Contract deadline looms for Catholic teachers union

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The New York Archdiocese and the union representing teachers of four Catholic schools in Hudson Valley are struggling to reach a contract agreement before the Friday deadline.

If the teachers do not approve the deal that has been proposed by the archdiocese, raises will be off the table. But a representative of the union says they will not be forced into a vote.

?They can threaten all the want, but if they follow on this threat, it's going to be [a] chaotic, chaotic school year,? says Henry Kielkucki, of Lay Faculty Association.

Currently, teachers who work at the four schools are expected to begin the upcoming school year without a contract, but the union says a strike is not out of the question.

?You can't take money away from teachers who already don't have money and expect them to be calm in the classroom,? Kielkucki says.

Kielkucki adds, however, that the union is eager to reach a deal as soon as possible in order to move forward.

Joe Zwilling, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of New York, says the union was offered a deal through a mediator, which was rejected. The deal included more money for teachers, but also required an increase in health care costs.

?We're only asking the teachers to contribute in the same way that every other lay employee [does],? Zwilling says.

The union leaders contend, however, that fewer teachers are enrolled in the health plan than other employees of the archdiocese, and they already paying a lot.

The teachers? union plans to boycott and possibly picket at a labor Mass that Cardinal Edward Egan will celebrate next month.

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