Demanding higher pay, New York City pre-K teachers move toward a strike

Some New York City pre-K teachers are one step closer to a potential strike.

One of two locals under District Council 1707 voted Thursday to walk off the job if their demands for higher pay are not met, according to a union spokesman.

An official tally was not immediately available. The second local will vote Monday. A spokesman indicated the union hopes to get both locals on board to move forward with any action.

The union represents about 8,000 teachers and other staffers who work in publicly funded preschools that are run by community organizations. Those educators make a fraction of what their counterparts in public schools earn while often working longer hours and more days.

“We’re hard workers,” said Maria Nova, a family advocate at a preschool in Upper Manhattan. “We care a lot for the families and the children. And it seems like nobody cares.”

The city has declined requests for comment.

Kim Medina, the executive director of DC 1707, has said the union hopes to avoid a strike and is counting on a meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio later this month to work out their differences. But should teachers walk off the job, it will likely be for a single day in early May.

Farzana Akhter, an assistant teacher who cares for 4-year-olds in the city’s universal pre-K program in Brooklyn, said she sometimes skips lunch to make ends meet. After more than a decade in the classroom, she said she makes just over $15 an hour.

“We hope something changes for the better, for all of our colleagues and our families, because we’re struggling,” she said. “Give us the respect and the salaries we deserve.”