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Unionized Child Care Workers March Up ‘Canyon Of Heroes’ Demanding Wage Equality

Photo Credit: DC 1707
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By G.L. Tyler, District Council 1707 (New York) Worth the Fight Workers' Rights

NEW YORK – Embattled early childhood educators and other staff made an impassioned plea to be paid on par with other employees of the New York City Department of Education.

They marched up the Canyon of Heroes – a parade route in New York on Broadway Avenue – to make the case for wage equity.

The June 21 march ended outside City Hall, not with ticker tape thrown from windows, but with music blaring and the roar of DC 1707 members who demanded that the City of New York recognize their skills and dedication. These public day care and Head Start employees claim discrimination because they are required to have the same qualifications as Department of Education employees but earn much less over time.

In some cases, a day care center teacher, even after years on the job, can earn $40,000 less than public school teachers. Center directors with advanced degrees say that in some instances early-education teachers they supervise earn more than them under the multiple wage-tier system maintained by city administration.

Elected officials, union leaders and child care advocates showed up to support the workers.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer; Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council; and Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the union that represents center directors and assistant directors, all denounced the city for paying center-based child care professionals and staff much less than public school employees.

They were joined by City Councilmembers Stephan Levin, Mark Treyger, Ben Kallos and Jumaane Williams, a candidate for lieutenant governor of New York state. Child care advocates representing scores of groups were also in attendance.

They called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to end the double standard of paying unionized child care workers significantly less, with Stringer saying there’s enough money in the budget to support wage parity now.

“Forty years ago, you were called baby sitters.  They insulted you and they never paid you what you were worth. Today you are honored as early childhood professionals but you are not paid the wages you need to live in New York City,” said DC 1707 Executive Director Kim Medina.

She quoted from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to the Memphis, Tennessee, sanitation workers on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated: “But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth.”

Medina said she looks forward to speaking with de Blasio regarding wage parity, adding that DC 1707 members are growing impatient and want a resolution sooner rather than later.