After a year and a half of PSC requests and assertions that the University’s Workplace Violence Policy did not comply with State regulation, a complaint to PESH (Public Employee Safety & Health, an arm of the State Department of Labor) was made to force CUNY to comply with NY State’s new Workplace Violence Prevention (WVP) Standard. Here is the story and what you can do as an activist in helping to prevent workplace violence:
CUNY and all other public sector employers were required to enact a new Workplace Violence Prevention policy and program by August of 2009. CUNY appeared to ignore it. The PSC Health & Safety Watchdog committee invited a PESH representative to the PSC to hold a workshop on what the new WVP standard required and the role of union representatives in implementing the standard. Following this workshop, the Watchdog committee at Queens College (which is made up of all the unions on that campus and chaired by Ben Chitty of the PSC) filed a complaint that Queens was not in compliance with the standard. When a PESH inspector came to the campus he agreed and began to dig deeper.
In January, PSC was called to a PESH field inspection meeting at 80th St. Union representation is required by the law. PESH found all of CUNY in violation of the standard, citing Matthew Goldstein and all Vice Chancellors with failure to comply with the standard.
What does this mean for PSC members?
The Workplace Violence Prevention Standard requires CUNY to involve employees and their unions in helping to assess the risks in the working environment. The Standard applies to all locations on campuses and offsite work locations. It requires employee/union input on unsafe conditions, such as working alone, poor lighting, working late hours as well as handling money. The Standard requires CUNY to conduct worker surveys and have workplace risk assessment walkthroughs (walking around and checking all areas for risk factors). It also requires CUNY to have Workplace Violence Advisory Teams which include union representatives appointed by the union (not by CUNY).
Queens College Unions Joint Committee on Quality of Work Life (L-R) David Samuels (AFSCME Local 2627), Ben Chitty (PSC), Donna Schultz (AFSCME Local 384), Rory Lancman (NYS Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety), Anna Johnson (AFSCME Local 1597), Tim Wysocki (Steamfitters Local 638)
What can you do?
Work with your chapter on campus to insure that union members are aware of these protections and participate in assessing workplace violence risks. Employees are the best experts about the conditions where they work and know when and where unsafe things have happened, or may happen.
The PSC Watchdogs will help members get involved and will also provide training. You are the eyes and ears of each campus, and the union counts on you to report unsafe conditions to your administration and to let the union know about them. All CUNY employees have a right to healthy and safe working conditions.
Contact us at [email protected] or 212.354.1252 X208.