Bright Horizons Day Care workers in downtown Brooklyn have triumphantly pinned their “Union Proud” buttons back on to celebrate winning a National Labor Relations Board settlement in October that ensures the UFT members “have the right to wear union buttons and other union insignia in the workplace.”
Mandy Ramnarace, the first teacher at the Adams Street site ordered by management to remove her “Union Proud” button one early April 2019 morning, pinned her button on and slipped a “Union Proud” T-shirt over her head.
“We are proud to be a union and fight for what we believe in,” she said.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew applauded the determination of the Bright Horizons union chapter. “Our teachers and staff deserve respect and a living wage,” he said. “Let Bright Horizons management remember that every time they see a union T-shirt or button.”
The ruling by the National Labor Relations Board instructed management to rewrite the employee handbook and to rescind the part of its dress code that barred employees from wearing union buttons and other union insignia. Management also was instructed to notify employees at all 700 centers nationwide of the change in policy.
The 35 members of the teaching and support staff at the day care center are the only employees in Bright Horizons’ multibillion-dollar for-profit chain, which has 1,100 facilities worldwide, who are members of a union. They wore the “Union Proud” buttons as a sign of solidarity in their continuing struggle to negotiate their first UFT contract after a contentious campaign and election fight to join the union in July 2017.
Describing the settlement as a “big win,” Ramnarace said, “We are not backing down and we continue to stand strong.”
When Kim Reese-Bembry challenged management’s order to remove the buttons, she was told they were a safety hazard when working with the children. “Funny,” she argued, “you have given us the same kind of buttons to wear.”
Since the ruling, Reese-Bembry has put “Union Proud” T-shirts on every member’s desk and has an order in at the UFT for baseball caps, coffee mugs and everything else that bears the “Union Proud” logo for her embattled colleagues as they press ahead with the protracted contract negotiations.
“The win felt good and we are going to keep fighting,” she promised.