OSA News - March 1998
April fools at the New York City department of probation. April 1, 1996, our member Sheila McMahon was demoted at the NYC Department of Probation. Analyst McMahon began her career in 1985 at the Board of Education, later transferred to the Department of Corrections and, from there, was recruited to the NYC Department of Personnel. During her first nine years, her record was good and her advancement steady. At Personnel, the task was as a trainer, but the title was provisional Staff Analyst.
In 1994, Sheila responded to a flyer offering an ASA job at Probation (in a Health and Safety officer role). In 1995, Sheila was also appointed to Staff Analyst, "probable permanent" from the Staff Analyst list by the Department of Probation.
This is important. In 1994, we know that the bosses at Probation liked Sheila because they gave her a job and a $10,000 increase in salary. In 1995, after service of more than a year, the bosses must have liked Sheila's work because they were under no obligation to appoint her otherwise.
In 1996, matters began to go wrong, although Sheila was seldom told about it. She learned through the grapevine that the Agency considered her to be too "pro-worker" on Health and Safety issues. There was no formal counselling, no progressive discipline or training.
Instead, our member was demoted on March 31, 1996, without charges, and was handed the letter demoting her a day later, on April 1st - April Fool's Day. At first, she must have thought it was a joke.
In the history of the Organization of Staff Analysts, there was one goal that was never questioned. We all felt that every person should have the right to "due process." Civil Servants who hold permanent status do have the right, and since the late 1980s, so do unionized provisional civil servants after two years of provisional service.
Our union took many years to get recognized by the City. During the years before recognition a pattern was noted in the demotion and/or firing of provisional Analysts. As stated by one bitter demotee: "You get the job because the boss thinks you will do good work. You keep the job because the boss thinks you are doing good work. Later, the next boss agrees your work is good, and also the next boss and the next boss as well. Finally, one day, a new boss arrives and now your work is no good at all, or the new boss has a special friend for the job -- or whatever. You are gone or demoted and you are usually never told why. In a few cases, insult is added to injury as the new boss says unkind words about you and you have no opportunity to even respond."
As Analysts, while we were seeking union coverage, OSA could expect to learn of a dozen of such cases every single year. It should be noted, we did not learn of all the cases that occurred.
Finally, on 12/17/91, the Office of Collective Bargaining officially recognized OSA's union coverage of the Analyst series in all City Agencies. From that day onward, a boss could fire or demote a provisional member of OSA without charges only during their first two years of service.
The pattern of occupational abuse handed out to our member Sheila McMahon was very familiar to OSA. The Department of Probation in 1994 had been under fire for OSHA violations and was pressured to hire a Health and Safety officer. Probation chose an experienced civil servant with years of satisfactory provisional service behind her.
Then, once the pressure was off or because our member was doing the job too well, it came time to discard Ms. McMahon. First, of course, came the demotion to her "probable permanent" title of Staff Analyst and, after the formality of a "probation" of two months, termination from the City entirely. No reasons given.
The one error made by the Personnel Department at Probation was to fire Sheila on 3/31/96. On 3/30/96, one day earlier, Sheila had gained due process rights. The bosses could fire Sheila but they would now have, at least, to explain why. They did not do so. Our Grievance Department did warn Probation that, absent charges, our member could not legally be demoted or fired. The response of Probation was to offer a "compromise." Sheila would agree to stay fired and Probation would pay her some extra weeks of salary. Sheila, who is an aspiring stand-up comic herself, was not amused.
On Thursday, March 26, 1998, we will all have a chance to hear Sheila's story in person at OSA's General Membership Meeting. Sheila is in pretty good spirits these days. The arbitrator has ruled in our favor. Sheila is to be returned to her old job of ASA at Probation, paid back the thousands of dollars of salary lost, given credit for two years of service in the pension system and accorded all sick and annual leave due her since 1996.
And, on this April 1, 1998, perhaps we can be forgiven if we share a small laugh at the expense of the April Fools at the Department of Probation. They forgot that Analysts now have a union.
