Teachers narrowly vote ratifying new contract | Paterson Times

Teachers narrowly vote ratifying new contract


The city’s school teachers voted this week to approve a three-year contract with the school district.

Members of the Paterson Education Association, the teachers’ union, voted through email and mail-in ballots during the week ratifying a contract covering 2010-14 and a second contract that runs from 2014-17.

“We all know that this contract was an unpopular one,” stated Pete Tirri, the union’s president, in a statement issued to rank and file members on Friday. “The voting reflects that.”

Count for the 2010-14 contract: 1,142 union members voted in favor of the contract, 1,023 voted against. Count for the 2014-17 contract was not much different: 1,142 vote to approve while voted against 1,025.

Little less than 53-percent of the union’s membership voted in favor of ratifying the contracts. “People voted out of fear,” said a teacher who did not wish to be named. She said teachers feared the alternative of returning to the negotiating table and receiving a far worse contract than the deal that was struck two-month ago.

Four-year without contract, squeezed teachers had little choice but to vote in the affirmative to at least have something in place.

“Many members felt we should have rejected their anti-educator, anti-union, political actions, but recognized in the long run that moving forward was a better option than the alternatives that we would face,” said Tirri to the members.

Calling the contract unpopular is an understatement, said another teacher. “I’m supposed to be at step 16 this coming September, they’re telling me with this contract that I’m at step 12,” said a teacher. “It’s as if the last four years of my work didn’t count.”

Since the last contract expired in June 2010, teachers were frozen in their incumbent steps without increases. The salary difference between someone on step 12 and 16 is day and night. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree on step 12 takes home $54,000 while on step 16 that same teacher makes $91,000, according to the step guide in the new contract.

Another teacher, who also did not want his name published, said with the increase in healthcare contribution, he will be taking home less pay than the past four years.

“Next school year, with the increase in our insurance requirement, I will be taking home less than I did with the pay freeze for the past four years,” said the teacher. “I crunched the numbers and even with moving over to the universal guide and getting a meager raise I will be taking home approximately $180 less than I have been the past four years.”

The contract also includes $19 million in retroactive pay for union members. Our first teacher said she will be receive $8,900 in retro pay for working without a contract for the past four years.

The contract also includes a new step guide called the universal salary guide which has 18 steps as opposed to the traditional guide which has 16. First step salary for teachers with a bachelor’s degree on the new guide begins at $50,000 ending in step 18 at $92,500. The traditional guide starts at $48,000 ending at step 16 with $91,000.

Teachers on the traditional guide are given the option to switch over to the universal guide.

The new contract was set to be adopted sometime in mid-June, but members were confused as to what the agreement entailed. The union scheduled a vote during the last week of school only to postpone it later and use the scheduled meeting as an information session to explain the details of the contract.

Teachers were unhappy to learn the detail of their contract. Outraged, the teachers organized a small protest against governor Chris Christie during his visit to administer oath of office to newly elected mayor Jose “Joey” Torres.

Teachers’ “Christie’s got to go!” chants drowned out the governor’s voice during the ceremony resulting in the governor cutting short his visit.

“I’m not outraged, I’m just disappointed,” said a teacher who voted against the contract.

With a union divided in half, Tirri called on the membership to unify to battle anti-union initiatives put forward by the governor.

“We must regroup, but the bad taste left in our mouths has to be left behind us. We are going to have to prepare to battle the negative initiatives that he [Christie] is already trying to put forward,” read Tirri’s statement to the members. “We hope our members recognize this and can come together in a united front against these initiatives.”

Tirri could not be reached for comments on Friday for this story.

  • John Monad

    The true losers in all of this, unfortunately, are the ones this is supposed to be all about – the children of Paterson. This contract is financially punitive. There is really no way around that. Superintendent Evans, and his mouthpiece Terry Corallo, can spin this any way they can, but the administration has successfully eliminated any chance of retaining the district's best teachers, or recruiting cream-of-the-crop new ones. There is no incentive for the 'best and brightest' to come to Paterson and join the fight, against poverty, against violence, against abuse/neglect, that so many teachers fight daily.

    Unfortunately, the future of education in Paterson is going to involve a lot of instability, substitutes, open positions, and, likely, the need to recruit warm, poorly-trained, and quick-to-leave bodies from organizations such as Teach for America. None of this conducive to forging the relationships, that are essential for success in teaching children the ABC's and making them care about mathematics, all as they walk home dodging bullets, watching brazen dealers pushing heroin in the open. People don't realize how much trust of teachers is required for children to truly believe that learning can make a difference, when their classmate is shot dead, when a drive-by occurs in front of the school, when every night, often in bed and hungry from a lack of dinner, they hear gunshots ring out. Establishment of this trust, the true art of the teacher, just isn't quantifiable; it isn't easily reduced into a number, a metric.

    Sadly, this contract is the finalization of the divorce of the Paterson community and those that have chosen to dedicate their lives to protecting their children, loving their children and, yes, educating their children.

    The governments treatment of Paterson educators, and their behavior during negotiations, proves them to be, in the world of Martin Luther King Jr., "the most dangerous criminal…,:" "the man gifted with reason but with no morals." Intelligence, plus character, the true goal of education as per MLK, has been sorely lacking in this sad affair, and its absence will impact the community of Paterson for a generation.

    Many in government, at the State Department of Education, go hoarse from repeating the old chestnut – that education is the future. This contract is concrete proof that they are, at best, pessimistic nihilists. At worst, they engage in the Devil's work, using platitudes to cover their true agenda; their sin against our children.

  • John Monad

    I don't know Butchie, instead.

  • Mr. Munoz

    One word travesty! Children will suffer because of this come September.

  • Paterson parent

    Sad day for education in America thats all I can say really.