Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll look at why community workers in New York City are quitting. We also meet someone who doesn’t like rattlesnakes, at work or outside.
Last time anyone checked, only 8 percent of people working for private employers in Manhattan were back in the office full-time. But nearly 100 percent of the municipal workforce is back. And there are signs that the municipal workforce is less than 100 percent happy with it.
There is no research on the happiness factor. But some city workers appreciate the flexibility remote working can provide and don’t like Mayor Eric Adams’s push to bring them back. Some are concerned about exposure to Covid at work. “There was an outbreak at my office,” one city employee wrote on Instagram, “and everyone carried on as if nothing had happened.”
And some see new opportunities — and higher salaries — in private sector jobs when the job market is as hot as before.
Individually or together, these factors have prompted thousands of city workers to quit, leaving jobs vacant and creating difficulties in providing basic services in the city. In March, the vacancy rate in the city council stood at 7.7 percent, according to data from the Citizens Budget Commission.
Fabien Levy, a spokesman for the mayor, said in a statement that the city’s labor shortage is part of a nationwide trend. He said that “the city has had no operational impact on the services” of job openings, “but we are recruiting aggressively for every vacant position.”
It is unusual in New York to call all council workers to their desks. A Cisco national survey of hybrid government employment found that 58 percent worked remotely all week and 91 percent were satisfied with the arrangement. Just over a quarter say they want to work from home every day.
In New York, city government turnover is not uncommon when a new mayor takes over, as Adams did at the start of the year. But it’s usually the higher ranks that drain. The layoff has been widespread this year.
“He can’t force the big companies to go back to their offices, no matter how much swagger he has,” said Jeremiah Cedeño, the founder of a group called City Workers for Justice, which is fighting for remote working opportunities for municipal workers. me. “The only people he can force back into their offices are city workers.”
Daniel Irizarry quit his job as a staff attorney at the city’s human rights commission in May for a better-paying job. He was disappointed by the mayor’s comments about employees having to be in offices to boost the economy, and worried about the possibility of getting Covid for a long time.
“It was quite a slap in the face to say that we should support the economy without considering people’s health problems,” he said.
Cedeño himself stopped at about the same time. He told me he had been a program coordinator for the city’s Human Resources Administration, helping people in shelters find housing. He said he took a job at a mental health company that pays $30,000 a year more and is completely remote.
But is remote working here to stay? Kathryn Wylde, the president and chief executive of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City, a corporate advocacy group, told me the private sector’s view on remote work was “fluent.”
“They don’t make permanent decisions” about remote work, she said, “while in a unionized public sector, today’s decisions could well set precedents.” She said that remote work could be seen as “a new fringe benefit that management has been given nothing for.”
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The ‘reptile lady’ is a snake protector
The reptile lady, as people sometimes call Wendy Townsend, was ready for another day at a construction site – this one in Warwick, NY
She had arrived an hour before the workers who are replacing a water tower. She had put on her helmet and lifted her snake hook from behind the seat of her pickup truck. There was no need for more than the bright safety vest she often puts on and zips up – she’d been wearing an orange work shirt in anticipation of another warm day.
Then she did her inspection.
Her job is to make workplaces safe for reptiles like the venomous rattlesnake, an endangered species in upstate New York, even if she has to order the bulldozers to stop while carrying a snake out of the way.
That can happen later in the day. But in the silence before people trudge around in their heavy boots, she wants to see that no snake has nested overnight in equipment parked on the property.
Working as a reptile monitor was a career switch for Townsend, who is 60 and taught college-level writing courses for 11 years until about five years ago. “That got me nowhere,” she said.
Looking in front of reptiles on construction sites was attractive because she watched after reptiles for years – she has five West Indian rock iguanas. She has felt an almost mystical connection to reptiles since childhood, when she bonded with a lizard she met “and realized that these are my people.”
So the inspection. She bent down to look under a box truck where the crew stows their tools. No snakes there. She looked under a skid-steer loader, a tractor-like machine. None there either. She walked along the perimeter of the site, which is bounded by yellow rope.
She said she would spend the rest of the day looking mainly at ledges on a hill behind the water tower that a snake could crawl off. “I would accompany the snake,” she said. “Usually he’s following a scent trail, and you don’t want to disturb that unless he’s heading in the direction of moving machinery or a crew member or he’s about to hide under a pallet. You want to follow that snake and see that it is safely on the other side of the construction site and on its way and doing what it has to do, which is to follow the females.”
So this isn’t about food?
“No,” she said.
She works for a subcontractor of construction companies that do work in sites where endangered or threatened species live — rattlesnakes are listed as endangered in New York and endangered in New Jersey and Connecticut. For some construction projects, New York State requires a contractor to hire a monitor as a condition of the permits needed to do the work.
On job boards, she said the response to her presence has been “always mixed.”
“They all recognize that I have inspector status,” she said. “If I see a rattlesnake in danger, I raise my fist. They stop working until I get it out of the way.”
Train #1 that I was hoping to catch to be on time for my dinner appointment was only three minutes away when I got to the station. Plenty of time, except for one thing: I couldn’t unbutton my back pocket to take my MetroCard out of my wallet.
The more nervous I got about missing the train, the more impossible it became to unbutton the bag.
Finally, when time ran out, I explained my predicament to a young man entering the station.
After hesitating at first, he bent down and unbuttoned my pocket. I thanked him profusely.
“That was a first for me,” he said.
“And for me too,” I replied as the train pulled into the station.
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send entries here and read more Metropolitan Diary here†
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — JB
PS Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and game match† Here you will find all our puzzles†
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at nytoday..
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