MEA Testimony: “Oversight: Maintaining New York City’s Municipal Workforce”

Alice Wong, Executive Director
Darrell Sims, MEA President

                  “Oversight: Maintaining New York City’s Municipal Workforce”

New York City Council
Oversight & Investigations Committee and
Civil Service and Labor Committee Joint Hearing

Friday, September 9, 2022
1:00 pm
Council Chambers
City Hall, New York, NY

Good afternoon, Madame Chairs Gale Brewer and Carmen De La Rosa, Committee Members and all attendees. I am Darrell Sims, R.A., President of the New York City Managerial Employees Association (MEA) and with me is Alice Wong, the Executive Director of the MEA. We would like to thank the Committees for providing us with the opportunity to testify on behalf of the 16,000 NYC managerial employees and MEA members.

After a 39-year tenure working at HPD, I retired on January 1, 2020. Elected as MEA President, I commenced my term on January 1, 2022. Based on my experience and from information expressed to me by the MEA Executive Board and our members, there are various reasons as to why it has become difficult and challenging to maintain the municipal workforce especially during the Covid-19 Pandemic. As most would agree, pay raises and the ability to work from home are the main issues confronting the municipal workforce today. Recently, we conducted a survey of our active working members and Ms. Wong will present those findings subsequently.

MEA is quite aware of the fact that all municipal employees are in desperate need of pay raises now.  Salaries are stagnant and significantly inadequate to relieve the financial strain of cost-of-living increases and the highest inflation rate in over forty years. The lack of fair and timely pay raises has negatively impacted the morale of employees. It is MEA’s opinion that pay raises should not be dependent on reductions in health care costs, especially during a pandemic with extraordinarily high inflation. Based on the status of efforts to reduce health care costs, pay raises will be substantially delayed. This has intensified frustration among the municipal workforce.

As part of MEA’s testimony, we have presented our correspondence with The City of New York and the New York State Assembly and Senate expressing our advocacy for improvements in the work life experience for the betterment of New York City managers and MEA members. Please see the attachments.

To remedy the high number of job vacancies among municipal agencies, it will require both expeditious and effective recruitment as well as meaningful efforts to retain the existing municipal workforce.  Recruitment and retention must be addressed simultaneously to prevent a counterproductive cyclic trend of hirings and resignations.

I will now relinquish to Ms. Wong to discuss the results of MEA’s teleworking survey.

Good afternoon, City Council members and all attendees. I am Alice Wong, the Executive Director of MEA. Thank you for your time.

MEA surveyed our members regarding telework and its adoption as a future policy for NYC employees. The survey also included questions related to retention and job-related support systems. We found that morale among City employees is low – we hear this from our members, time and time again. The two drivers are pay raises and telework options.

Today, we heard from OLR regarding negotiations with unions. It would be remissive not to remind OLR of the non-union employees, specifically, managers. Career managers are responsible for the day-to-day and year-to-year public service operations of City government. They are responsible for achieving individual Agency goals as well as satisfying Administration mandates. Within given parameters and sometimes with unforeseen limitations and handicaps, these tasks are achieved on a regular basis by career managers. Managers consistently fulfill the expectations of the City’s Administration.

Managers accumulate knowledge and wisdom from training and everyday experience on the front line managing the activities required to provide unwavering public service to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Their leadership and management skills provide the direction for the performance of non-managerial staff. With this said, career mangers should be identified and compensated fairly and reasonably for the magnitude of their responsibilities. Managers deserve the same level of respect and attention for their dedication and hard work as other municipal employees.

Some Survey Statistics include:

  1. 95% support WFH option
  2. 51% commute/travel safety and health safety are the top concerns for returning in-person
  3. 67% work-life balance has gotten worse since returning to the office
  4. 70% managers have taken on additional work as colleagues leave
  5. 74% harder to fill open vacancies and believe the lack of WFH is a main factor
  6. 90% strongly want a pay increase

Top issues include:

  1. IT technology and infrastructure upgrades are needed to support WFH
  2. Investment for IT equipment, including computers and headsets, needed/updated
  3. Standardized WFH city wide policy v per agency is of concern
  4. WFH policy might not be applicable or able to be offered to everyone, thus it might not be fair policy
  5. Preference for hybrid option for flexibility to collaborate with colleagues
  6. Flexibility of not commuting for an improved work-life balance
  7. Be competitive in the job market to attract talent
  8. Mental health focus should be a priority

While these are the highlights of the survey, a full report can be provided to the council. We look forward to continuing development of a working relationship and open lines of communication with The City Council. Thank you for time and attention to these important matters.