Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Lay Teachers in Philadelphia on Strike at 22 High Schools

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Lay Teachers in Philadelphia on Strike at 22 High Schools

Article excerpt

Lay teachers at 22 Philadelphia Catholic high schools went on strike Sept. 3, walking out over wages, benefits and an amendment to archdiocesan policies concerning sexual misconduct and harassment.

According to an archdiocesan spokesperson, key issues for church leadership center on the Catholic identity of schools, as well as "maintaining an appropriate balance between wages and tuition."

The union contends that a provision advanced by the archdiocese gives priests, brothers and religious preferential treatment if accused of improper sexual behavior or harassment. Under existing policy, when teachers are accused of such offenses, the matter is referred to the superintendent of schools.

Since the policy refers to "employees," the union contends that it should encompass all teachers. The archdiocese is pressing for new language that would refer an accusation to the religious superior in the case of a priest, brother or sister.

"Our position is that the contract should treat lay and religious employees equally," said Rita Schwartz, president of the Association of Catholic Teachers. "We may choose different lifestyle but we should receive the same treatment."

Jay Devine, a spokesman for the diocese, said, "This language brings the contract in line with canon law. This isn't a matter of preferential treatment." Devine works for the philadelphia public relations firm The Tierney Group.

On wages, the union is asking for a five to eight percent increase in each of the three years of the contract, along with reductions in the level of copayment in the teachers' medical plan. …

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