directly through AFT PLUS. Explore the site and learn more about the savings and services available to you as a union member.  Click here to learn more about AFT PLUS Member Benefits.

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