Catholic teachers vote to strike

THE BRONX - Catholic school teachers voted Tuesday to strike after working months without a contract. The strike is timed to coincide with Pope Benedict XVI?s visit to New York later in April.

Union officials hope the strike?s timing will make it more effective and jolt the archdiocese into action. The union is seeking higher salaries and better benefits for its 430 members. However, the archdiocese says it?s already offered its best deal and will not bargain further. Church officials also called the union?s timing insulting.

?They?re just going to embarrass themselves and insult the Holy Father and insult the people of this archdiocese,? says Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesperson.

The teachers? union, though, says the strike is aimed toward the archdiocese and not the pontiff.

?We?re not protesting the Holy Father?s visit,? says Anthony Cussimano, a union official. ?We have an important message to get out to the Catholic community and that is that [the archdiocese] refuses to talk about the future of their teachers.?

Students and parents that News 12 The Bronx - spoke to at Cardinal Hayes High School were divided on the issue. Some students expressed frustration at having their school year disrupted. Some parents, however, felt the archdiocese should give teachers what they deserve.

The teachers are seeking a 12.5 percent raise and a freeze in health care costs.

Pope Benedict is scheduled to visit New York from April 18 ? 20.

Catholic school teachers 'sick' of contracts

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