Pandemic complicates, but can’t quench, bargaining victories in Atlantic City and Livingston

Two districts share top honors in 2021 Jim George Collective Bargaining Awards

By Kathryn Coulibaly

Two local associations shared top honors for the 2021 Jim George Collective Bargaining Award. The Atlantic City Education Association and Livingston Education Association each negotiated three-year contracts during the pandemic that improved salaries and benefits for members. 

The 950 members of the Atlantic City Education Association (ACEA) began their process through open bargaining. When the board pushed back against the process, negotiations stalled, and members grew frustrated. Newly elected ACEA President P.J. Dollard, a supply room clerk in the high school, took the helm with negotiations at impasse. With the help of UniServ Field Rep Stephanie Tarr and Associate Director of Research Greg Yordy, Dollard and ACEA Negotiations Chair Roger Booth presented a strong stance in the face of the board’s intransigence. 

Atlantic City Education Association President P.J. Dollard proudly displays the NJEA Jim George Collective Bargaining Award.

“The morale seems to be in the toilet everywhere because of the pandemic,” Dollard said. “I was sick of complaining and sick of listening to other people complain, so we went to work organizing our members and their hard work and patience really paid off. Our members had to endure a lot throughout this whole process. It was good to see members come together.” 

That unity paid off in a big way. The final salary settlement was 3.65% in each of the three years of the settlement, which meant significant increases for all members and a six-figure salary for certificated staff in the B.A. column in Year 2 of the contract. In addition, the payment per class for teaching a sixth section increased from $17.60 per class to $40 per class. The association also negotiated a $75,000 increase to the coaching salary guide, bringing them more in line with coaching guides in Atlantic County, potentially attracting new talent to the district. 

“We are grateful for NJEA’s help,” Dollard said. “Stephanie Tarr and Greg Yordy helped us throughout this process. Without their help, we would not have won this award.” 

In addition, through this round of negotiations, many members of the association who had previously been on the sidelines stepped up into leadership roles, from building representatives to bargaining team members in the next contract, to treasurer. 

Livingston contract restores benefits for teaching assistants

The Livingston Education Association (LEA) negotiations team began bargaining in September 2019 with a heavy weight hanging over their heads. In 2010, the board of education privatized the teaching assistants in the district. In 2011, the LEA was able to negotiate them back into the association, but when they returned, they were without health benefits. 

However, since 2010, the LEA had been working tirelessly to educate the board about the value of teaching assistants and their contributions to students and the community. Through multiple rounds of bargaining and relentless internal and external organizing, with the assistance of their NJEA Field Rep Jim McGuire, the association was able to position itself to negotiate health benefits for more than 100 teaching assistant members who had been without, as well as a fair settlement, and contract language that benefits and protects members. 

A few of those new provisions include:

  • Terminated the practice of blanket reduction in force, or “RIF,” notices for teaching assistants.
  • Created a district family leave provision where members may take up to 30 of their banked contingency days in order to care for a member.
  • Increased elementary teachers’ prep time from five periods per week to seven periods per week.
  • Added more than $80,000 in new stipends.
  • Increased shoe allowance for custodians.

More than $3.8 million in certificated staff salary increases and $800,000 in support salary increases for a total compensation package that is the largest in LEA history.

LEA President Anthony Rosamilia, a history teacher at Livingston High School and the Essex County Education Association president, summed up all the hard work and the relief of finally achieving their goal of restoring the teaching assistants’ health benefits.

“It’s very gratifying that NJEA selected us for this award because the health benefits provisions specifically are about providing fairness and dignity to a group of workers who did not have that,” Rosamilia said. “I think it really shows the power of collective bargaining. We’re happy to win the collective bargaining award, but we’re really happy to have achieved dignity and fairness for these essential workers.”  

The awards were conferred at the NJEA Jim George Collective Bargaining Summit on Oct. 30. The annual summit was held remotely. 

Kathryn Coulibaly is the associate editor of the NJEA Review and provides content and support to She can be reached at