Remembering a legend: Tom Favia, longtime Jersey City EA president

The legacy of long-time Jersey City Education Association leader Tom Favia, as an advocate, educator, and coach will live on. Favia served the Jersey City Education Association in a leadership capacity for forty-five years; the first twenty-two years (1970-1991) as First Vice President, followed by twenty-three years as JCEA President (1991-2012).

He died on Friday, September 28, 2018.  He was predeceased by his wife of 57 years, Olympia, and survived by his three children, Tom Jr., Jeffrey, and Suzanne and all of their families.

A force to be reckoned with on the athletic field, as a student Favia was an accomplished baseball player and was selected twice to All-State and was part of the first Group 4 State Championship in 1949 for Bayonne High School. This passion for the game inspired him to become a coach and instill that passion in his student athletes. Serving as head basketball coach at Ferris High School from 1966 to 1991, he helped lead Ferris to five state sectional titles, three county titles and six south Hudson titles. Favia recorded the most wins in Jersey City public school history and was elected to the Hudson County Athletic Hall of Fame.

A force to be reckoned with off the court, Favia was equally passionate about advocating for his colleagues and the value he saw in belonging to his union. He stepped away from the basketball court to become the president of the Jersey City Education Association, where he fought on behalf of Jersey City members for 23 years.

Marching alongside his members in 1998, the JCEA went on strike demanding economic and professional justice for their members following imposition of drop-in evaluations with no notice, as well as other changes including proposals to increase the length of the school day. Favia had been vice president and a member of the association’s executive committee when the JCEA went on strike in 1970. The members of the executive committee were jailed for the strike, the first time in labor history that teachers had been jailed for such a job action. Favia called the board’s and city’s actions “totally repugnant.”

“Tom Favia was a true advocate for children, working class families, and the profession he loved,” said Marie Blistan, NJEA president.  “As a public school teacher and union leader, he was a true champion for students as he relentlessly pursued getting resources they needed to succeed.  He fiercely advocated for his members’ working conditions that were conducive to student learning and demanded respect for our profession. We have lost one of our state’s great leaders.”

“Though his tone was often gruff, Mr. Favia’s heart was always with the JCEA and the students of Jersey City,” said Colleen Kelleher, long-time member and Financial Secretary for the JCEA. “He was a no-nonsense union leader who had strong convictions. He never forgot what it was like to be a classroom teacher. He defended us fervently against those who would attempt to minimize the impact educators had on the community. During the strike of 1998, I can vividly remember Mr. Favia addressing the massive crowd of JCEA members and city residents assembled in front of the Casino in the Park, inspiring us to continue the fight for dignity and a fair contract. That tenacity fueled our resolve, and we were victorious. I was proud to serve on the executive board with him and learned a lot from him.”

Aside from his role as JCEA president, Favia continued to dedicate his time in several other roles such as president of the Hudson County Basketball Coaches Association, treasurer of the Hudson County Umpires Association and president of the Bayonne Jaycees.  The Bayonne native was also named Man of the Year by the Dante Alighieri Society and was a long-time parishioner and usher of St. Vincent de Paul Church.



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