YMCA Child Care Workers On One-Day Strike

Mike Krauser
March 01, 2018 - 9:32 am

SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana/Facebook

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Early Childhood Education programs at 10 YMCA locations in Chicago were closed Thursday as workers took part in a first-ever strike.

Nearly 130 child care workers at 10 Chicago area YMCA participated in a one-day strike, protesting unfair labor practice. They started walking the picket line at 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

"We are the union. The mighty, mighty union," strikers shouted.

WBBM Newsradio's Mike Krauser spoke to workers outside the YMCA located at 63rd and Stoney Island. who braved the cold, driving rain.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois, representing the union workers, said child care workers’ wages are at or near poverty level, and have resulted in staffing shortages at YMCA child care centers.

"Half of the workers here make minimum wage. The other half don't make much more than minimum wage. And we are talking about workers, who in many cases have master's and bachelor's degrees," said Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana. 

"The YMCA’s poverty-level wages have resulted not only in economic hardship for child care workers, but also a short-staffing crisis at YMCA-run child care centers that impacts the quality and availability of care for low-income families.  There are currently 50 unfilled child care positions at the YMCA due to high turnover and low wages. Despite the staffing crisis, YMCA management called workers’ proposals for living wages 'a fantasy', and only offered 1 percent raises to nearly half of the bargaining unit. Child care workers and low-income families bear the brunt of the Y’s poverty wages, while YMCA CEO Dick Malone makes $300 per hour," an SEIU press release read.

One union member said there are people who work at the YMCA that take out payday loans, or have to drive for Lyft, or have two or three jobs.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago said it committed to fair and productive negotiations and said it was surprised by the strike. Read their full statement:

"The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago is committed to a fair and productive negotiation process with the Service Employees International Union of Illinois and Indiana (SEIU), which represents YMCA employees working in the YMCA's Head Start, Early Head Start, and some School Age programs. Over the past few months, the YMCA has made significant economic proposals that protect the interests of our employees, as well as the long-term sustainability of the YMCA. We continue to use our best efforts to reach an agreement with the union, and both sides will be back at the bargaining table Monday. Given that negotiations are ongoing, we were surprised that SEIU leaders decided to call a one-day strike by YMCA union employees on Thursday, March 1. Because of SEIU's decision, the YMCA was forced to cancel Early Education and Care programs today, as well as some School Age programs, resulting in disruption of services to the families in our programs. We remain committed to providing quality programs and services for children and families in our community, and look forward to a prompt resolution of this agreement."