Newark Teachers Union Wins Huge Arbitration Award

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Arbitrator Finds State Violated 2012 Contract by Reneging on Major Provisions

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Nat Bender
Janet Bass

NEWARK, N.J.—An arbitrator has found that the state violated many of the terms of the 2012 contract agreement it signed with the Newark Teachers Union—and which Gov. Chris Christie lauded at a news conference—and owes hundreds of Newark public school teachers millions of dollars.

The Newark Teachers Union filed grievances over the district’s failure to implement several provisions of the 2012 contract. At the time, the school district was under state control, producing contentious collective bargaining sessions that involved former NTU President Joseph Del Grosso, former Newark Public Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. But ultimately, the final contract agreement demonstrated the willingness of Newark’s teachers and the state-controlled school district to find innovative ways to ensure that quality and experience were recognized and rewarded.

“This contract was the culmination of very difficult but good-faith negotiations. But the state broke its word and its trust by blatantly refusing to implement what it agreed to do. The arbitrator’s decision is a huge victory for Newark teachers and sends a loud message that it’s not OK to violate a signed contract,” said NTU President John M. Abeigon.

When the contract was signed, Weingarten said it ensured that teacher voice, quality and experience are aligned with increased professionalism and better compensation. But by picking and choosing which provisions to implement, she said, it became obvious that Gov. Christie and his appointees who ran the district weren’t really interested in improving the school district.

“Gov. Christie and his appointees really didn’t care about respecting educators or making Newark public schools better, so they ignored the aspects of the then-new contract that enabled teacher voice and professionalism. Additionally, they out-and-out refused to honor some of the compensation provisions. Sadly, they just wanted the Facebook money, and they used state control to put testing over teaching and learning and to close schools. State control didn’t work in Newark, and it’s time for the state to get out of the business of running school districts elsewhere,” Weingarten said.

Now that the Newark schools are back in local hands, Weingarten said, “Parents and educators, not Gov. Christie, will be able to decide what is best for their schools and children.

The arbitrator found that the state reneged on major provisions of the contract, including that:

  • The Newark Public Schools failed to pay agreed-upon longevity payments. The NTU estimates that more than 500 employees were owed a total of nearly $1.6 million.
  • Approximately 40 employees who were on a leave of absence did not receive agreed-upon prorated, one-time salary payments, as required in the contract.
  • The district failed to create an agreed-upon consultative committee to approve education programs for compensation. Any staff member who completed an approved program, such as a graduate degree, would be entitled up to $20,000. The NTU estimates approximately 200 employees were affected by this. 
  • The district violated the contract and its own procedures by using current administrators to act as peer validators.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.

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