Lakewood EA wins 2022 NJEA Jim George Collective Bargaining Award  

For years, the Lakewood Education Association (LEA) has been advocating for its members and fighting for its students through challenging circumstances. Thanks to their fierce advocacy and hard work, they were able to secure a five-year settlement with salary improvements for certificated staff that averaged 21.9%and 22.4% for support staff. They negotiated a starting salary of more than $60,000 in year four, which is a more than $9,000 increase in the district’s starting salary. For this, they were recognized with the 2022 NJEA Jim George Collective Bargaining Award.  

LEA President Kimberlee Shaw and members Kathy Hall and Lisa Moody-Anderson accepted the award on behalf of the negotiations team and the entire association.  

LEA has made improving the relationship among the association, the administration and board of education a priority, while continuing to demonstrate that LEA is a force deserving of respect.  

Prior to the start of the collective bargaining process, LEA filed more than 20 Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) dockets and 10 grievances.  

At the same time, the association reached out to community members and worked with them to address their issues, both in the schools and in the community. Community members spoke at the virtual board meetings to express their concerns with the staff shortage and the number of substitutes being used. They also voiced their support for increasing staff salaries. The association kept meticulous records about the number of staff who were leaving the district.  

Their efforts were so successful that the memorandum of agreement concerning salary increases reads, “For the purposes of recruiting and retaining staff, as well as reducing steps on the salary guides.”  

Organizing around community concerns 

The association took action on issues unrelated to the schools to show their connection to the community. They worked with community stakeholders to improve communication flow to the public regarding monthly vaccination sites, rent hikes on local tenants, and other issues.  

The association shared that staff shortages in the school district stemmed from the district’s inability to retain staff on a long-term basis, as well as attract new staff to replace those who have left. The community stakeholders who participated in Zoom meetings organized by a local civil rights activist included town council members, local religious leaders, local business owners, the chief of police, American Legion Post 166, Latino Action Network, Community Services Corporation, New Labor and Voz Latina.  

LEA also brought in NJEA staff from multiple divisions to join them in engaging with community stakeholders in Zoom meetings organized by the governor’s office.  

Building a stronger union 

These community connections and member organizing reenergized the culture of their union, leading to five new building representatives, one new senior building representative, nine new negotiations team members, and two new members of NJEA’s Members of Color (MOC) Network, with one member working on forming a local Lakewood MOC Committee.  

Following ratification, LEA continues to press the administration and board to change the climate in the community and the schools. They have compelled the board to participate in both NJEA’s Labor Management Collaborative and the NEA’s Labor Management Pilot Program with a shared vision of improving district morale. This relationship continues to trend in a positive direction, while LEA remains unyielding in their staunch advocacy for its members and students. 

Jim George Collective Bargaining Award finalists

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: 

  •   Atlantic County Special Services Bus Drivers/Aides Association 
  •   Cumberland Regional Paraprofessional Association 
  •   Lakewood Education Association 
  •   Paterson Charter Education Association 
  •   South Orange-Maplewood Education Association   

Who was Jim George?

Jim George speaking in Asbury Park at the 1967 Rally for Teacher Rights. 

Jim George was a driving force in NJEA’s quest to secure collective bargaining rights for public school employees. His long relationship with NJEA began when he was a teacher and union leader in Cinnaminson. An activist at heart, he served the Cinnaminson Teachers’ Association as its treasurer and then local president. 

At the forefront in the fight for member rights, George is best known for his stirring remarks at the 1967 Asbury Park Rally for Teacher Rights. It was then that George spoke the words that would become the inspiration behind NJEA’s Collective Bargaining Summit: “A new order is at hand. A new generation has been conceived—and we are not afraid.”  

George joined the NJEA UniServ staff in 1967 and served members in Burlington County until 1986 when he became a UniServ coordinator serving the southern portion of the state. For 28 years prior to his untimely death in 1995, George inspired NJEA members, leaders, and staff. It was George who first suggested that NJEA hold a collective bargaining summit to invigorate the association’s commitment to bargaining. His legacy lives on through the summit and award that bear his name.