Hundreds of Jersey City teachers rallied outside the board of education headquarters before last night’s special meeting on their contract, where they were joined by the presidents of the New Jersey Education Association and the Paterson Education Association, respectively.
After the nearly hour-long protest, the meeting was briefly delayed since the board chambers were well beyond capacity.
After Jersey City Education Association President Ron Greco had several members voluntarily wait in the hallway, the public speaking portion began with remarks from New Jersey Education Association President Marie Blistan.
“Your public schools and their recognitions are not there because of the public schools – the buildings – it’s not there because you are right outside New York City: ladies and gentleman, you have achieved those recognitions because of the women and men in this room and the women and men who come in every single day,” Blistan said to applause.
She was followed by John McEntee, Jr., the president of the Paterson Education Association – who are in the midst of their own contract struggle.
“20 miles away, in Paterson, the names and faces may be different, but the struggle is still the same. Similar to Jersey City, we in Paterson are also fighting for a fair and just contract,” McEntee said.
“We too are feeling the ill effects of wasteful district spending, state occupation and Chapter 78. Do not pretend that you do not understand these effects of Chapter 78. Employee health contributions have wreaked havoc over 1,000s of NJEA members – including your own.”
Last month, Jersey City teachers stormed the BOE meeting to demand a new contract, specifically one that asks for Chapter 78 relief.
Chapter 78, implemented by ex-Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2011 mandates that public employees pay a percentage of their heath insurance premium ranging from 3 to 35 percent.
In Jersey City, teachers are paying the maximum percentage of 35.
Additionally, Greco gave some statistics to try and better explain the plight of his delegation.
“They didn’t go into the profession so that they could be union members and have rallies. They went in to teach. They went in to make a difference in children’s lives. And that’s what they do. No one expects to be Rockefeller,” the JCEA president explained.
” … When I look at pay stubs from 2010, to now, my salary is down $14,000, my take home pay. I don’t have children, [but] people on family plans are paying 12, 14, $1,500 a month out of their pay: it’s crippling, it really is crippling.”
Greco also cautioned the board that if they did not reach a new deal by tomorrow, the 4,000 member delegation is ready to strike.
Mike Greco, a Jersey City teacher, reiterated how important Chapter 78 relief is.
“All we’re asking for is affordable healthcare, people. Affordable healthcare: that’s a right, a God given right. Do the right thing, do the humane thing: lock yourself in a room, like our president said, and seriously negotiate – not for an hour, not for two hours.”
Jersey City BOE President Sudhan Thomas did not immediately return an inquiry asking what action the board, if any, the board had taken.