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Council members join paid parental leave fight

New York Teacher
Melody Anastasiou, a teacher at PS 68 on Staten Island, holds her 4-month-old da
Miller Photography

Melody Anastasiou, a teacher at PS 68 on Staten Island, holds her 4-month-old daughter as she addresses the press, joined by City Council Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger (front left), UFT President Michael Mulgrew (front right) and other UFT members and Council members.

City Council Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to negotiate a fair paid parental leave policy for New York City public school educators at a press conference on the steps of City Hall on April 24.

Flanked by UFT members and fellow Council members, Treyger, a former public school teacher and UFT member, denounced the city’s current leave policy for forcing mothers to pay for their own maternity leaves from their bank of sick days and leaving fathers and adoptive parents out in the cold.

“Raising a family is not a sickness,” Treyger said. “We’re not going to stop until this gets done. Our working families are worth it.”

Treyger scheduled a Council hearing for April 30 to probe the issue and question city officials.

Treyger was joined by UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who pointed out that despite New York City’s reputation as a bastion of progressive values, the city has never taken pioneering action on parental leave for public school educators.

“The city has balked over and over, and enough is enough,” Mulgrew said. “It’s a sad day when Walmart is more progressive on this issue than New York City.”

The UFT launched its paid parental leave campaign in November 2017 after nearly two years of negotiations with the city failed to produce an agreement.

Melody Anastasiou, a 1st-grade special education teacher at PS 68 on Staten Island, approached the podium cradling her crying 4-month-old daughter.

“She just found out how many days I owe the DOE,” Anastasiou quipped, explaining her difficult decision to take an unpaid leave to care for her baby, Zoe. Anastasiou said she had been prepared, given the current maternity policy, to be out four weeks using sick days. But her daughter was diagnosed with a milk protein intolerance so Anastasiou and her husband decided to make the financial sacrifice for her to stay home with Zoe nine more weeks without pay.

“No one should have to choose between their child and a paycheck,” she said.

Thomas Stoppini, a social studies teacher at Dewey HS in Brooklyn, stressed the importance of a parental leave policy that applies to fathers and adoptive parents as well as mothers.

“As a new dad, it was difficult not being able to take days off to help my wife after she had a C-section,” he said. “I couldn’t afford to be taken off payroll.”

City Council members Laurie Cumbo, Daniel Dromm, Keith Powers, Justin Brennan, Brad Lander and Rafael Espinal also made supportive remarks.

NY Teacher