Children raise their hands. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
By Janon Fisher
Special to DNAinfo
MANHATTAN — The National Labor Relations Board is asking a federal judge to send the city's largest private preschool provider to the corner for a time-out after the organization fired 14 teachers when they joined a union.
The NLRB wants the judge to reinstate all of the teachers canned by Preschool of America, which has 12 daycare centers in Manhattan, and to start negotiating with the union — AFSME, DC 1707 — in good faith, according to court papers.
Joanna Fan, the executive director of Preschool of America, refused to comment. But in an affidavit filed with the court, she told labor investigators that the teachers she fired from the 1501 Lexington Avenue and the 101 West End Avenue locations last August and September lacked a "good work ethic."
She also told NLRB investigators that one teacher provided her with a fake diploma, another lacked the proper state certification and others were chronically late or absent.
"If an employee does an inferior job there should be a corrective effort," said Harvey Mars, the union lawyer. "But they didn't dig into the personnel issues until after unionization."
The teacher's gripes started in 2010 when Preschool of America did away with winter and spring breaks and other benefits, according to court documents.
The teachers were so outraged that one of them suggested putting a blow-up rat in front of the school in protest of the change, according to court papers.
Preschool of America's Lexington Avenue location certified the union on August 2, 2010 — three days later five of the teachers who had joined the union were fired.
The NLRB said that the preschool management threatened to freeze wages for those that joined and offered bonuses to teachers who voted down the union. Federal investigators also charge that Fan violated labor law by conducting surveillance on teachers who were organizing.
Fan, whose daycare company nets a $1 million a year, said that she met with teachers to talk about their complaints. She explained to them that she came to this country with $40 in her pocket and built this business herself, according to her statement.
Lawyers for Preschool of America have met with the union as late as March 8, but Mars said that there has been no good faith negotiation.
"They have offered to decrease salaries, increase hours and increase employee contribution to health care," said Mars. "It's remarkable."
The preschool lawyers did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Their response to the government's complaint is due on April 20.