State fines against the Newton Teachers Association (NTA) reached $375,000 Thursday night, as the union announced the sixth day of its strike.
“We knew there would be consequences when we took our [strike] vote,” Anne Carey, a teacher at Peirce Elementary School said. “Our plan is to stay out longer than Mayor Fuller and the school committee hold out.”
On Monday, a Middlesex County Superior Court judge issued an injunction against the NTA for its strike, with escalating fines that doubled each day the union was on strike. The union was fined $25,000 Monday night, $50,000 Tuesday night, $100,000 Wednesday night, and $200,000 as of Thursday. The fines are cumulative and will be paid to the state.
The injunction only specified punishment up to Thursday, and a hearing will take place on Friday, Jan. 26, to reevaluate the NTA’s punishment.
Denise Cremin, a teacher at Newton North High School, said it’s unclear what the new punishment would be.
“Going to court would be, you know, going in front of the judge and talking about the progress that we’ve made and seeing if something else needs to be done,” Cremin said. “But we’re already in mediation, so I don’t know what that something else would be.”
Cremin said the union plans to use a combination of reserve funds and donations to pay the fines.
“We have funds in reserve, also we have the backing of national organizations,” Cremin said.
According to Cremin, donations to the NTA website covered the first $25,000 fine issued Monday.
“We are receiving donations on our website,” Cremin said. “There’s a button to donate. In fact, our first day of fines, which was Monday, was already fully funded by donations that we had received.”
At Wednesday’s negotiation session, the union and the Newton School Committee (NSC) reached an agreement on parental leave and added another year to teacher contracts, according to an email from the NSC. With this agreement, new contracts will be negotiated every four years instead of every three years.
“The parties negotiated on the issue of parental leave and we are pleased with the forward progress,” the NSC wrote. “The School Committee also agreed to negotiate on a fourth year of the contract.”
In an email to community members on Wednesday evening, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller spoke positively about the negotiations’ progress.
“The two sides are talking – that’s progress,” Fuller wrote.
According to Cremin, the NSC rejected several NTA proposals prior to Wednesday’s negotiations.
“[Wednesday] was the first day of actual, real negotiation up until this point,” Cremin said. “The school committee has basically been taking our proposals and rejecting everything in our proposals. So [Wednesday], negotiating on something was progress.”
Carey said she appreciates the support from Newton community members, as the NTA works toward new contracts.
“The mayor doesn’t always want to listen to Newton teachers, but she will listen to Newton voters,” Carey said.