NJ Supreme Court: Jersey City teachers can be paid by BOE to do full-time union work

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In a ruling that has statewide implications, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Jersey City teachers can be paid by the board of education to do full-time union work, overturning a lower court’s decision from 2019.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“We do not share the Appellate Division’s view that the Board’s agreement to the disputed provisions exceeded its statutory grant of authority. In the Education Code, the Legislature empowered boards of education to make rules governing the compensation of teachers …  and to fix ‘the payment of salary in cases of absence not constituting sick leave,'” today’s unanimous ruling says.

“The Legislature thus authorized the Board to grant a paid leave to the releasees to allow them to attend to labor relations work pursuant to the CNA. Moreover, because the releasees’ efforts encourage cooperative labor relations and facilitate the early resolution of employer-employee disputes, the CNA’s release time provisions facilitate the Board’s management of the public schools pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:11-1(c).”

The litigation was brought forth by conservative watchdog group the Goldwater Institute in 2017 and alleged that “release time” – allowing two Jersey City teachers to dedicate their work hours to union activities – is illegal and constitutional.

While an appellate court agreed, the state Supreme Court did not. The litigation named Jersey City Education Association President Ron Greco and JCEA Second Vice President Tina Thorp – who has since passed away.

While Greco did not return an email seeking comment, his union’s parent group, the New Jersey Education Association, expectedly applauded the ruling and blasted the Goldwater Institute.

“This frivolous lawsuit was never about Jersey City. It was brought by well-funded, out-of-state special interests pursuing a radical anti-union agenda that is out of line with the values we hold dear in New Jersey,” they said.

“After more than 50 years of collective bargaining, New Jersey’s public schools are rated the best in the nation. Perhaps these out-of-state groups should spend their time learning from our success instead of trying to undermine it.”

The institute, who has lost similar cases in Arizona, Texas, and now New Jersey, said that they still hope to work with policymakers to eliminate “taxpayer abuse.”

“Public resources should be put to public use, not to advance the private interests of labor organizations,” Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches said.

“We stand ready to work with policymakers in New Jersey and elsewhere to eliminate this taxpayer abuse and require that government employees perform the jobs they were hired to perform, rather than work to advance special interests at taxpayer expense.”