Metro, Top Story, Politics, Newton

Newton Teachers Association to Strike Beginning Friday

The Newton Teachers Association (NTA) voted Thursday night to strike beginning Friday, Jan. 19, according to a Newton School Committee (NSC) email sent to Newton Public Schools (NPS) families.

“By now you are aware that the Newton Teachers Association (NTA) voted to strike, beginning Friday, January 19, 2023,” the NSC wrote. “We empathize with our families, and most of all our students, who will bear the burden of this disruption.”

The results of the NTA strike authorization vote were 1641 votes yes and 33 votes no, according to Newton North High School teacher and NTA Contract Action Team co-chair Mike Schlegelmilch.

“This was an overwhelming vote to authorize a strike from our members and, you know, this is about all of the things that we’ve been fighting for over a year now,” Schlegelmilch said.

Schlegelmilch said the strike is a last-resort measure from the NTA in response to the impasse in contract negotiations. The NTA’s previous contract expired Aug. 31, and contract negotiations with the NSC have been ongoing since October 2022. 

“This was really not a decision that we made lightly at all—none of us want to be on the picket line tomorrow instead of in our classrooms,” Schlegelmilch said. “And it really says a lot about how we feel like we have not been heard at any points that we decided overwhelmingly that this was a necessary step we had to take.”

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and the NSC originally warned the NPS community of a strike vote on Tuesday, and NPS parents demonstrated in support of the NTA at City Hall on Wednesday.

Fuller condemned the strike in an email following the NSC announcement.

The Newton Teachers Association made the disturbing decision a short time ago to shut down schools for our students tomorrow, Friday, by striking illegally,” she wrote. “This decision is particularly damaging in the wake of the pandemic.”

Ali Erol, a Countryside Elementary School parent and Boston College professor, said he believes the messaging from the mayor and the NSC is divisive for the NPS community, while failing to address the NTA’s demands.

“Never once [have] I read in any email that they were empathizing with a teacher who has been struggling paying rent or eating,” Erol said. “Never once [have] I read in any email that said they would empathize with any grievances that teachers had.”

Erol believes the city communications surrounding contract negotiations are just one part of an unfair conflict. 

“The mayor is basically a voice for a particular side, and the mayor has the entire city’s resources—teachers do not,” Erol said. “So this is not an equal struggle.”

Schlegelmilch said that he feels optimistic about the outcome of the strike due to the NTA’s unification and support from NPS parents. He said NTA demands are reasonable and can be met through budget reallocation. 

“In the longer run, the mayor is going to need to rearrange her budget priorities to increase the allocation to the school budget in the long term, but right now there currently exists enough money to settle this contract,” Schlegelmilch said.

January 18, 2024