For release: The APEA rallied on the Amherst Town Common on Saturday, October 15, putting the fight for a contract in a wider context. Over one hundred attended the rally, including a representative of Amherst Firefighters’ Union, a group of educator retirees, a representative from the Democratic Socialists of America, and representatives from South Hadley’s educators’ union.
Danielle Seltzer, high school teacher, emphasized that the School Committee’s offer of 2% was unacceptable, considering the inflation rate of 8.2%. “We are not just competing with other districts [to retain employees], we are competing with Target and McDonalds,” she said. “What we are asking for is in line with what other unions are asking for, and what some districts–including ones in Western Mass–are settling on.” Educators in other Massachusetts districts such as Malden and Haverhill are facing similar district resistance, and recently voted to strike unless they come to an agreement.
“The School Committee would have you think that educators and parents are two different groups at odds with each other. Actually, most educators are parents and caregivers, who need to provide for their families in this challenging time,” Seltzer continued. Alex Lopez, a paraeducator at Amherst’s Summit Academy, spoke of the difficulty of paying the rising costs of child care for his own children while he went to work with others’ children. “When the Jones Library found out their cost estimate was millions of dollars beyond their budget, the town was able to go to their state legislators and other regional partners to ensure the money was there to keep their promises to that building project. Yet they don’t have the will to find the money to keep their promises to our staff and students..”
As recently as October 12, the APEA bargaining team met, in mediation, with district representatives. The APEA offered to resolve every issue in negotiations instead of mediation. In open negotiations, union members can be present as silent representatives. The School Committee did not have a response or proposals of its own at that meeting
The APEA has been engaged in contract negotiations with the Amherst-Pelham School District since Winter 2022, and their 3-year contract expired at the end of June. They continue to operate under the previous contract while negotiating with the District for fair compensation, safe conditions, and sustainable workloads.