Philly Catholic school teachers walk picket lines

September 7, 2011 3:08:41 PM PDT
Teachers have begun picketing outside schools run by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as part of a contract dispute.

The teachers began walking the picket lines Wednesday, the first day of school for freshmen at most of the Catholic schools in the city and surrounding suburbs.

Students and parents had to make their way around the picket line to enter the building. Those we spoke to say they simply want this issue resolved.

"It's a lot of money and I want her to get the education that I've paid for. All of the parents do. But I want the teachers to be happy," said Ana Sousa-Fernandes of Northeast Philadelphia.

"They make less than a public school teacher and these teachers work hard. They deserve whatever they're asking for," said Raphael Rivera of Frankford.

The last strike affecting Archdiocesan schools was eight years ago.

The lay instructors voted overwhelmingly to walk off the job in the midst of a contract dispute.

The teachers say the proposals put forth by the Archdiocese, including the hiring of non-union part-time teachers, are a thinly-veiled attempt at busting the union. Union President Rita Schwartz says the last meeting with the Archdiocese proved nothing less than insulting.

"We were given a document with 20 items on it and we were told 'You take them all or you take nothing,'" Schwartz said.

The Archdiocese says they're not trying to break the union, adding they have offered the teachers a very generous package including an average 7.84% salary increase over the next three years.

Richard McCarron, Secretary for the Office of Catholic Education, says he doesn't understand why the union is using what he calls heavy-handed tactics.

"These are my ninth set of negotiations, and I've never seen such stalling or delaying tactics in all the years I've been here," said McCarron.

The strike applies to about 700 teachers in the five-county diocese but doesn't affect elementary schools.

Administrators and nonunion employees are overseeing the students, who will mostly be attending orientation sessions for the first few days of school. Classes are scheduled to begin in earnest next week.

No new talks have been scheduled.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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