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Schenectady mayor, union agree to meet over working conditions

Schenectady mayor, union agree to meet over working conditions

No specific date scheduled for the meeting
Schenectady mayor, union agree to meet over working conditions
Photographer: Gazette file photo

SCHENECTADY -- Mayor Gary McCarthy and James Clay, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 1037 union, agreed on Monday to meet.

This came after a City Council meeting where Clay stood up during the public comment period and claimed employees continue to be bullied and work in unsafe working conditions. The union represents 106 members who work for the Office of General Services.

McCarthy approached the group of a dozen city employees who had shown up to the meeting on Monday while they were standing in the lobby of City Hall. Clay was in the middle of an interview with The Daily Gazette.

McCarthy and Clay shook hands before McCarthy addressed them.

“We’ve got to sit down, guys,” McCarthy said.

Clay and McCarthy then spoke in private about meeting.

McCarthy later said that while he and Clay agreed to meet, a specific date had not yet been scheduled.

This comes amid a public battle between the city and employees covered by the union that has played out over the last two weeks.

The two sides have been clashing over what the union has described as a toxic workplace in the city. They have claimed issues of bullying and workplace violence have become so pervasive that they decided to go public with their complaints.

They did so through Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo, who addressed their concerns during a City Council meeting on Nov. 26. She had handwritten notes that were produced by the union that detailed their complaints. The union claimed there were 18 complaints filed by its members in recent months, but that they were deemed unfounded by the city. She provided that information to the press.

The city, though, has said this was not the case. It claims the union has shown little evidence of a widespread problem, saying AFSCME Local 1037 had only filed six workplace violence complaints in the last two years. Of those, violations were found in three of the complaints.

“Somebody has to reconcile that difference because it’s a significant material difference in numbers,” Falotico said.

Falotico told council members during the Dec. 10 meeting that employees who were upset with the results of those investigations could bring their case to the state Department of Labor’s Public Employee Safety and Health Division. There, employees can have their case heard by an independent arbitrator.

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There were other issues brought up by Clay during his public comments. One of them was that employees in the union were only given 10 days notice of shift changes. He said that it was unfair and not enough notice for workers to “rearrange their lives.” 

Falotico said that was a provision included in their contract. He also said it rarely happens.

“We definitely give them more notice than that, and we did this year,” Falotico said.

Also on Monday, City Council members approved an amendment to the city’s Workplace Violence Policy, allowing supervisors to publicly respond to complaints against them.

Falotico proposed the change during the Dec. 10 meeting, claiming city supervisors were being maligned without being given a chance to respond because the city’s policy didn’t allow them to.

The meeting ended with council members asking for the issue between the city and the union to be resolved.

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