Metro, Politics, Newton

Newton Teachers Demonstrate as Strike Continues

Newton North High School (NNHS) teachers marched across Newtonville on the second school day of their strike on Monday.

“We work very hard, extended hours beyond what we’re being paid for, many of us do extras on top of it, and we love what we do, but that’s not enough to pay the bills,” NNHS teacher Melynda Meszko-Cameron said.

The Newton Teachers Association (NTA) strike began on Friday, following over a year of unsuccessful contract negotiations. As of 3:00 p.m. Sunday, the union is in violation of a Middlesex Superior Court judge’s order to end the strike.

In an email to the Newton Public Schools (NPS) community, the Newton School Committee (NSC) reported a lack of headway during the third full-day mediation session on Sunday. 

“There remains significant distance between the parties on the other major issues,” the email reads.

Meszko-Cameron said she expects progress in negotiations to be slow.

“It’s gonna take a while,” Meszko-Cameron said. “The little things that they made progress on this weekend were things that we should not have to negotiate.” 

The NTA and the NSC have both expressed frustration with the pace of negotiations. 

In an email to Newton community members, the NSC said NTA representatives refused an offer for students to return to school while negotiations continued. 

“After waiting over five hours today for a response from the NTA on School Committee proposals made yesterday, the School Committee proposed to the NTA that their negotiating team and the NPS team continue to mediate tomorrow while students and all other staff return to school,” the NSC wrote in the email. “NTA president Mike Zilles refused.”

NTA members have blamed the NSC for the slow negotiations. According to an NTA member who acted as a silent observer for negotiations on Friday, the NSC arrived at the negotiation session without a contract proposal. 

Meszko-Cameron expressed disappointment with the NSC’s behavior.

“The treatment has been disheartening,” Meszko-Cameron said. “Clearly, they don’t see the urgency for getting our students back in schools.”

During the NNHS staff demonstration, Teamsters from the Teamsters Union Local 25, Timothy Haggerty and Karen Roopenian joined in with a truck to raise awareness for the striking teachers, playing music and honking throughout the neighborhood.

“The minute we come, everyone’s like ‘What’s going on? Why are you guys here?’” Roopenian said.

Haggerty, who, with Roopenian, has driven to support other strikes across the country, said that collaboration across unions is beneficial for workers’ rights. 

“If one union sticks together with all the other unions, we’re stronger in power,” Haggerty said.

NNHS teacher Ana Tellado said the NTA has not been able to negotiate some important demands, including hiring one social worker in every elementary school and cost-of-living adjustments. 

“We’re hoping that today we make a lot of progress so we can return to the classroom tomorrow,” Tellado said.

In her email to the Newton community Sunday evening, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller continued to call on the NTA to end the strike. 

“I believe firmly the adults can negotiate to resolve these issues and have a competitive contract that honors our teachers and is sustainable for our community …. while our children are in school learning,” she wrote. 

Tellado said the strike will not end until negotiations are successful.

“We’re frustrated and ready to go back, but we will not do it until we have settled a fair contract,” Tellado said.

January 22, 2024