“The milestone achievements in this contract will help to make our school both more sustainable and more successful for students and teachers,” said Debora O’Reilly, Union President and Biotechnology teacher. “This accomplishment would not have been possible without more than a year of organizing by teachers, students, parents, and community members. We achieved this together.” “As a vocational school, we teach all of our students the value of hands-on experience in our various fields,” said Cassia Gilroy, Union Vice-President and Cosmetology Teacher. “In addition to addressing concerns around workload and compensation, this contract will make great strides in recognizing the value brought to the school by our CTE teachers’ real-world experience.”
“Holliston educators care deeply about the future of our school district. Our school community deserves a leader who is able to prioritize developing relationships and can effectively collaborate with all members of our school community,” said Holliston Federation of Teachers President Jaime Cutone. “The membership of the Holliston Federation of Teachers is united in our view that we have no confidence in the leadership ability of Dr. Susan Kustka. It is time that the School Committee hear our concerns and take action to address the issues brought forward.” “Holliston Public Schools raised me. Our teachers, our support staff, and our administrators worked as one to serve the students,” said a Robert Adams Middle School educator who wishes to remain anonymous. “Never did I ever imagine feeling the tension and sadness our Superintendent fosters; and that’s exactly what our students are being exposed to now.”
After months of complex negotiations, the New Bedford Federation of Paraprofessionals has reached an agreement with the New Bedford Public Schools on a contract that will deliver significant pay increases and benefits for our members, who have spent years doing essential work for poverty wages. I'm especially proud that New Bedford Paraprofessionals will see pay increases of 14-28% over three years, bringing us much closer to the living wage we deserve. This historic contract also includes numerous new benefits, including funeral leave, recognition of the Juneteenth holiday, and increased pay for Paraprofessionals who serve as substitute teachers or who work in the district's most challenging programs. Finally, the contract also includes annual retention bonuses and longevity payments that we hope will help retain more paraprofessionals and help alleviate the staffing shortages that our schools currently face
We are the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth graduate student employees: teaching and research assistants, doctoral and art fellows, clinical and studio assistants, and more whose work helps UMass Dartmouth function every day. All across campus we teach classes, perform research, grade assignments, and countless other essential services to keep the university running.
But far too often, our work on campus is undervalued or overlooked. For example, UMass Dartmouth Graduate Assistants are paid less than 10% of a livable wage, leading to extremely difficult living conditions and severely compromised job performance. Therefore, we are forming a union with the UMassD Maintainers (AFT Local 6350) to get a formal voice on the job – and better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
“The Governor’s education spending proposal is a big step forward for students and educators in Massachusetts, and represents the Governor’s prioritization of students and their families in her first months in office,” said Kontos. “The Governor’s budget would fully implement another year of the Student Opportunity Act, resulting in more funding for our highest-need schools to hire teachers and support staff, close achievement gaps, and offer the wraparound services our students need to recover from the stresses of the pandemic. At our public colleges and universities, the Governor’s proposal would deliver significant progress on affordability for students while also protecting funding for campuses so they can deliver high-quality education and support services.”
“However, we are concerned that spending hundreds of millions of dollars on tax cuts for the ultra-rich could threaten the Commonwealth’s ability to make good on its education promises in future years,” she continued. “This budget represents only the third of six years of major increases to K-12 education spending that are required under the Student Opportunity Act. Amid record inflation that is straining school budgets, careful financing planning will be required to ensure that this promise to our highest-need students is fulfilled over the next three years. And while the Governor’s budget makes notable investments in public higher education that will begin to make up for the devastating cuts our campuses have experienced over the past few decades, even greater funding will be required to achieve our goal of a fully-funded, fully debt-free public college system.”
Along with the new gubernatorial administration comes a new legislative session, which means the introduction of numerous education- and labor-related bills.
One of the most important is the Thrive Act, which would replace the state’s failed approach to educational assessment and improvement, including the undemocratic state takeover system and the MCAS-based graduation requirement, with policies that will help all students to succeed and thrive. The Thrive Act would establish a modified graduation requirement based on coursework rather than high-stakes standardized testing, and implement a new ‘comprehensive support and improvement’ system designed to empower local communities to give students the tools and resources they need to succeed.
We’re also focused on talking to state leaders about our legislative priorities, which include:
An Act Committing to Higher Education the Resources to Insure a Strong and Healthy Public Higher Education System, An Act to Guarantee Debt-free Public Higher Education, An Act Uplifting Families and Securing the Right to Strike for Certain Public Employees, and two bills to improve educator retirement benefits, including legislation that would allow educators who didn’t properly enroll in the TARP enhanced retirement option to opt in to the program, and legislation that would ensure greater economic security for retired educators by increasing the COLA base and protect retirees from rising healthcare costs.
Reading is a foundational skill necessary for virtually everything we do. It opens possibilities for all children to succeed—to learn and grow, to explore and imagine, to investigate and verify, and to lead fulfilling lives. That’s why one of the focuses of the multiyear AFT literacy campaign, Reading Opens the World, is giving children and young people free books to read, love, and keep.
AFT Massachusetts President, Beth Kontos, visited the Silvia Elementary School with Secretary Treasurer Brant Duncan and Fall River Federation of Paraprofessionals’ leaders, Stacey Alves and Kim Luz, as part of this program. “We know that access to books can be a watershed moment for a student, as well as their family, ” said Alves. Luz agreed, adding, “We know kids love to read and we are here to nurture and empower students to keep that passion alive.”
AFT Massachusetts is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.
AFT Massachusetts Field Representatives work throughout Massachusetts and duties consist of organizing and servicing locals, preparing, and negotiating contracts, legislative activity, liaison with labor and educational groups, or any other areas of work necessary to advance the interests of AFT Massachusetts as assigned by the president or her designee..
The UMass Faculty Federation, Local 1895, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, celebrated educators who worked tirelessly to help prepare the minds of tomorrow’s leaders. Dr. Hua (Julia) Fang, Professor Meghan Fair and Deidre Healy were all honored in December 2022 during the federation’s annual award celebration. AFT Massachusetts wants to highlight these educators and celebrate their accomplishments as well. UMass Faculty Federation President Grant O’Rielly had high praise for the educators and support staff who were honored at the annual event and said that the entirety of those who fill the classrooms and support the students at UMass Dartmouth deserve recognition as well.
“We are immeasurably proud and grateful to these committed and hardworking individuals who have gone above and beyond to ensure that the students who sit in our classrooms emerge with the best education possible,” he said. “We are also grateful to those who secure the resources and support that allows these educators to accomplish this mission. The importance of unions is our ability to work together and ensure that we as educators and support staff are taken care of so that we can take care of our students.”
With the passage of the Fair Share Amendment, Massachusetts has an opportunity to build a public higher education system that lives up to our values and prepares Massachusetts students to be active, engaged participants in their communities, the workforce, and our society,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Students today are struggling with the cost of college and a lack of adequate support services, while adjunct educators struggle with low pay and limited benefits. Our public college campuses have insufficient funding to address crumbling buildings, rising student needs, and staffing shortages. We’re pleased to support the Higher Ed for All campaign to reverse the budget cuts that have occurred over the past several decades, and begin rebuilding a truly public state college and university system.”
“As we move away from the worst of the COVID pandemic, the impacts of over a year away from the classroom are becoming more and more evident,” said Grant O’Rielly, President of the UMass Faculty Federation. “The absence of social contacts with their friends and peers, as well as missing frequent and meaningful interactions with teachers in their classes, have left students ill-prepared as they have returned to in-person learning. This is particularly true in colleges and universities where the need for support services in mental health counseling as well as quality academic tutoring (not just "homework help sessions") has increased significantly.”