Ithaca Labor Unions: Employees are mistreated, City Lawyer, employee's response was 'Mob on Attack,' Mayor, 'I'm appalled'
ITHACA, N.Y. (WENY)— Many unionized City of Ithaca employees are not happy with the way they are being treated by the City.
Wednesday evening during a City Administration meeting in City Hall, four labor unions were in attendance to once again address Common Council and Mayor-elect Laura Lewis about concerns of unfair pay, benefits, and labor contract negotiations.
"To express our concerns regarding the treatment of workers in the city and also to express some concerns the city is potentially about to take to resolve some of the issues that we have. We've experienced a very hostile, disrespectful environment in negotiations with the city at the bargaining table. We feel like the measures they are taking may not be enough to fix the problems we are facing,” Tom Condzella, President of the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association said.
Ithaca PBA and three labor unions including the CSEA, DPW Unit, Ithaca Firefighters, and the Executive Association discussed misinformation and the backlash from City Lawyer Ari Lavine on November 9th at the special Common Council Meeting. The backlash came a week after the November 2nd Common Council Meeting where labor unions and city employees including some IPD officers spoke out on critical shortages, how they can’t do their jobs, can’t provide for their families, and the challenges they face serving the community.
"Tonight I unequivocally condemn last Wednesday's mob on attack. While of course thanking those city employees who spoke respectfully. So I think we owe it to the public to share some facts. Three out of every four tax dollars are spent on our people,” Lavine said.
Condzella says this is the type of rhetoric that is creating a bad environment, a "mob on attack" is not what took place. These are harsh remarks about city public servants and it's important to set the record straight.
"Right now there seems to be a philosophy and culture that exists and is allowed to persist in city hall that has become very toxic. It's a culture of authority and power using taxpayer money to bully all of our labor groups, and bully our public servants into either going without raises or accepting substandard raises in lieu of making huge concessions on benefits. Because of that, we are not able to retain workers and have citywide shortages,” Condzella said.
A resolution to remove City Lawyer Ari Lavine from labor negotiations was set to be voted on at Wednesday night's City Administration meeting. Condzella doesn't believe this is enough and says more needs to be done.
“Ithaca’s public servants are not being done justice. Simply removing a face from the bargaining table, will not reverse the culture and the philosophies driving the treatment of workers. We would like to see the City of Ithaca treat us like valued workers and valued stakeholders in the community. We are the folks who really support the community and support the government to keep the essential services running. We just want to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect. We want to collaborate with the city, we want to be able to do our jobs. We all got into this for public service. It seems the current direction that the city is heading for about the last decade, is creating a bad environment," Condzella said.
The Labor unions are in a place where they believe their relationship with the City of Ithaca is on the brink right now. However, they are very hopeful to work with Common Council and have had informal communication with Mayor-elect Laura Lewis. Labor unions are hoping she will change course.
In part of a statement from Lewis on November 3rd, she said she is appalled by the comments made by labor unions and is dismayed by the tone and tenor directed at the City Lawyer.
"I was appalled to hear employee morale issues which are admittedly in need of being addressed, twisted last Wednesday into offensive and unfounded personal attacks on our city negotiation team, particularly City Attorney Ari Lavine,” Laura Lewis, City of Ithaca Mayor Elect said.
Condzella says this response from Lewis is a slap in the face.
"Many of these issues could be fixed by settling contracts with the current unions that don’t have them or by memorandums of agreement but it doesn’t seem that that’s a priority for the Mayor-elect. The Council seems interested in helping us but the Mayor, we haven’t had great success with.
We’ve reached out to Mayor-elect Laura Lewis' office and are awaiting a response.