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My letter to the bosses of MightyKidz childcare center, demanding immediate reinstatement of all teachers unjustly fired for union organizing!

August 10, 2022

To MightyKidz Director of Operations Kristin Brown and owners Kyla and Jeff Liboon:

I am shocked and outraged to hear of your recent mass firing of at least 10 teachers at MightyKidz, in response to their efforts to unionize and improve conditions for themselves and the children they teach. These firings are not only completely unjust, but also an illegal act of intimidation and retaliation for protected union activity.

I urge you to immediately reinstate all fired teachers and voluntarily recognize their union, the Magnolia Childcare Union. They have put forward reasonable demands: a $22 per hour starting wage, with at least $25 per hour for lead teachers; at least the minimum-required child-to-teacher staffing ratios; a clear training plan for new teachers; and legally-mandated breaks. 

The teachers provide a crucial service to working parents in our community. As they wrote in their letter to you, “Our tireless work and dedication to this school are what make MightyKidz a wonderful and beloved place in the Magnolia community. We cannot survive on the wages you pay us, especially as unprecedented inflation increasingly eats into our paychecks.”

Rents have skyrocketed in Seattle and all over Washington. According to a recent report, four in ten renters in the Seattle area pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. One in five pay more than half their income in rent. Minimum wage workers in King County would have to work 109 hours per week to afford an average two-bedroom apartment — a physically impossible task. Meanwhile, the rampant inflation means that overall costs have increased by more than 9 percent compared to last year.

Workers’ wages have not kept up, and many teachers and childcare workers are being pushed out of the city and into longer commutes. At the same time, they are expected to do more with less: MightyKidz teachers report being chronically understaffed and forced to skip legally-mandated breaks. More than 20 teachers have spoken out about these concerns, with support from many parents. Childcare workers, who do so much to support working families, deserve far better. Yet when they spoke out about their conditions — which are also in reality the children’s conditions — you fired them en masse! 

In a letter to MightyKidz parents attempting to justify your decision to fire their children’s teachers, you assert, “MK’s track record has always been in support of teacher support, wages, and benefits, while trying to creative [sic] a positive culture for our staff.” In the same letter, however, you characterize the teachers’ courage to speak up as “toxic conversation” and their demand for reasonable wages as “commercial extortion.” 

This is appalling. In the over eight years I have served as a Seattle City Councilmember and socialist representative of our city’s working people, I have heard no shortage of insults and bizarre claims from companies trying to justify attacking workers organizing a union. In April, billionaire Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz claimed that the company was “under assault” by unionizing Starbucks workers. When Amazon workers in New York went on strike in 2020 to protest unsafe conditions during the pandemic, Amazon bosses called the workers’ actions “immoral” and, in a racist attack, smeared the strike leader Chris Smalls as “not smart or articulate.” But your unconscionable attacks on these teachers rank up there among the most anti-worker statements that I have heard. 

Working people, including many MightyKidz families, stand with the teachers in support of their demands. As Shylaja Vijay, one parent at MightyKidz, said at the press conference and picket on Tuesday where we rallied to oppose your retaliatory firings, “the response [from management] has been completely disproportionate. [The teachers’] requests are so reasonable. Our kids deserve teachers who are happy, healthy, and feel comfortable and confident in the work they do.”

Many of the parents, along with more than 700 community members and union members, have already signed the public petition demanding immediate reinstatement of the teachers you fired. As of writing this, 150 community members have emailed you directly, urging you to immediately reinstate the fired workers, meet their demands, and recognize their union. Hundreds of other working people in Seattle are in solidarity with the Magnolia Childcare Union. At the press conference, we were joined by representatives from the Communications Workers of America Local 7800 (the Verizon Workers’ union), SEIU Local 925, AFT Local 1789, the Seattle Education Association, the Democratic Socialists of America, and my organization, Socialist Alternative. 

My socialist council office will do everything in our power to defend these teachers who are courageously standing up for better conditions and ensure that working people around Seattle know what is taking place at MightyKidz.

Workers have seen vicious union busting in Seattle from corporations like Starbucks, Amazon, and Verizon. My office has supported workers at these companies and helped to mobilize mass solidarity from unions and the community. We will not accept any sort of anti-union retaliation in Seattle. 

I urge you to immediately reverse your decision, reinstate all fired workers, recognize the Magnolia Childcare Union, and meet the teachers’ demands for a living wage and a quality working and learning environment for teachers and children alike.

Sincerely,

Councilmember Kshama Sawant

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