Democratic Resolution to End Newark Schools Contract Dispute Gets Assembly OK

The General Assembly on Thursday approved a resolution sponsored by Assembly Democrats Thomas Giblin, Cleopatra Tucker, Ralph Caputo, Sheila Oliver, Eliana Pintor Marin and L. Grace Spencer that would push for the state’s top education official and the Newark School District superintendent to move toward resolving a contract dispute between unions and the district.

The resolution (AR-137) would urge the education commissioner and the Newark superintendent to take immediate steps to reconcile the disagreement between the district and unions representing non-instructional staff. Non-instructional staff members in Newark’s schools have been without a new collective bargaining agreement or salary increase for more than five years.

“Whether they’re writing on a board during the day or cleaning one off at night, employees in Newark’s schools perform important duties, yet neither the school district nor the Department of Education has made an effort to begin negotiations with the non-instructional staff’s unions,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “This resolution represents a first step toward what we hope will be a meaningful conversation among all parties involved.”

“Many of the individuals this resolution addresses are women and people of color earning less than $10 an hour, looking after other people’s children all day and barely able to take care of their own families when they get home,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “The fact that the leaders in education won’t even take the time just to talk with these staff members says volumes about the value those leaders place on their work, and it’s just not right.”

“These men and women have gone more than five years without a contract, but they still have been required to pay increased pension and benefit contributions. The wages they received were barely enough to live on as it was,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Throughout all of this, they’ve had not a single opportunity to even request increased compensation. With this resolution, we stand in solidarity with the staff in Newark’s schools and push for an open, honest conversation about their rights.”

“Over the past five years, the Newark School District has received hundreds of millions of dollars in private and public funding, yet somehow, there’s not enough money for the custodians, cafeteria workers and security guards our schools could not function without,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “The time for negotiation is overdue, but in this case, late is far better than never.”

“There is an inextricable link between the well-being of the children in our schools and the presence of Newark’s non-instructional staff members,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “For our children’s sake, we need there to be a conversation between the unions and the district.”

“The non-instructional staff members working in Newark’s schools work hard. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect on the job,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “With this resolution, we show our support for employees our schools simply cannot do without.”

The resolution urges the Commissioner to direct the Newark School District superintendent and the bargaining representatives for the non-instructional employee unions to conclude new labor agreements within 90 days of approval of the resolution.

The resolution passed 49-25-4.