The Clinton Township Education Association (CTEA) is the recipient of the 2020 NJEA Jim George Collective Bargaining Award. The award was conferred at the NJEA Jim George Collective Bargaining Summit on Oct. 24. The annual summit was held remotely.

CTEA President Kelly Hill, Negotiations Chairs Jayson Hill and Penny Perez McFadden, NJEA UniServ Field Rep Fred Skirbst were on hand to accept the award.

CTEA’s collective bargaining journey was featured in the June 2020 edition of the NJEA Review.

“This year’s winner is as much about a deal as it about the purpose of a fair contract: to unite a union’s members,” said NJEA President Marie Blistan as she introduced CTEA at the conference. “A new president saw a need and addressed it.”

That new president was Kelly Hill, who established a member engagement committee and activated the association representatives to begin intentional conversations with every member.

“No one was left out,” Blistan said.

Before CTEA could achieve a new contract, it first had to change its school district’s power dynamics. The dynamics at the time had resulted in a school district that had gone through four superintendents and five business administrators in just five years. Unstable district leadership and a challenging board of education were not conducive to successful contract negotiations. CTEA had been working under an expired contract for seven of the previous nine years, with the last one being expired for over 1,000 days.

CTEA endorsed and campaigned for candidates to the Clinton Township Board of Education. That 2019 campaign included door knocking, social media outreach, and a series of community meetings to talk about the issues. Their efforts paid off when four pro-labor, pro-public education candidates were overwhelmingly elected to the board.

“After spending eight of nine years without a contract, they had two things they didn’t have before: power and the board’s attention,” Blistan said. “They used both.”

CTEA went on to win higher settlement rates than the county average. The paraprofessionals settled for a slightly higher rate than the certificated staff. They won hard-fought chapter 78 relief, including additional tiers that would lessen the blow of Chapter 78 on newer staff members. They also capped the percentage of healthcare premium that any member could pay at 22%.

CTEA also won on significant quality-of-life issues, such as language requiring more notification before changing assignments. They clarified and expanded their access to professional development. They earned more compensation for secretaries when they were assigned tasks that extended beyond their workday, and they added additional allowances for custodial staff.

“This contract was about everyone,” Blistan said. “The members of the Clinton Township Education Association transformed their union, and, after doing so, earned the best agreement they had in years for their members. It takes every one of us to make a difference, and the CTEA lived this difference.”

As she accepted the award on behalf of her association, CTEA President Kelly Hill reflected on the transformation of her local union.

“Looking back, it’s overwhelming to see how much we accomplished in less than one year, but the result was more than worth it,” Hill said. Our association is truly much stronger and more united. We have established a respectful working relationship with both the board of education and the administration. Our community members have connected with us and have been tremendously supportive. In short, we became the union we wanted and deserved.”

For the full story of CTEA’s road to transformation, read “The Phoenix Rising” at njea.org/the-phoenix-rising.

The NJEA Jim George Collective Bargaining Award is presented annually to an association that has accomplished one or more of the following:

  • Bargained one or more new contractual provisions not already found in another affiliate’s contract.
  • Conducted an extraordinary community organizing effort that resulted in a contract settlement.
  • Used the bargaining experience to propel new members into association involvement and leadership positions.
  • Achieved a particularly good settlement, in comparison to the state average, in salary increases, health benefits, professional development, and/or member protection.

This year, after reviewing the nominations, five finalists were selected. They were:

  • Burlington County Institute of Technology Education Association and Burlington County Special Services Education Association
  • Central Regional Education Association
  • Clinton Township Education Association
  • Franklin Lakes Education Association
  • Mercer County Special Services Educational and Therapeutic Association

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