Public school teachers in Jersey City, N.J., have gone on strike for the first time in 20 years in pursuit of lower health care costs.
NJ.com reports the walkout began Friday after late-night negotiations between the school board and the Jersey City Education Association (JCEA) failed to result in a deal.
Teachers in the 29,000-student district have worked under an expired contract since Sept. 1. They say that a 2011 law that revamped how public employees pay for their health benefits in the state has sharply curtailed their take-home pay.
WABC-TV reports that the union says, after months of talks, it has not received an acceptable offer.
"JCEA's fight for affordable health care and a fair contract settlement remain the pivotal issues," a union statement says. The two parties have met more than 20 times since they began negotiations in May of 2017. The union has come to the table time and time again and is eager to reach a settlement."
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop says that the board's most recent offer—a 3.5 percent increase in the first year and a 2.7 percent increase in the second—seemed "very fair."
The district spent $98.9 million in 2017-18 on health benefits. The employee share of that was $19.9 million. The district's total budget is $682 million.
Teachers were joined on the picket line by school nurses, paraprofessionals, secretaries, child study teams, guidance counselors and non-certified administrators. Security guards are not striking.
The school board has met three times this week in an effort to come to a deal, most recently on Thursday, when it convened until 12:30 a.m. Friday. It voted 4-2 to approve a contract offer — three board members cannot vote because they were endorsed by the teachers union in November's elections — but by that time, teachers had already been told the strike was on.