NEW YORK, N.Y.—District Council 1707 AFSCME will picket a Bedford-Stuyvesant Head Start program’s offices May 10 to protest its firing of three shop stewards on May 1.
The Bedford Stuyvesant Early Childhood Development Center had previously fired the three—group teacher Deidre Paul, head cook Cathy Jackson, and family-service worker Eric Smith, all members of Head Start Employees Local 95—over the past year. According to DC 1707, which includes Local 95, management “was so hasty in their terminations” that it axed the three without going through the Step 2 grievance procedure required by the union’s contract.
In April, an arbitrator ordered the three reinstated, but management scheduled another hearing to dismiss them, and executive director Michelle Charles fired them after being told that that the union attorney was unable to appear. DC 1707 said that violated their “Weingarten rights,” named after a court decision that held workers must have union representation at a meeting where they could be suspended or terminated. The three returned to work on Tuesday May 1, and were axed immediately after they finished their shifts.
DC 1707 charged that the Bedford Stuyvesant Early Childhood Development Center fired the three “simply because they are vocal and effective shop stewards” and that it has “been attempting to break the union for years.” “Bed-Stuy’s actions are reprehensible,” DC 1707 executive director Kim Medina said in a statement. “After losing the contractually binding arbitration, the employer does not want to make my members whole by paying them their full back pay or returning them to work. The Council will go back to the arbitrator and again request relief from the National Labor Relations Board.”
The union said it filed unfair-labor practice charges with the NLRB regional office in Brooklyn May 4, alleging that Michelle Charles “personally traveled to sites last week threatening to discharge or retaliate against employees if they participated in a peaceful union action prior to their workday.”
The May 10 protest will begin at 3 p.m. at the Bedford Stuyvesant Early Childhood Development Center’s headquarters 813 Hancock St. A press conference will follow at 4:30.
“Their actions rob the center of its continuity to assist children and parents,” said Medina. “At a time when many of the city’s public center-based child-care centers suffer from problems with retaining qualified personnel, Bed-Stuy Head Start is working against the community. It wants employees to slavishly knuckle under their regime. They do not understand they are in New York City in the 21st century.”