A robust crowd of nearly 1500 Paterson educators and their supporters came out on a brisk November afternoon to protest the lack of progress in contract negotiations as well the deplorable conditions under which they work. The Paterson Education Association, now in its fourth year without a contract, protested on the steps of City Hall, demanding a resolution to the stalled contract negotiations. The educators in this state-run district have been without a contract since June 30, 2010.
Under the leadership of PEA President Peter Tirri, the Paterson teachers and support professionals took to the streets carrying signs and chanting for an immediate and fair contract. Other protestors, including NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer, carried posters that provided clear photographic evidence of the squalid working conditions that Paterson educators and their students face every day. These photographs detailed roach-infested classrooms and hallways as well as crumbling infrastructure, often caked with dangerous black mold.
Tirri addressed the crowd, calling for the state to sit down at the bargaining table and show Paterson educators the respect that they deserve by negotiating in good faith. Tirri’s views were shared by an array of local, county, state and national political leaders, each of whom had their opportunity to address the hearty crowd.
Congressman Bill Pascrell displayed his support as he addressed the crowd urging them to keep up the fight. State Senator Ronald Rice, the Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Schools, decried the unequal treatment of Paterson educators and their students. Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, a fellow PEA member, urged the crowd to continue their actions until they received a contract. Other local leaders that took their message to the bullhorn included State Senator Nellie Pou, Paterson Mayor Jeffery Jones and Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik. These leaders all thanked the crowd for standing up for themselves and their students. The speeches were met with applause and chants of appreciation. Paterson Educators vowed to keep up the pressure until the state resolves the contract issue and provides the district with the resources it needs to ensure a safe and equal education for all Paterson students.