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An open letter from PEF President Wayne Spence:

The 50,000 members of the union I lead, the New York State Public Employees Federation, are dedicated professionals who provide vital public services for the people of New York.

Unfortunately, “professional” doesn’t apply to everyone employed by the state.

Many state workers walk into toxic workplaces created by their managers every day. From bullying, to intimidation, to harassment and discrimination, the issues that come to our attention as a union come in all shapes and sizes.

A manager sat at a member’s desk and sent an email, pretending to be the member, saying unions are a sham and he was resigning from his union post. That manager was promoted three weeks later.

That’s unacceptable!

A manager at the Office of Children and Family Services routinely issues PEF members Counseling Memorandums for union activity and refuses to meet in good faith regarding any labor management or health and safety issues.

That’s unacceptable!

At the Syracuse office of the Department of Health, we’ve received several reports of the same three rogue managers, some from Health Research, Inc., leading the hateful treatment of a long-term state employee. These dedicated civil servants are human beings. We teach children that everyone is entitled to respect and dignity. How pathetic is it when adults can’t abide such a basic lesson in humanity?

It’s unconscionable that our State government allows this type of behavior to exist.

These bullying managers aren’t heeding Gov. Kathy Hochul’s directive to make New York “the most worker-friendly state!”

As a union, we are going to start calling out these toxic managers when we encounter them and demand a safer, more respectful workplace for all.

PEF is thankful to the Assembly Majority for passing our bill to end bullying and abusive conduct in the workplace. This bill would require the state to define activities that constitute workplace “bullying” and “abusive conduct” and require training for managers and employees on those standards. It is an important step toward ending the toxic workplace culture that continues at too many state agencies. Until we do that, New York will continue to find it difficult to attract and retain the workers the state needs to fill thousands of vacant jobs. And that will mean a continued reliance on overtime to deliver state services, a cost that amounted to more than $1.3 billion last year for 22 million overtime hours.

We need change now. Actions, not words. Enough is enough!

Wayne Spence
President, New York State Public Employees Federation

News coverage: PEF held a rally on this issue on Sept. 21 at the State Capitol