Laura Tanenbaum (left) leading a member action at the LGCC president’s office. (photo credit: Ari Paul)
The Office of Human Resources at LaGuardia Community College (LGCC) has recently come under fire from PSC members who say that concerns over a host of problems, ranging from denials and delays in disability accommodation requests to critical health coverage HR snafus, have been met with contempt by current director Marta Clark. The issues have impacted people’s pay and even delayed some members’ retirements.
On November 1, PSC members told their president: Enough – it’s time for a change. More than a dozen activists marched to the office of LGCC President Kenneth Adams to deliver a letter signed by 220 faculty and staff members that outlined the PSC chapter’s concerns and demands for improving the situation.
ANGER ON CAMPUS
Laura Tanenbaum, the PSC chapter chair at LGCC, told Clarion that the anger on campus over the problems with administration has reached a fever pitch. “This has mobilized people, because it’s so personal,” she said.
Tanenbaum, a professor of English, said that members believed the HR issues go beyond bureaucratic mistakes and constitute systemic mismanagement at the highest levels of administration. “It’s outright hostility,” she said.
In the wake of such gross ineptitude, “In a way, the chapter has become HR,” added Tanenbaum, since members often come to the union chapter when their HR requests are mishandled. “We do manage to solve people’s problems, but it’s a lot of stress and headache.”
President Adams was in a meeting at the time of the union action and chapter activists handed the letter and expressed their concerns to the president’s chief of staff.
“In response to a survey about Human Resources we put out in June 2023, nearly 100 colleagues reported dissatisfaction with the department,” the letter said. “These colleagues shared anecdotes about their experiences, including being denied benefits or accommodations for no apparent reason (decisions that were almost always overturned when challenged or appealed), receiving misinformation, not having crucial paperwork submitted to the correct office in a timely manner and being treated with disrespect by the Human Resources director. Several of the stories involve people with serious medical conditions being denied access to medical leave, or expecting parents being denied access to the leave guaranteed to new parents.”
The letter noted that the chapter has heard “too many stories of neglect, with urgent messages unreturned and vital paperwork mysteriously lost time and again.”
Members at LGCC said the HR problems have undermined faculty and staff morale. “Rather than treating workers at the college as people it should serve or for whom it should advocate, our administration is sending a message that it is defending the college against the needs of workers,” the letter said. “HR is communicating that its main role is to protect the college from the very appropriate needs, concerns and entitlements that its workers can only access through HR.”
The chapter puts the blame squarely at the top of the campus leadership. “We are appalled that the leadership of LaGuardia Community College, a public institution of higher education, is working to cultivate this kind of approach toward the people who make it run. Every day we hear about another instance of the college working to take away benefits from its workers as a group and to deny benefits or support to individuals.”
The chapter issued four demands that members believe will address the problems in the HR department:
- “Given the departure of HR’s benefits coordinator, we demand that the administration send a message to all faculty and staff clearly laying out how they are to secure benefits or receive assistance regarding sick leave, parental leave, retirement and other benefits, and that this include a pledge to reply to all emails in a timely fashion.
- “Given that so many LaGuardia faculty and staff have been unable to get timely, correct responses, or any response at all, from Human Resources, we demand that LaGuardia administration send a message to the community outlining a clear process for faculty and staff to pursue if their requests are ignored or if they receive hostile responses or inaccurate information.
- “Given the atmosphere of hostility outlined above, we demand that the administration send a message to all faculty and staff clearly stating that this administration believes faculty and staff have a right to access their contractually ensured benefits in a timely manner and without hostility or undue suspicions, and stating its commitment to rebuilding the trust that has been broken by this situation.
- “Finally, we demand that the administration communicate with all faculty and staff in a timely manner about the search for a new HR director as well as the filling of the empty position of benefits coordinator.”
It remains to be seen how the administration will respond to the chapter’s action. Kristen Gallagher, the PSC vice chair and a professor of English, called the buildup to the October action an opportunity for union organizing, as members from different departments came together in protest in anger over LGCC’s mismanagement of their pay and benefits.
“Putting the petition together really brought people together,” she said.
Published: November 15, 2023