SOMERVILLE, NJ - Frustrated by years of stalled negotiations and watching their take-home pay decline as their benefits contributions go up, as well as watching their colleagues lose their jobs to privatization, educators and educational support professionals from Somerset County’s public schools plan to converge in Somerville Thursday to raise awareness about these issues and demand change from their local legislators.

The two-hour rally will be held on Main Street and begins at 4:30 p.m.

Since the passage of Chapter 78 in 2011, public employee benefits contributions have been steadily increasing because of a formula that ties these contributions to a percentage of benefits costs.  Consequently, educators’ take-home pay has dramatically been reduced, with many of them making less now than they did five or six years ago, forcing school employees to take second and third jobs to make ends meet.   

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Additionally, many boards of education refuse to negotiate any relief from these effects, which result in stalled negotiations throughout the county, forcing school employees to work under expired contracts as the bargaining process moves through mediation and fact finding and increasing the costs associated with bargaining. Negotiations between school boards and teachers and support staff in Somerville and Bridgewater-Raritan are stalled over employee benefits contributions. 

Most notably, however, boards of education are resorting to threatening to privatize its district support staff and bring in hourly workers to fill the void, if their teachers and support staff don’t acquiesce to demands at the bargaining table, according to the New Jersey Education Association, sponsors of the rally.  

The Rally for Relief seeks to shine a spotlight on these issues, while sparking the need for constructive conversation on the best ways to attract and retain the highest quality educators and support staff for Somerset County’s award-winning public schools, according to the NJEA.

State Senator Christopher Bateman, R-Somerset, HUnterdon, Middlesex, Mercer and Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker(D-16th) and Roy Freiman(D-16th) have indicated their plans to attend, along with 7th Congressional District Democrat candidate Tom Malinowski, according to the sponsors.