Members of the Franklin Lakes Education Association picketed with handmade signs in front of their schools on Oct. 30 before the start of their contractual day to gain the attention and support of parents and community members. This action is one of many recently taken by the association stemming from a labor dispute with the Franklin Lakes Board of Education.
Franklin Lakes EA members have been working under an expired contract since July 2017. The board and the association are in the “fact-finding” stage of negotiations, which was reached after the board and the association did not achieve a settlement with a mediator appointed by the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). A formal hearing is scheduled with a PERC-appointed fact-finder in December. The parties have met twice previously with the fact-finder.
“We have been patient, and we have continued to provide an excellent education to our students,” said Franklin Lakes EA President Sharon Milano. “However, it’s time for the board to show the teachers and school staff that they respect all of the hard work we do by settling this contract. If the school board is serious about every child’s future, they need to get serious about the teachers’ and school staff’s economic environment by reaching a contract resolution now.”
Association members—classroom teachers, noninstructional certificated staff, administrative assistants and paraprofessionals—have been bringing home less pay each year, in many cases making less than what they brought home in 2009 because of the high cost of living, stagnant wages and increased health care costs. Many members reside in Bergen County, which has the highest cost of living in the state. Staff members are finding it increasingly difficult to provide for their families.
Franklin Lakes EA members provide a valuable resource to the Franklin Lakes community inside and outside their classrooms. They volunteer their time and talents during many community and school activities, well after school hours. Their care for their students and dedication to their education is vital to the district’s ability to thrive. The association says that the board of education is taking advantage of the association members’ dedication to their students.
Previous actions taken by the Franklin Lakes EA include attending board of education meetings where members shared the impact of soaring contributions to health benefits and stagnant salaries, engaging in informational picketing, and sharing informational fliers with parents and residents at community events.
“We will continue to keep the pressure on the board until our members get the contract they deserve,” Milano stated. “They’ve more than earned it.”
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