NJEA members found out late last week that two bills aiming to provide job justice for educational support professionals (ESP) (Many ESP’s are custodians, secretaries, aides, bus drivers etc.) would be heard by the Assembly Labor Committee on Thursday, Feb 14. Members sprang into action and got to work making phone calls, sending emails and posting on social media. Today the unyielding advocacy of those NJEA members paid off when both bills were passed out of committee.
A-3395, which would prevent the subcontracting of public school employees during the life of active collective bargaining agreement, was voted out of committee 6-3. A-3664, which would ensure due process for ESP members, was voted out committee 6 – 3. Both bills now move to the Assembly floor and await a vote by the whole body.
NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller testified in support of both bills. “We’re here today because we are asking you to ‘Fix The Unfairness’ said Spiller. “We see our ESP colleagues being treated as ‘lesser’ than our certificated counterparts despite their invaluable contributions to the success of our schools and students.”
Spiller emphasized that the bills would affect all school employees, “ESPs are worth the peace of mind that both A-3664 and A-3395 would help bring them. That security would go beyond just the employees themselves. It would be felt by everyone in the school community, because these bills would make our schools more stable and consistent.”
NJEA Executive Committee member and Educational Support Professional in the East Orange School District, Kim Scott, shared her story as she testified in support of A-3664. “For me, as an Educational Support Professional who’s dedicated my life’s work to helping children grow, this bill is about respect, fairness and worth” said Scott. “To me, everyone who works in a school is an educator because it takes an entire team of dedicated professionals to make a school work. We are truly essential school professionals”
NJEA member and Administrative Assistant in the Orange School District, Jaime Fonseca, testified in support of A-3395. “When school districts move to privatize their educational support professionals, everyone in the community suffers” said Fonesca. “The students have to worry that their bus drivers will be different each day or that there will be a different person – a stranger, perhaps – greeting them as they enter the hallways of their school.”
While today’s committee represents an important step forward, there is more work to do. Before they get to Gov. Murphy’s desk, they need to be voted on by the entire Assembly. A similar process needs to happen with the Senate versions, which have not yet been heard in a committee. NJEA members are encouraged to continue contacting their legislators to urge them to support both bills.
Our educational support professionals (ESPs) are invaluable to our public schools. However, the jobs of our ESPs are put at risk when decision makers attempt to privatize for short-term fixes, which creates long-term negative consequences. Additionally, for too long the law has denied ESP members basic fairness in their employment, including critical decisions such as discipline and dismissal. NJEA is working to secure rights and protections for our ESP members by pushing legislation to prevent subcontracting and mandate just cause arbitration.
Prevents Subcontracting and Requires Employee Notice (S-296; A-3185/A-3395)
Status: Senate Education Committee; Assembly Labor Committee
During the term of an existing collective bargaining agreement, these bills would prohibit employers from entering into a subcontracting agreement that affects the employment of those covered by that contract.
Once a collective bargaining agreement expires, an employer would be permitted to enter into a subcontracting agreement only if:
- The employer provides written notice to both the majority representative of employees in each collective bargaining unit and to the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission at least 90 days prior to any effort by the employer to seek the subcontracting agreement.
- The employer offers the majority representative the opportunity to meet and discuss the decision to subcontract and negotiate over its impact.
Each employee replaced or displaced because of a subcontracting agreement would retain all previously acquired seniority and would have recall rights if the subcontracting terminates.
While ESPs are more commonly subject to privatization threats, the bills also cover the subcontracting of professional services.
Just Cause Arbitration (S-3089/A-3664) (Caputo, Jasey, Dancer, Reynolds-Jackson)
Status: Assembly Labor Committee
S-3089/A-3664 would extend to non-teaching employees of local, county or regional school districts, boards or commissions the right to submit to binding arbitration any dispute regarding whether there is just cause for a disciplinary action.
Disciplinary actions subject to arbitration would include, but not be limited to, reprimands, the withholding of a salary increment, termination, non-renewal, an expiration or lapse of an employment contract or term, or the lack of continuation of employment, irrespective of the reason for the employer’s action or failure to act, and irrespective of any contractual or negotiated provision of any contractual or negotiated provision or lack thereof. The bill places the burden of proof on the employer.