Jersey City school teachers say they can’t afford to live in city, fed up over contract issues

JERSEY CITY, NJ — Teachers in Jersey City could be on the verge of a strike after a year of work without a new contract.

Hundreds of teachers showed up at a Thursday school board meeting. They're frustrated and want their voices heard.

Payments for rising health insurance premiums have come out of their pockets at a time when salaries have been going down. Some teachers make less today than they did 10 years ago, Jersey City teacher Kristen Zadroga-Hart said.

"No teacher comes in to the profession thinking they’re going to get rich. We come in to make a difference in our community and our children’s lives," Zadroga-Hart said. "That being said, we need to have a livable wage. We can’t afford to live in Jersey City anymore."

The last time there was a strike in Jersey City was in 1998. That lasted 10 days. No one wants that to happen again, but these teachers plan to stand up for themselves.

“Our members will not and cannot settle a contract that offers zero relief on their health benefits," Ron Greco, president of the Jersey City Education Association union said.

The union has around 4,100 members. Teachers health insurance premiums are expected to go up between 13 and 15 percent by January.

“We want the respect we deserve as professionals and we would like the relief," teacher Eric Black said. "We think we deserve it and it is something owed to us."