Members of the Jersey City Education Association took to the streets last night demonstrating the power of collective strength. Tonight, JCEA and the board of education will sit down at the table to continue negotiating a successor contract.

Many previous bargaining sessions have been held which did not lead to settlements, despite the general expectation that the parties at the table are authorized to represent their larger constituencies and make decisions. The board has repeatedly stalled negotiations by not being prepared to make decisions, often cutting meetings off after only an hour or two.

JCEA came together, last night, to demonstrate members’ willingness to fight hard for a fair settlement. JCEA President Ron Greco, said, “We would rather negotiate and reach a settlement, but we need to be prepared for all contingencies.”

Several mornings this past week, before the school day started, 4,200 JCEA members participated in informational picketing, sharing their story with the parents and community who remain supportive. Putting pressure on the board, actions have escalated as hundreds of members attended last night’s rally. Many brought buckets to drum, bells to ring and whistles to blow, making sure that board members could hear the association’s settlement demands.

Union Strong, Jersey City style

The NJEA leadership team spoke to members before heading into address the board. “The board loves you when they need you, but when we ask for our fair share they turn a blind eye,” said Steve Beatty, NJEA secretary-treasurer. “Enough is enough,” he continued.

Jersey City schools’ accomplishments, like having a blue-ribbon school (Academy I Middle School) and the nationally recognized McNair Academic High School, contribute to New Jersey’s standing as number two in the nation for student achievement. “You have achieved those recognitions because of the women and men in this room,” NJEA President Marie Blistan told the board. “They need you to preserve the integrity of the reputation of the great public schools in this city and that starts with respect.”

Last night’s rally was also attended by a large group of members from the Paterson Education Association, as well as fellow NJEA members who arrived from around the region to demonstrate support and solidarity.

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