JERSEY CITY (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of Jersey City public school teachers and others went on strike after failing to reach a deal to end an 8-month contract dispute.
Nearly 4,000 teachers, school nurses, paraprofessionals, guidance counselors and secretaries all took part Friday at 48 different sites after their union, the Jersey City Education Association, and the Board of Education failed to come to an agreement despite negotiating since May.
Teachers are calling for higher pay and more affordable health care, saying some pay more than $1,000 a month for insurance on a modest salary.
“We’re asking for a fair and equitable contract. Teachers have been working more and more, cost of living going up, paychecks going down,” said teacher Kristen Zadroga. “The teachers need relief with our healthcare costs and we need to be able to food on our tables.”
It their first strike in almost 20 years.
“We thought this would come to a quick resolution, but they walked out on us. We rejected their counterproposal, we quickly made a counter to their counter, they said no,” Jersey City Education Association President Ron Greco.
“I think it was avoidable,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. “Hopefully, they’ll find some middle ground over the weekend and everybody is back to work.”
Friday evening, the Jersey City Board of Education told CBS2 a judge has ordered teachers back to work Monday. The judge granted the district “preliminary injunctive relief” after the board filed an Order to Show Cause against the JCEA.
Parents were alerted of the strike Thursday night. Some decided to drop their children off for the half day, which ended at 12:45 p.m. Friday, while others showed up only to take their kids back home.
“I’m already late for my work and see that the strike is taking so much time, I don’t know what to do. So I have to go back home,” parent Javeed Shaikh told CBS2’s Reena Roy. “There’s no teachers there so what if something happens to the kids?”
“It’s very sad. I think our teachers do deserve to have their contracts,” said parent Diana Jimenez. “As soon as I found out, I went into a panic thinking we don’t have any teachers, we don’t have any nurses.”
Many parents were hoping the teachers get what they want, Roy reported.
“Everybody has the right to protest for what’s right,” said parent Jon Osorio.
The board said in a statement that at a regularly scheduled school board meeting Thursday night, “Superintendent Dr. Marcia V. Lyles acknowledged the challenge that rising health insurance costs present for teachers and all District employees.”
“While teachers are asking for salary increases and a reduction in what they pay for their health insurance, the District is facing a $70 million dollar shortfall.”
Jersey City officials say they are trying to come to a speedy resolution.