Municipal workers joined the great resignation

Hello. It’s Thursday. We’ll see why city workers in New York are quitting. We will also meet someone who is not rattled by rattlesnakes, on or off the job.

Last time anyone checked, only 8% of people who work for private employers in Manhattan were back in their offices full-time. But nearly 100% of the municipal workforce is back. And there are signs that the municipal workforce isn’t 100% happy with it.

There is no survey of the happiness factor. But some city workers appreciate the flexibility remote work can provide and resent Mayor Eric Adams’ pressure to bring them back. Some worry about exposure to Covid at work. “There was an epidemic in my office”, a 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 it has been.

Taken individually or together, these factors have caused thousands of municipal workers to resign, leaving jobs unfilled and creating difficulties in providing basic municipal services. In March, the vacancy rate in the municipal administration was 7.7%, according to data from the Citizens Budget Commission.

Fabien Levy, the mayor’s spokesman, said in a statement that the city’s labor shortage was part of a national trend. He said “the city has not experienced any operational impact on ‘vacancy’ services, “but we are aggressively recruiting for every vacancy.”

New York has the distinction of calling all municipal employees to their office. A national survey conducted by Cisco on hybrid working in government found that 58% worked remotely all week and 91% were satisfied with the arrangement. Just over a quarter said they wanted to work from home every day.

In New York City, turnover in city government is not unusual when a new mayor takes over, as Adams did earlier this year. But it’s usually the upper ranks that get empty. Resignations have been more widespread this year.

“He can’t force big corporations back into their offices, no matter how blustery they may be,” said Jeremiah Cedeño, the founder of a group called City Workers for Justice, which fights for remote work options for workers. municipal employees. me. “The only people he can force back into their offices are city workers.”

Daniel Irizarry quit his job as a lawyer with the city’s Human Rights Commission in May for a better-paying job. He was disappointed by the mayor’s comments about workers having to be in offices to stimulate the economy, and worried about the possibility of having a long Covid.

“It was kind of a slap in the face to say that we have to support the economy regardless of people’s health issues,” he said.

Cedeño himself resigned around 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 told me he took a job at a mental health services company that pays $30,000 more a year and is entirely remote.

But is remote work here to stay? Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City, a business advocacy group, told me that the private sector’s view on remote work is “fluid.”

“They don’t make permanent decisions” about remote work, she said, “whereas in a unionized public sector today’s decisions may well become precedents.” She said remote work could be seen as “a new social benefit that management got nothing for.”


Prepare for a risk of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon and again in the evening. Temperatures during the day will climb towards 80 degrees and drop to 70 degrees at night.


In effect until August 15 (Assumption Day).

The reptile lady, as she is sometimes called Wendy Townsendwas ready for another day at a construction site – this one in Warwick, NY

She had arrived an hour before the workers replacing a water tower. She had put on her safety helmet and lifted her snake hook from behind the seat of her van. There was no need for the brighter safety vest he often puts on and zips off – anticipating another hot day, she’d worn an orange work shirt.

Then she did her inspection.

Her job is to make construction sites safe for reptiles like the poisonous timber rattlesnake, an endangered species in New York State, even if she has to order bulldozers to stop while she drives away a snake.

It could happen later today. But in the calm before people crawl around in their heavy boots, she wants to see that no snakes have nested overnight in the equipment parked at the site.

Working as a reptile monitor was a career move for Townsend, who is 60 and taught college-level writing classes for 11 years until about five years ago. “It was getting me nowhere,” she said.

Looking at for reptiles on construction sites was attractive because she looked after reptiles for years – she has five Caribbean iguanas. She’s felt an almost mystical connection to reptiles since childhood, when she bonded with a lizard she met “and realized they were my people.”

So control. She leaned over to peek under a box truck where the crew stores their tools. No snakes there. She looked under a skid steer loader, a tractor-like machine. None there either. She walked the perimeter of the site, which is delimited by a yellow rope.

She said she would spend the rest of the day mostly watching the ledges of a hill beyond the water tower where a snake could crawl from. “I’ll escort the serpent,” she said. “Usually he’s following a scent trail, and you don’t want to disturb it unless he’s headed for a moving machine or a crew member or he’s about to hide under a pallet. You want to follow this snake and see that it is safe across the construction site and on its way, doing what it needs to do, which is following the females.

So it’s not a matter of food?

“No,” she said.

She works for a construction company subcontractor working in places with endangered or threatened species – timber rattlesnakes are listed as threatened 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 perform the work.

At the worksites, she said the reaction to her presence was “always mixed”.

“They all recognize that I have inspector status,” she said. “If I see a rattlesnake in danger, I raise my fist in the air. They stop work until I move it.


Dear Diary:

The #1 train I was hoping to catch to be on time for my dinner was only three minutes away when I got to the station. Lots of time, except for one thing: I couldn’t unbutton my back pocket to get my MetroCard out of my wallet.

The more nervous I was about missing the train, the more impossible it became to unbutton the pocket.

Finally, time is running out, I explained my situation to a young man who was on his way to the station.

After hesitating at first, he leaned over and unbuttoned my pocket. I thanked him profusely.

“It was a first for me,” he said.

“And for me too,” I replied as the train pulled into the station.

—Vincent Giangreco

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Submit your submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we can meet here. Until tomorrow. —JB

PS Here is today’s one Mini-crosswords and spelling bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected]

Sign up here to receive this newsletter in your inbox.

Melissa C. Keyes