The Institute is pleased to welcome a guest contributor, Nilesh Patel, the Director of Labor Relations and Mediation Service for the Day Care Council of New York to share some important news about stabilizing New York City's child care services.

The Day Care Council of New York (DCCNY) was created in 1949 by child care advocates as the membership organization for nonprofit agencies under contract with the City of New York to provide child care services. Over the past 68 years, DCCNY has maintained its role as an advocate, program supporter, and most importantly, the management representative in labor and pension negotiations.

In August 2015, the NYC Office of Labor Relations (OLR) convened meetings with DCCNY and District Council 1707, Local 205, (DC 1707) to discuss new salaries and benefits for child care workers in Early Learn programs. These workers had gone without a salary increase for ten years and both DCCNY (representing over 100 child care providers operating 300 child care programs) and DC 1707 (the union representing over 3,000 workers) highlighted the difficulties in maintaining a quality early childhood educational system without adequate support and funding.

Early in the discussions, DCCNY defined the needs of employers and the workers. DCCNY presented a detailed proposal to the City, requesting market rate adjustments to recognize ten years of lost earnings and loss of purchasing power by child care staff. In addition, DCCNY proposed salary increases that would achieve parity between teachers working in child care and teachers working in NYC public schools. Closing the parity gap has been the primary goal for DCCNY and early childhood advocates, because otherwise, highly qualified and talented certified teachers will continually look for higher paying positions in the public schools. In addition to incentivizing teacher turnover, the parity gap also makes it difficult to recruit talented newcomers.

The parity gap has been so wide that in some instances, DCCNY requested salary increases of 50% to 70% from what staff were earning. Other priorities included affordable healthcare benefits for staff and a contract ratification bonus to recognize the hardship caused by the ten year wage freeze.

OLR conveyed early on to the participants that while it was sympathetic to the challenges and difficulties faced by Early Learn providers and staff, it could not solve all of the problems all at once. The de Blasio Administration had inherited numerous problems and had multiple sectors that had been neglected for years. Therefore, while the City was willing to make a substantial commitment to stabilizing the Early Learn system over the next four years, it could not provide funding at the levels expected by staff, management, or child care advocates.

What followed was a year of intense meetings between city officials, DCCNY, and DC 1707. There were over 40 meetings to develop salary tables for all the staff, gather employee data from all the child care providers, develop options and a cost structure for new health care benefits, evaluate needs and changes to retirement benefits, and to develop a $2.5 million “Career Ladder” that will provide training and development opportunities and open up new career pathways for child care staff.

After the City defined its funding limitations, it was time for DCCNY and DC 1707 to negotiate a new contract. The parties met over the course of six weeks to negotiate a new agreement. The bargaining period was shorter than usual because of an urgency to implement new healthcare changes as quickly as possible. The parties would need two months after contract ratification to implement a new health plan. Therefore, both sides aimed to complete negotiations and have the staff vote on a new agreement by August 30, 2016.

The initial contract was rejected by the staff. In subsequent discussions, union members expressed concerns that the health plan should cover part-time employees and that longevity steps earned in prior contracts should be preserved.

Those changes were included, the contract was further revised, and a new vote was conducted. In the end, on September 27, 2016, 84% of the union members that voted agreed to the new contract.

Significant changes in the new contract include:

  • Masters Certified Teachers will earn $46,000 starting in December 2016 and will earn $50,000 September 30, 2020. These teachers will achieve parity with Universal PreK teacher wages by 2020. However, a parity gap will still remain with teachers in NYC public schools (Paul Brown).
  • Similarly, Bachelors Certified Teachers will earn $40,456 starting in December 2016 and will earn $44,000 in September 2020.
  • Longevity steps are preserved for staff who earned them as of September 30, 2012.
  • All staff will earn at least $15.30 per hour by the end of the contract, which surpasses the $15 minimum wage floor sought by advocates of a fair and living wage.
  • There are three health plan options. Employees working 20 hours or more will be eligible for coverage, with Employee Only plans starting at and costing only $15 to $22.50 per month during the term of the contract.
  • Pension benefits for current employees will remain as they were. However, current employees will no longer have to make mandatory contributions to a 401(k) Plan.
  • Employees hired after October 1, 2016 will be placed into a new pension tier, where the normal retirement age will be raised to 64 and a 2% contribution will be required towards the pension plan.

“We have taken a long 10 year path to reach this point.  I appreciate and thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for providing critical funding for contracted nonprofit child care programs. The labor contract for teachers and support staff in more than 300 child care programs represents the City’s acknowledgement that the survival of community-based early childhood education is important. The advocacy community and providers played a big part in achieving this first of many future milestones.  We know there’s still more left to be done. We will continue to bring the issues of fair and comparable compensation to the City’s Administration attention,” says Andrea Anthony, Executive Director of the Day Care Council of New York, Inc.