Teachers and maintenance workers in West New York have been protesting at recent Board of Education meetings because they have been without a contract since July of 2015, and say they haven’t gotten a raise in more than four years.
Several teachers attended the April 14 Board of Education meeting to demand a new contract with raises. More than 1,000 employees including teachers, janitors, and more are seeking a new contract.
A board official who asked not to be named said the board doesn’t have money to negotiate a contract with significant raises over multiple years.
Daniel Abbadessa, the acting treasurer of the West New York Education Association (teachers’ union), said last week, “We started negotiations in the summer, and in December we thought the offer was finalized and agreed upon, but the board realized they didn’t have money for the contracts.”
“We definitely deserve something, and it’s about the kids too.” – Daniel Abbadessa
He added, “They gave us a 0 percent raise for two years. They have about a $135 million budget, so it’s hard to digest that they have no money to give raises.”
Abbadessa also added that supervisors and principals got a new contract recently. Those professionals have a separate union.
Abbadessa said the state brought a mediator to an April meeting to hear both sides of the story. The mediator will return for another meeting May 31.
“We feel the state should at least give us a contract for the average minimum, and it’s not 0 percent,” Abbadessa said. “We’ve been … looking for a contract that everyone will be happy with and the board will be able to handle it.”
Abbadessa said, “The decision he makes isn’t binding. He’ll give us his opinion on what he thinks the board and the union should do, and we both either say yes or no.”
Teachers have complained that retiring or laid-off colleagues have not been replaced.
According to news reports, at the April 14 board meeting, member Matthew Cheng requested to open the floor for public comment regarding the contract, but the board voted 4-3 not to open the floor. Then, trustees Cheng, Loreno Portillo, and Steven Rodas threatened to walk out of the meeting. If that happened, there wouldn’t be a quorum, and the meeting would end on the spot. The board then unanimously voted to open the floor for public comment.
During public comments, Education Association President Anita Kober said the teachers’ pay is less today than it was five years ago due to improper budgeting.
On Monday, April 25, West New York teachers, students, and staff gathered in front of the board headquarters of Broadway to protest before a meeting. They chanted, “What do we want? Contracts! When do we want them? Now!”
Abbadessa said he estimated there were 400 people at the protest.
The teachers also circulated an anonymous memo asking collegues to wear WNYEA t-shirts with the WNYEA logo to school instead of their regular school uniforms. An anonymous official said some teachers have been written up by administrators for violating dress code policies.
The source also said that if the students violate dress code they may be eliminated from attending prom or graduation.
Abbadessa said, “We support our community and do our job, even though we don’t have a contract. We definitely deserve something, and it’s about the kids too.”
Samantha Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .