By GREGORY N. HEIRES
About 40 day-care center workers in Westchester County staged a one-day strike on Thursday, protesting years of frozen pay and their employer’s most recent outrage, a failure to repair a summertime breakdown of the air conditioning system.
“Enough is enough,” said Kim Medina, deputy administrator of District Council 1707, which represents day-care workers Local 205 and will unify with District Council 37 in September.
“Because of management’s failure to negotiate seriously, our members are struggling to meet their daily expenses,” Medina, who will become the special assistant to the executive director for the new Non-Profit and Private Sector Division of District Council when the unification of the two councils occurs. “The agency’s failure to address the scorching working conditions is only the latest abuse.”
The parents of infants and toddlers at the center joined workers on the picket line. They provided Local 205 members with coffee and donuts in the morning and pizza later in the day.
Shop Steward Onja Overby, a head teacher for infants and toddlers, expressed her disgust over the unwillingness of the Lois Bronz Children’s Center to shut down the facility as students and the staff coped with temperatures nearing 90 degrees.
In the event of a building emergency, such as a loss of heat, air conditioning or water, the local’s contract requires the center to shut down temporarily as repairs are done. Instead, the non-profit agency has installed industrial fans in the hallways and household fans are being used in the classrooms.
Workers fear the children may be harmed if a fan falls on them or they stick their fingers inside. Some students and workers have asthma, which often worsens under spikes in temperatures.
The agency has hired a union-busting firm from Baltimore to negotiate with the union, DC 1707 Field Services Director Rafael Sencio noted. As contract talks drag on, the center has hired per diem workers at $15 an hour. That’s more than assistant teachers and teachers make.
The financial squeeze is forcing some workers postpone medical treatment and go without medication, Overby said.
Members have health insurance. But they sometimes can’t afford the high prescription costs and their copays (more than $50) while also paying for their rent, transportation, food and other family expenses, she said.
“We are barely surviving,” Overby said.