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My Letter to Seattle Labor Leaders on MightyKidz Struggle

Thursday August 11, 2022

Dear elected leaders in Seattle’s labor movement,

I am writing to urge you to stand publicly in solidarity with the teachers at the MightyKidz Childcare Center in Magnolia. The teachers are fighting for a union, and for better wages and working conditions. They courageously went on strike earlier this week. Rather than address the teachers’ concerns, the bosses at MightyKidz have retaliated against them by firing ten of the teachers in a stunning case of mass firing. As an elected representative of Seattle’s working people and as a rank-and-file member of the Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council, I am shocked and outraged at this response to the teachers’ 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.

The MightyKidz teachers need active support from our region’s labor movement. Will you please take the following steps in solidarity with them?

  1. Send a public letter from your union/organization to the MightyKidz bosses, urging them to immediately reinstate ALL the teachers they have unjustly and illegally fired, meet their demands, and recognize their union. I have sent such a letter to the bosses from my socialist City Council office. As of writing this, 208 community members have also emailed the MightyKidz bosses directly. The email addresses are magnolia@mightykidz.com and info@mightykidz.com
  2. Sign the public petition, and share it widely among the rank-and-file members you represent. Nearly a thousand working people and union members have signed it already!
  3. Support the teachers at our solidarity rally this Sunday, August 14th, at 1:00PM at the Ella Bailey Park. Share the rally information with your members (Facebook and Instagram) and urge them to attend.

The MightyKidz teachers have put forward reasonable demands: a $22 per hour starting wage, with at least $25 per hour for lead teachers; at least the minimum 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 the bosses, “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, and 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. 

Yet when they spoke out about their conditions — which are also in reality the children’s conditions — the bosses fired them en masse! In a letter to MightyKidz parents attempting to justify their decision to fire their children’s teachers, the bosses 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.” The MightyKidz bosses’ 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. Shylaja Vijay, one parent at MightyKidz, said at the press conference and picket on Tuesday where we rallied to oppose the 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.” We were also 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. 

Workers have seen vicious union busting in Seattle from corporations like Starbucks, Amazon, and Verizon. We cannot accept any sort of anti-union retaliation in Seattle. 

Thank you so much!

In solidarity,

Councilmember Kshama Sawant

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