Solace for the aggrieved. OSA's Grievance unit will receive an entire issue of our Newsletter as soon as we get the statistics completed in chart format. Meanwhile, some individual credit is due.
Leader of our Grievance team is Hank Mandel, former Chairperson of OSA's Department of Health Chapter and an OSA member for a quarter of a century. Alongside Hank stands Ken Berman, Tim Collins and Bernice Stephens, all of whom are regular staffers. In support of staff, OSA's team of part-time saints include the (from management point-of-view) terrible "G's" - Tom Gorse, Shirley Gray and Steve Gregor and, if that were not enough, add John Ost and never forget Jack Reubens.
Jack, our specialist in arbitrations, will be leaving us soon to retire to Las Vegas. He will be greatly missed. Jack's history includes more than thirty years of fighting for members' rights, not only on behalf of OSA but back to the founding days of the Social Service Employees Union as well.
The Organization of Staff Analysts has been most fortunate in the good people who have come to help us out.
The "don't take candy from a stranger department." Recently OSA, DC37, the Uniformed Firefighters and such have been running into a problem. One aspect of that problem is that the Department of Investigation is limiting members to representation only by lawyers. Even some Agency Investigator Generals seem to prefer a recent law graduate over a twenty year veteran of the City's Rules and Regulations. The DOI aspect of the problem is currently in litigation (and we are winning) but there is still another aspect to the problem.
In years gone by, if you were called into the IG or DOI, our reps would be told if you were a target of the investigation or a potential witness. Recently in some cases, we have not been told which category our members fit into. In answer to the arrogance of prosecutors who assume that all of us are perpetrators of some wrong doing, the proper response is silence. In the U.S. Constitution, there are provisions against self-incrimination and that document even applies to civil servants.
Normally, most of our members tend to cooperate fully with any and all investigations since we all have a strong commitment to honest government. At the same time, we will not accept intimidation nor deceitful practice by hotshot investigators who treat all, save their superiors, as items potentially useful for their own advancement.
The moral of the story for now is that if any member of our union is contacted by any Agency IG or the Department of Investigation, call the union.
Clocking the icebergs all Civil Service Unions "Police" the movement of civil service lists for the jobs covered by their union. It is a little bit like being a time keeper in an iceberg race. Icebergs do not move swiftly, but they do move.
It was in 1991 after years of persuasion that OSA finally convinced the City to cancel the narrow-banding of our titles. In 1992 we went to court for the ASA exam and, after two Staff Analysts exams and three ASA exams, promotional lists were finally established in March of 1997. Appointments began to be made from those lists and by last October, six hundred and seventy eight candidates (678) had been appointed. A further one thousand and eighty (1080) more candidates still awaited their Agencies' action.
Between October and February of this year, another four hundred and ninety one (491) appointments were made. Still, if you are awaiting appointment and have not yet even been called, it must feel as if your iceberg has hit the Titanic and gone down with it.
There are still, in fact, Agencies listened as "N/L". These are Agencies reported by Personnel of DCAS as not yet having returned their promotion lists. In some cases, the Union has anecdotal evidence that some of the Agencies have made their appointments but are simply late in returning those lists to Personnel.
In any case, the Union will continue nudging the various agencies but matters appear to be proceeding well on schedule (for icebergs).
List Analyst, George Morgan, provided the updated chart enclosed in this month's mailing.
General membership meeting Thursday, March 26, 1998, 125 Worth Street, Manhattan, 2nd Floor Auditorium, 6:00 pm.
ASA promotional lists chart This chart lists all Agencies that received lists of candidates eligible for promotion to Associate Staff Analyst from any of the three Associate Staff Analyst exams.
The results shown are based upon information received from City Personnel. They are incomplete in that some Agencies have called the lists but not yet returned them, with results, to City Personnel.
Below is the number and name of each Agency and the number of candidates who passed one or more exams followed by the number of appointments made, if any.
As of February 1998:
998 Transit Authority
Note: N/L means we received no information from Personnel regarding any action taken by that Agency. No information was received regarding Transit Authority as of yet.