Preschool of America Fires Workers for Joining Union
By Neal Tepel
September 1, 2010
Preschool of America, a for-profit daycare company has declared war on workers at their schools. Teacher’s Assistants at a branch of the Preschool of America located at 101 West End Avenue voted to join a union 10 to 3, on August 2, 2010. The election was certified by the National Labor Relations Board. Following the vote, 8 workers at this school owned by Preschool were terminated.
The action by Preschool of America angered many parents, upset children and affected quality education at the center. Parents were so enraged that 56 signed a petition calling on management to “cease and desist reprimanding, harassing and terminating” employees who seek union representation. Federal labor law prohibits firing, harassing or threatening workers who vote for or are engaged in union activities.
Raglan George, Jr., executive director of AFSCME DC 1707, explained, “Parents have a right to be concerned about the continuity of education for their children and have demonstrated their concern about these young workers who have chosen a profession that should be honored and not smeared because they want to support their families with dignity.”
Following the termination of the 8 workers for wanting to join a union, two popular Head Teachers, Diana DeLeon, at the Lexington Avenue School and Wendy Puello from the Upper West Side location were also fired. Puello had testified at a hearing of the NLRB Region 2 in Manhattan for the right to vote for the union as a Head Teacher.
The NLRB supported District Council 1707 petition and rejected the company's claim that Head Teachers were supervisors and could not vote. Puello was fired after her public statements to the NLRB in favor of the union. DeLeon gave an interview to the New York Daily News describing how the company had fired pro-union employees. DeLeon herself was subsequently let go after the article was published on Sunday, August 22, 2010.
In a letter from the company to parents, obtained by Laborpress, Preschool of America Chief Executive Director Joanna Fan accused DeLeon of lying about the company's policy of firing pro-union workers. Though Fan failed to adequately explain the coincidence that the firing of the head teachers came directly after DeLeon publicly expressed her support for the union.
DC 1707 also charged that Preschool of America CEO, Joanna Fan, is unwilling to enter into negotiations with the union for a contract. “Representation elections are held daily across the nation without such dire actions,” said DC 1707 Executive Director Raglan George Jr. “But employers like Preschool of America and Joanna Fan must be compelled to respect the law and respect the basic rights of their employees.”
Mabel Everett, president of Day Care Employees Local 205, District Council 1707, said that she was "extremely proud of the young women who are enduring this terror from their employer because they are fighting for their right to organize a union in their shop and desire to have a fair and equitable contract." "It is sad that this employer disrespects these employees and federal law to repress wages and benefits,” she pointed out.
District Council 1707 has protested the firing of employees and has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, asking for injunctive relief and for terminated employees to be put back to work. Demonstrations and other actions are being planned by labor leaders, parent associations, legislators and community organizations.
The passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill pending in Congress, would provide important remedies to the ongoing problem of employers violating the law and engaging in union busting activities. By imposing stiffer penalties on companies that flout labor laws and speeding up the certification process, workers would be provided with stronger protection in the organizing process.