Boiling Point: NTA supporters rally outside City Hall as potential strike vote nears

On Sunday, as teachers, parents and local officials sat and discussed Newton’s ongoing teacher contract dispute, parents wanted to know how they could pressure Mayor Ruthanne Fuller to allocate more money toward Newton’s schools.

City councilors in attendance recommended confronting the mayor in person.

And on Wednesday, they did.

About a hundred people—parents and other supporters of the Newton Teachers Association—held a massive protest outside City Hall to push the mayor to meet the NTA’s demands and end the year-long dispute.

A protester wears a Cookie Monster costume at a rally for the Newton Teachers Association. Photo by Howard Sholkin

The rally came as the community braced itself for an expected NTA strike vote on Thursday. The School Committee announced on Tuesday that it had asked the state to investigate the NTA for strike activity, as teacher strikes are illegal in Massachusetts.

Opposing sides appeared to find some common ground—or, at least, an understanding that more work was needed but reconciliation was possible—at a gathering at the Scandinavian Living Center. In fact, multiple parents at that meeting expressed concern about a strike, and a teacher and NTA member told them no strike was planned yet.

But on Tuesday, that Sunday gathering was ancient history and NTA President Mike Zilles didn’t deny that a strike vote was planned for Thursday. And on Wednesday morning, that passion and fury showed up at the mayor’s door to let her know things had reached a boiling point.

“It’s not the responsibility of the educators to take an effective pay cut against inflation in order to subsidize the level of services that this community wants to provide,” City Councilor Bill Humphrey said into a megaphone. “It is also a moral constitutional right of any worker, individually or organized, to withdraw their labor if necessary as a means of getting a fair contract!”

Parents and teachers rally outside City Hall for the Newton Teachers Association. Photo by Howard Sholkin