By John Mooney


Meanwhile, the Newark Teachers Union yesterday elected its first new president in 20 years, picking longtime union official John Abeigon to replace outgoing president Joseph Del Grosso.

It was no small development, given that the union has long been a thorn in Anderson’s side and is about to face new contract negotiations to follow up on the district’s landmark deal of three years ago.

Negotiated by Cerf and Anderson on one side and Del Grosso and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten on the other, that deal led to the state’s first large-scale performance bonuses for teachers, a point of pride for both Anderson and Christie.

But it also has been a point of dispute between the union and the administration ever since, with the union contending that the contract’s full provisions to protect teachers were never adequately implemented. The contract expires on June 30.

Abeigon, 57, has been a chief antagonist of Anderson’s and hardly struck a conciliatory tone yesterday about her successor, saying he wanted to take the union on a more “radical” path than his predecessor, adding that he doubted a similar contract could be struck under his leadership.

“I am my own man, nobody hired me as a ‘yes’ man, ” Abeigon said at a post-election gathering at a restaurant in Newark’s Ironbound district.

“I am more radical, and more open to radicalism,” he continued. “I recognize this is a war on public employees and school employees in general that somehow needs to be turned back.

“We have to be a different union,” Abeigon said. “Of course, we still need to be bread-and-butter services for our members, since for most members that’s Number One. But obviously, there is a contingent that wants to see more radical action, more involvement with social justice causes.”

A former English teacher, Abeigon finished ahead of two rivals for the post, with only about a quarter of the eligible members casting mail-in ballots.

Abeigon drew 452 votes; Branden Rippey, leading the Newark Education Workers faction, drew 365; and former union secretary Michael Dixon drew 243. Abeigon’s slate also won 23 of 29 executive board positions.

Rippey said he would challenge the vote, and Dixon also questioned the mail-in process that saw such a low turnout. But both also said they hope the union can unite in facing off against the new leadership of the district.


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