Anesia Lloyd, 21, had worked at Preschool of America (PSA)’s West End Day Care Center for five years. She enjoyed her job. She loved the children. Therefore, she tolerated the substandard pay of just over $10 an hour and the draconian conditions which had her working nine-hour days with only eight paid sick days a year, no two of which could be taken consecutively.
But when several years passed with no salary increase, Lloyd and some of her PSA colleagues grew increasingly discontent. Conditions were ripe for unionization, and when District Council 1707 AFSCME talked, PSA’s employees listened.
Joanna Fan, PSA’s CEO, was having none of it. She made her feelings perfectly clear: She would not negotiate a contract with the union. Period.
Fan went one step further. She held a special meeting to speak to those upstart workers. “She told me before the election not to vote for the union,” Lloyd told the Daily News. “She [said] she knew who I was and wanted to keep me, that I was good. She also said that no one would be fired,” said Lloyd in the News.
The law was on their side
According to the Federal Labor Law, employers are prohibited from threatening, intimidating or firing workers for union activity. In June of 2010, employees of Preschool of America’s West End branch filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), claiming harassment of the center’s pro-union workers.
Elections proceed on schedule
The West End Day Care Center’s union elections were held on Aug. 2. The result was pro-union. By Aug. 5, Lloyd and seven other West End employees, all of whom had voted in favor, were out on the street. The official reason? The terminated workers were “not dependable.”
“Nobody trusted [Fan], but I never thought she would fire me three days after the election,” Lloyd told the News.
Preschool of America employees protest firings
On Aug. 19, 2010, Preschool of America’s terminated employees protested outside the West End Avenue branch, and the union, citing illegal firings, has filed a new case with the National Labor Relations Board. “Representation elections are held daily across the nation without such dire actions,” Raglan George, Executive Direction of District Council 1707 AFSCME, told the New York Daily News. “Employers like Preschool of America and Joanna Fan must be compelled to respect the law and respect the basic rights of their employees,” he added.
Lexington Avenue branch workers could be next
The Daily News states that the West End facility is only one of 14 Preschool of America locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. Diana de Leon teaches at the Lexington Avenue branch. Despite holding a bachelor’s degree in childhood education, de Leon also earns only $10 an hour. Union elections at Lexington Avenue are coming up on Sept. 7, and CEO Fan has already paid that branch’s employees a visit. “They have threatened to fire anyone who joins the union,” de Leon told The News.
Daycare denies wrongdoing
According to the Daily News, Mark Bresky, Preschool of America’s general counsel, has issued a signed statement denying any wrongdoing on the daycare’s part. In that statement, he asserts that “Preschool’s recent decisions are not only lawful, but also in the best interests of its infants and preschoolers to whom Preschool remains committed.”
Preschool of America was founded in 2004. Its website defines it as “the largest preschool program in New York City,” with facilities in all five boroughs. Although PSA does not post its fees on line, the Daily News reports that its tuition approaches $2,000 per month, per child.
New York Daily News
Preschool of America.us