A fledgling union at a downtown Brooklyn daycare got a boost after federal labor officials brokered an agreement that allows teachers to wear their union apparel to work.
The deal comes after employees at the Adams St. location of Bright Horizons Daycare, a multibillion-dollar national chain, alerted federal authorities in August that company officials had asked them to remove their unions buttons. The agreement gives workers permission to wear union gear on the job, and promises changes to Bright Horizons’ company dress code.
“We were happy,” said Kim Reese-Bembry, a teacher at the site who’s helped lead unionization efforts. “Parents noticed [the apparel], and have been asking us and talking about it.”
Teachers at the Adams St. site narrowly voted in summer 2017 to join the United Federation of Teachers, the city teachers union, making the center the only unionized Bright Horizons site. Teachers said wages average below $18 an hour even as the site rakes in tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and corporate profits soar.
But since the vote, contract negotiations have remained stalled, and morale has begun to sink, according to teachers.
Reese-Bembry and several colleagues decided to don union buttons earlier this April to draw attention to the protracted negotiations. But an HR official told the teachers that company policy prohibited buttons for safety reasons, even though company officials handed out different buttons to staff in the past, Reese-Bembry said.
A union representative filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, and teachers learned of the deal at the end of October.
Reese-Bembry and her co-teachers have started wearing buttons and t-shirts to the center again.
“We need some awareness,” she said.
Bright Horizons could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman said previously that contract negotiations were proceeding on schedule.
“Because this is the first contract, it is not uncommon for the process to take some time. We truly value our teachers and will continue to bargain in good faith, and we look forward to resolving the matter," he said at the time.