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Unions claim culture of bullying in Schenectady

Unions claim culture of bullying in Schenectady

A period of inaction forced leaders to go public, union says

SCHENECTADY — Several city employees say their supervisors have threatened and intimidated them, according to two local union presidents.

Judy Versocki, president of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 886, and Adam Armour, president of AFSCME Local 1037, spoke at Monday’s City Council meeting during the public comment period and asked the city to review its workplace violence policy. 

It’s an issue they both said has become a problem in the city.

Versocki told council members that several employees said there were situations where department supervisors have become “vindictive” and will call employees names in front of their co-workers.

“You should never let a situation arise where employees feel threatened,” Versocki said.
Several employees have filed complaints with the city about issues of harassment, Versocki and Armour said, but they said the review into the complaints always comes back as “unfounded.” 

This is because there isn’t specific language in the city workplace violence policy that covers bullying, Versocki said.

“In the eyes of many employees, this management style is not violent by definition, but it could be considered bullying,” Versocki said.

Veroscki and Armour said they actually sat down with Mayor Gary McCarthy in late November to discuss the issue, but said they haven’t noticed any changes since then. That’s why they decided to address the issue during the council meeting, they said.

Both Versocki and Armour declined to provide which departments are experiencing these issues.

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said she has tried to bring the issue up for discussion during council meetings a couple of times, but said the item has been denied to go on the agenda.

She has tried other avenues, though. She said she spoke with city Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico to make sure anti-bullying is part of the city’s workplace violence policy.

Councilwoman Marion Porterfiled and independent Councilman Vince Riggi agreed with Perazzo, both urging for there to be further discussion on it.

Riggi also said he has heard several complaints from city employees and said what was described to him sounded like bullying from department supervisors.

“I think it should be addressed,” Riggi said. “When we let this go, it doesn’t set a good example for the city.”

City Council President Ed Kosiur, though, said the issue was never denied from being on the agenda. He said it was pulled.

Kosiur said that’s because there is training coming up that addresses these exact topics. He wants council members to go to these trainings so they can be more educated when the council does have discussion about the city workplace violence policy.

Kosiur also said the policy does include harassment of both physical and verbal nature.

“The whole procedure is in the policy,” Kosiur said.

Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas agreed with Kosiur, as she said after the meeting that the council needs to go through the training before they have a discussion.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city takes all complaints “seriously,” but didn’t mention bullying as a problem in the city. 

He said Falotico has offered to meet with the union representatives to go over some of the complaints and explain why they were unfounded. They haven’t done so, McCarthy said.

Councilman John Polimeni also said after the meeting that it’s the responsibility of the city employees to bring specific issues forward.

McCarthy said there haven’t been specific incidents pointed out to him.

“This can’t be done in generalities,” McCarthy said. “We must have specifics.”

Armour and Versocki said they will continue to push forward with the issue until something is done. If not, they said they will have to seek out their legal options.

“But only as a last resort,’ Versocki said. “We want to work with the city.”

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