Phila. Catholic high schools to open amid strike

PHILADELPHIA - September 6, 2011

The teachers union is accusing the archdiocese of union busting and being anti-teacher. The archdiocese is accusing union leaders of distortions, unbelievable delays, and stalling tactics.

Caught in the middle of this fight are the over 16,000 students that attend Philadelphia's 17 Catholic high schools.

"It's messed up, now we can't even get an education, but we're paying to go to this school," said Brandon Chapman, a junior at Cardinal O'Hara High School.

"We're coming in tomorrow, but we don't know what we're going to be doing, because they are on strike. I feel like we're just going to be standing there," said Matt Penza, a freshman at Cardinal O'Hara.

At Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield late Tuesday, football players just received word of the strike and how it will be affecting them.

"We're supposed to play Haverford Boys School on Saturday, but we can't now, because we've been postponed. No football, it's horrible," said Gabe Cordes, a sophomore.

Those were similar sentiments felt all around.

"I really wanted to play. This was supposed to be a big game for us, and they're saying that we can't play after we did all this hard work all year," said Daman Brinkley, a sophomore.

Only hours earlier, negotiations between both sides broke off in a wash of acrimony. The union voted overwhelmingly to reject the archdiocese's most recent proposal.

Union President Rita Schwartz accused the archdiocese of union busting in its latest offer.

"We were given a document with 29 items on it and we were told, you take them all or nothing," said Schwartz.

The archdiocese says what was non-negotiable in its view was the ability to be able to hire part time teachers.

"We cannot continue to do what we've done in the past, if we're going to be on the cutting edge in transforming our schools," said Richard McCarron, the Secretary for Catholic Education.

The archdiocese also wants to be able to lay off teachers and make them re-apply for positions if schools close.

"Now they're saying we lay-off everybody, if there's an opening, you have a shot at an interview, sorry, doesn't cut it with us," said Schwartz.

Contract talks between both sides seem to have fallen to the abyss. They are hoping to get back to the negotiating table sometime Thursday.

All 17 high schools operated by the archdiocese are scheduled to open Wednesday with classes being run by administrators and non-union employees.

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