|Here is the FCT’s administration. From left to right are President Joanne Perrotta, Vice President Leanne Cole and Secretary-Treasurer Lily Liang.
Fresh on the heels of a difficult contract fight that resulted in a new four-year contract, the Federation of Catholic Teachers (FCT) has stood up to other issues of great concern to its members.
As reported in the last edition of Local 153 News, the contract is retroactive to 9/1/18. The four-year agreement has compounded wage increases of 1, 1, 2 and 2 percent and other increases, and there were no givebacks in pension or medical benefits. There were other contractual issues settled in favor of the teachers.
Following the successful contract negotiation FCT President Julia Pignataro retired and a new election of officers was held. The new officers of the FCT are President Joanne Perrotta, Vice President Leanne Cole and Secretary-Treasurer Lily Liang.
The FCT’s new leadership team faced immediate and difficult challenges. On July 9, 2020 the Archdiocese of New York closed 20 schools and merged three others, leaving 350 teachers facing sudden and unexpected unemployment. Making matters worse, the Archdiocese skimped on the severance pay that the union believes these teachers are due. This resulted in the FCT filing a grievance as well as unfair labor practice charges, all of which are pending as this edition of Local 153 News is being printed. The issue has drawn the attention of the New York Daily News, resulting in several news articles.
In its most recent article on the subject, the Daily News reported that the FCT believes its members are shortchanged on the severance pay they are entitled to receive, while at the same time the Archdiocese is creating roadblocks that make it difficult for them to obtain new jobs at other schools in its jurisdiction.
Carolyn Shea, a teacher at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School on Staten Island for 16 years, told the Daily News, “It’s not like a lot of Catholic school teachers are working for the money. It’s a slap in the face, very un-Christian. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
The Archdiocese also refused to extend a deadline for teachers to make a decision on being placed on a rehire list, complicating matters to the point where many missed out on retirement bonuses.
“There was no extension of help, no compassion or understanding,” Barbara Campiz, a Catholic school teacher for 38 years told the Daily News. “They just aren’t very forthcoming in helping. I’m still kind of angry.”
“We will fight the Archdiocese tooth and nail on this issue,” FCT President Joanne Perrotta said. “We will vigorously pursue both the grievance and the unfair labor practice charges we have filed. This fight over severance pay is far from over!”
The Archdiocese used COVID-19 as the excuse for closing the 20 schools in July, and the pandemic has created other problems as well. The FCT is fighting to keep the teachers whole financially when they are required to teach both remotely and live, and is insisting on safety precautions in the schools. The union was able to get the Archdiocese to agree to an FCT proposal to allow teachers to do field inspections and report areas where the schools are not following Department of Health and CDC guidelines. An industrial hygienist, Jonathan Rosen, was hired by Local 153 and to assist in this process. The FCT has held Zoom meetings with its members to review health and safety precautions in the schools, with Rosen explaining how to do the field inspections. Local 153 Business Manager Richard Lanigan participated in these meetings.
“The health and safety of students, teachers, staff and their families is of the utmost concern to our union,” Perrotta noted. “While the inoculation against COVID-19 continues, we will continue to monitor the situation in the schools where our members teach to ensure that all recommended health and safety measures are taken.”
Perrotta also praised the involvement of Business Manager Richard Lanigan and Local 153. “We have been very fortunate,” she said. “Richard Lanigan personally assisted in our contract negotiations as well as the COVID-19-related areas we are dealing with now. We are very grateful for that support.”
Often lost in the “give-and-take” between the FCT and the Archdiocese of New York are the unparalleled achievements of the teachers. An astounding 95% of Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of New York graduate high school and 98% of those graduates go on to college, many with scholarships.
“It is impossible to forget the outstanding track record of FCT members when it comes to the education they provide,” Business Manager Lanigan said. “We are deeply proud of our affiliation with the FCT.”