|County and state leadership congratulated MTEA on its 50 years of advocacy. From left: MTEA Treasurer Steve Balaity, NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan, MTEA 2nd Vice President Jeremy Fau, MTEA Secretary Rita Bell, GCEA President Susan Clark, MTEA President Jon Woodward, Region 2 UniServ Field Rep Jane Travis-Address, and MTEA 1st Vice President Paul VanHouten.
The Monroe Township Education Association in Gloucester County celebrated its 50th anniversary, a milestone that comes a decade after the local association regained majority bargaining status. State and county association leadership joined MTEA to mark the occasion.
MTEA President Jon Woodward paid tribute to those who had served in leadership positions over the life of the association. Several past MTEA leaders attended the event.
“One thing I’m learning is how all-consuming this job is,” Woodward said. “I appreciate every single one of you and the role you played before me.”
NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan commended the local association for its dedication to advocacy for members and outreach to the greater Monroe Township Community.
“The bottom line is that you exemplify what an association—what a union—can do when there is a common mission and a common goal,” Blistan said. “Your success and strength lies in your commitment to providing the best education for your students by advancing and protecting the rights of your members.”
Majority and minority bargaining status
For just over half of its existence—from 1976 to 2002—MTEA was the minority bargaining unit in Monroe Township. During that period, teachers and other certificated staff were represented in contract negotiations by the Monroe Township Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
MTEA had been the majority representative in the school district from the inception of the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act in 1968 though the mid-1970s.
|MTEA 2nd Vice President Jeremy Fau and Building Rep John Carullo staffed the registration table. From left: Building Reps Tony Belluscio and Damon Redden, Fau and Carullo.
“In 1974, negotiations weren’t going very well and that opened the door for an AFT challenge,” said Diane Fitzpatrick, who had served in various MTEA offices prior to her retirement. “We tried several times over the years to win back the majority, but in those days MTFT was too new. It was too early to be successful in another challenge.”
Fitzpatrick’s husband, former MTEA President Pete Fitzpatrick, noted that MTEA members were supportive of MTFT job actions when the Federation was in the majority.
“We didn’t obstruct their work,” he said. “We carried banners and signs at rallies saying that MTEA stood with MTFT.”
Diane Fitzpatrick credit’s the presence MTEA maintained throughout its years as the minority unit to its ultimate success in its final challenge in 2002.
“NJEA told us back in the 1970s that it would be a long haul, and it was,” she said. “But throughout that time we could say ‘We’re still here,’ and that made a difference.”
Several other retired MTEA leaders also attended the anniversary. Among them were former president Lou Fiore and building reps Tom Holland and Rose Anne Kennedy Fiore, who later became an administrator in another school district.
Gloucester County Education Association President Susan Clark remarked on MTEA’s size and strength in the county.
“You had a strong unit when you were in the minority, but as a majority unit you’ve grown as a powerful advocate for your members,” she said. Clark noted that MTEA is the fourth largest local in Gloucester County.