US Urgent Solidarity Alert – Wear RedForEd: Paraprofessionals in Somerville, Massachusetts Fight for Livable Wage

 

In Somerville, Massachusetts, a city just North of Boston, 115 low-wage paraprofessionals, teacher’s assistants, organized in the Somerville Teachers Association are fighting for a livable wage and job security. Boston Socialist Alternative member Margaret is a building rep at her school and chair of the Contract Action Team. In an interview for Socialist Alternative, paper of the US organization in solidarity with the CWI majority, Margaret explains: 

“This is part of a broader picture of public education being under attack. Increasing numbers of educators are standing up for improved teaching and learning conditions. Paraprofessionals in Somerville are joining educators across the country in fighting back, including paras in many cities.

In Philadelphia, paras are organizing a movement called #ParaPower to prepare for their negotiations which start this Summer. Following Somerville paras voting ‘no’ on the district’s proposal in October, paras in Malden, a neighboring district, also voted ‘no’ on a similarly inadequate contract”. The full text of Margaret’s interview can be found here.

The paras’ starting salary is $20,000 (18,000  euros) and they max out at $25,000 (22,500 euros), even for paras who have worked in the District for over 20 years and who have masters’ degrees. Given the rising cost of living and in particular the lack of affordable housing in the Greater Boston area, this is a poverty wage, not a livable wage. For as long as they work in the District, they don’t know if they have a job the following school year, starting in August, until the current school year finishes in June.

Their central demands are for starting salary of $25,000 with the ability to earn over $30,000, and for job security after 4 years. In October, 77% of paras with the highest ever turn-out of 72% voted ‘no’ on the District’s offer, so they are back in negotiations.

In December, the union hosted a meeting of 50 union members, parents, and community members. On January 13th, we are mobilizing all out to pack a School Committee meeting with a rally outside beforehand and everybody walking in together, all wearing the STA color – RedForEducation. We are expecting a huge turnout, potentially hundreds. 

On January 9th, 3 paras, including Margaret, and a Somerville parent were interviewed on a local TV station by the President of the Somerville Municipal Employees Association. Socialist Alternative is going all out to help the paras win a fair contract!

Urgent solidarity appeal:

The action of the paras in support of a livable wage and job security will be hugely strengthened by international solidarity. Socialist Alternative – US is asking for:

  1. Solidarity pictures of activists from across the world holding the posters provided, or similar slogans hand-written;
  2. Short video messages from teachers, or groups of teachers where possible. In particular, short videos in Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Haitian Creole would be welcome, because many paras and parents in Somerville speak those languages.

Pictures and videos are needed by Thursday, January 16th and can be sent to Boston Socialist Alternative Organizer Elan Axelbank at elanaxelbank@gmail.com. 

Solidarity and thank you! And don’t forget – wear RedforEd