Catholic teachers in strike threat

There will be plenty of memorable images from Pope Benedict XVI's visit to New York City next month: a trip to Ground Zero, a public Mass celebrated at Yankee Stadium. But there's one possible image the Archdiocese of New York can't be looking forward to: hundreds of Catholic school teachers walking picket lines.

More than 400 teachers at 10 Catholic high schools — including John S. Burke Catholic in Goshen and Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie — represented by the Lay Faculty Association will vote tomorrow night on a possible strike during the Pope's visit.

Association president John Fedor, a science teacher at Burke, says he expects his members to vote to walk out.

The teachers have been without a contract since September and an independent mediator failed to bridge the gap between them.

On Jan. 10, more than 300 teachers staged a one-day sick out, which canceled classes at Burke and Lourdes.

The union and archdiocese are at odds over salaries, pension contributions and medical premiums.

Now, teachers are poised to strike for the first time since a 17-day walkout in 2001.

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling did not return a call for comment yesterday.

Fedor says member won't do anything to actively interrupt the papal visit, but the strike's timing has a purpose.

"We are looking to embarrass the archdiocese," Fedor said. "They deserve to be embarrassed."


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