Striking Catholic teachers take protest to Manhattan

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Striking Catholic school teachers put pressure on church leaders in the midst of the pope?s visit by protesting outside the Catholic Center in Manhattan Friday.

The teachers gathered outside Cardinal Edward Egan?s office in the morning, less than a mile away from where the pope was addressing the General Assembly at the United Nations. It was a peaceful protest with a strong message. They want a new contract, but union leaders say they are not optimistic as they head back into negotiations.

It is not a coincidence the teachers? strike coincides with Pope Benedict XVI?s visit to New York. While the teachers don?t want to disrupt the pontiff?s visit, they do hope he hears their message. ?[The pope] came here with an agenda about Catholic education,? says Lay Faculty Association President Henry Kielkucki. ?We want him to know we want to teach, but can't do so for that amount money.?

The average Catholic school teacher earns about $44,000 a year. They turned down a four-year deal that included pay raises, but also included an increase in health benefit contributions.

If the teachers don?t have a deal with the Archdiocese of New York when the pope leaves the U.S., they vow to continue their fight.Burketeachers cross picket line in archdiocese fightCatholicschool teachers threaten strike for pope's visit

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