JERSEY CITY, NJ — Jersey City public school teachers and the school district are one step closer to the brink.
Hundreds of teachers cast their vote Monday afternoon authorizing their union leadership to call a strike as a last resort, a source told PIX11 News. It would be the city's first teachers' strike in twenty years.
"It's a fine line because if we do have a job action, then it's no pay," Jersey City Education Association Union Vice President Tina Thorp said. "But we have to fight."
Teachers need relief from Chapter 78, a health benefits overhaul from Chris Christie's time as governor, Thorp said. It forced teachers to pay significantly more for their health care premiums.
When it was passed in 2011, supporters of the bipartisan measure said the fiscal belt-tightening was long overdue.
Frustrated teachers, who have been working all school year without a contract, say Chapter 78 effectively torpedoed their paychecks.
"People are hurting," kindergarten teacher Michele Textor said.
The School Board will not comment at all on the ongoing negotiations.
But on Sunday, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop tweeted at a concerned resident, “And of course I think teachers should have a fair contract. We negotiated to a resolution with 6/7 of the city unions that I have responsibility for so the facts to our track record on supporting fair contracts is good."
He has no ability to impact the negotiations though.
"It's business now, strictly business," crisis intervention specialist Reginald Graham said. "We have to do what we have to do to survive."