MEA Interview in The Chief

City managers look for fair share. Story from The Chief by Richard Khavkine June 14.

Managerial Employees Association Executive Director Alice Wong, second from left, and MEA President Darrell Sims flanked city Office of Labor Relations Commissioner Renee Campion following a March meeting regarding pay raises for city agency managers. Wong and Sims have said city officials are giving short shrift to managers’ concerns.

To city municipal workers nursing a grievance, you can add department and agency managers. 

Without a raise since 2019, the city’s roughly 16,000 supervisors are looking for increases in salary. Just as importantly, they also want to be given the opportunity to work from home on occasion, according to the Managerial Employees Association’s president, Darrell Sims, and its director, Alice Wong. But, they said, Adams administration officials have been slow to even respond to concerns. 

“We basically run the show, and we’re not getting the recognition, and that’s what I perceive from our correspondence and dialogue with the administration so far,” Sims said during an interview last week. 

The Managerial Employees Association advocates on behalf of city civil servants who by virtue of their supervisory roles are ineligible for collective-bargaining. 

Pay raises for managers, consequently, come at the direction of the mayor, the exception being for those who work in non-mayoral agencies — including NYC Health+Hospitals, the Housing Authority, the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority, all of which implement salary increases on their own. 

Most managers last received salary raises — a 3 percent bump — in October 2019. Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio had signed a personnel order the previous November that approved pay hikes for 10,400 managerial and so-called original jurisdiction employees in mayoral agencies. The raises, totaling 7.42 percent, including compounding, were consistent with increases agreed to by District Council 37 in August 2018.

Original jurisdiction employees are excluded from collective bargaining because their work involves confidential work, such as personnel or labor-relations matters. 

While Sims said he was sympathetic to the argument that management will not get raises as quickly as the rank and file, since collective bargaining agreements set overall patterns, including for management, he chastised administration officials for failing to engage in a dialogue. 

Sims and Wong have detailed their concerns to both City Hall and the Office of Labor Relations, in meetings in January and July 2022 and again last April. Several letters to Mayor Eric Adams went unanswered, they said. They recently conveyed their frustrations in a May 8 letter to First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright.

“In these meetings, OLR exhibited limited concern and respect for MEA’s advocacy efforts to improve the work-life experience for City managers,” they wrote. 

OLR and administration officials have not replied to emails seeking comment.

‘A lot to be worked out’

Managers occupy a variety of civil service titles, but they are charged with and responsible for the formulation and implementation of departmental policies and programs. They generally also have significant discretionary authority with regard to rank and file personnel, including the allocation of work or resources. 

The  MEA surveyed its members last July and found that 95 percent supported a telework option. About 80,000 city employees worked remotely during the pandemic, but were ordered to return to work in-person last fall.

Sims suggested it was imperative for the administration to give managers the option to work from home on some days. 

“It seems like the work environment and the attitudes about work have changed, and people are more willing to search for higher-paying jobs that are more amenable to their lifestyles. So that’s what’s happening with the city and that applies to managers too. So, there’s a lot to be worked out and discussed.”

He suggested that city officials initiate discussions to come up with a workable solution since, he added, the current arrangement of having city workers, managers included, in the office full time “can’t be sustained.”

“Because people are going to continue to leave,” said Sims, who retired from the Department of Housing and Preservation and Development in early 2020 following a nearly four-decade tenure.

Wong said she was now hopeful that members of the City Council, specifically the chair of the Civil Service and Labor Committee, Carmen De La Rosa, could help facilitate productive discussions regarding pay and hybrid work options, as well as other issues, including extending family leave for managers. 

“We are still fighting for the managers, and we are still hoping to get a dialogue open with City Hall regarding this. We’re not letting the ball drop. We are trying to go down other avenues as well,” Wong said.

In the meantime, however, morale among managers continues to dip, Sims said, particularly since the recent ratification of a five-year deal between the city and about 90,000 DC 37 members. That deal provides for 16.2-percent raises as well as a pilot remote-work program. 

“And the managers who are there, the bosses, the supervisors, haven’t gotten anything and they don’t know when they’re going to get anything. So that creates a major problem in terms of the morale,” Sims said. “You shouldn’t have to really fight for stuff that you earn and deserve.”