Will Catholic teachers strike when Benedict’s in town?

When the union representing teachers at 10 Catholic high schools said a few months back that they might strike during the papal visit, I was skeptical.

Would teachers really want to strike when Benedict’s in town?

It sounded like a strategy to get the Archdiocese of New York to improve its contract offer before the pope arrives.

But now the papal visit is only weeks away and the Lay Faculty Association yesterday voted 132-20 — that’s pretty one-sided — to authorize a strike.

Many teachers are bitter over what they perceive to be poor treatment and a lack of respect from the archdiocese. But the archdiocese says its contract offer is both fair and the best it can do.

If relations between the archdiocese and the LFA were bad before…

The LFA has been without a contract since Aug. 31. It’s important to note that this union represents about 430 teachers at 10 schools run by the archdiocese, including Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains, Maria Regina in Hartsdale and Kennedy Catholic in Somers.

The larger Catholic teachers union, the Federation of Catholic Teachers, which represents about 3,300 elementary school teachers, is also without a contract. But the federation, which is traditionally much less confrontational than the LFA, is not threatening a strike.

If the LFA does strike when Benedict is in town, will the pope even know? You have to figure he won’t spend much time watching the news. And his keepers probably won’t share the news of picketing teachers.

But Cardinal Egan will know. Things could get ugly.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.