Education, Features, New York, topslot

Organizing Pre-K Teachers After Historic Agreement

August 27, 2019

By Silver Krieger

Union organizers talk with pre-k workers at a Dept. of Ed event in August.

New York, NY – An agreement in July between city and union officials was a re-opener on a contract that has allowed the union, DC 1707, to focus on challenges to pay parity for teachers in day care centers vs. Board of Education teachers. LaborPress spoke to Indira Mohan, currently Organizing Director at DC 1707, and, as of September 1, Associate Director of Organizing at DC 37 (the unions are unifying), about the organizing efforts and the historic agreement.

“The agreement provided pay raises for certified teachers (BA or MA degrees) of $17,000 to $20,000, so they are on par with salaries in public schools. That alone is a huge accomplishment,” Mohan said. “Our union has been fighting for this for decades. We were able to get to this point because the directors in our centers were having trouble retaining qualified staff. Our teachers would leave [the centers] stranded at the start of the school year. [We didn’t have] consistent care for people in community-based settings and those who do work in those settings.

A few factors came together: the pressure we’ve been putting on the city for a long time, the unification with our sister union (DC 37), and the Mayor [Bill de Blasio] who understands what we’ve been dealing with for a long time.

[Also], the memorandum of agreement provides for affordable health care. It improves upon the current health care, with ongoing discussions for improved care in 2020…there is also a free career ladder open to all members in the contract with B.A. or M.A.’s in Early Childhood Education at CUNY institutions, and subsidized tuition re-imbursement at any other college or university. The information can be found on our campaign website, at www.childcaretimeisnow.org.

After the agreement, it still had to be ratified. In the meantime, we were getting phone calls from those interested in joining the union. So after the agreement was ratified on August 1st, we began a focused effort to go out and try to meet some people who had reached out to us and those who we knew were not part of the union. Our goal was to make sure every person who could benefit from this agreement could, [but] they had to be part of the union. It was a great opportunity to speak to those workers not part of the union to let them know they had the right to be part of the union and also that they would benefit immediately should they decide to join the union.

In most traditional organizing campaigns, you don’t necessarily have the chance to speak to the employer early in the process. In this case we felt it was important to do so. The school year was going to start. [We wanted to hear] ‘Yes, I can afford to hold on to my teachers, and I want to pay them.’ We’ve spoken to directors and teachers and gotten a very positive response. They are excited and want to fight for even [further] improved benefits.

Summer has been a challenge [for organizing]. Many teachers are on break. [But] we have ten meetings this week. This is a back-to-school prep week. Our contacts will pick up even more.

Last week, the Department of Education had a new employee orientation for early childhood educators and we had a table and spoke to folks there.”

Asked about possible impediments to organizing, Mohan said, “You are always going to have an employer who is in this for the wrong reason – beyond taking care of the kids – they just want to hold onto power. But having talks with the director ahead of time really helps.”

Those with further questions for Mohan, or to arrange a meeting, can contact her at IMohan@dc1707.net.

August 27, 2019

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