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Three Years Later, City and School Safety Agents Still at Standstill

March 15, 2013
Marc Bussanich

More than 5,000 school safety agents represented by Teamsters Local 237 filed a lawsuit against the city three years ago over pay inequity because negotiations with the city’s Office of Labor Relations failed. The agents, primarily women, perform the same duties as their male counterparts classified with a different title. The city has thus far refused to negotiate a settlement, and is instead vigorously questioning the agents about what they do on their jobs. (Read More/Watch Video)

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa and Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd held a presser at Local 237’s offices on 14th Street calling on the Mayor and the city to negotiate.

“On March 5, 2010, this union filed a lawsuit to remedy one of the largest examples of pay inequity in New York and possibly the nation. Yet here we are three years later and the city  still refuses to negotiate a settlement. We’re calling on Bloomberg to negotiate and not just give us lip service during the month of March, which is women’s history,” said Floyd.

The agents’ attorney, James Linsey, explained the parameters of the case, saying the lawsuit is easy for any layman to understand.

“The two top issues in the United States today is school safety and equal pay for women. The are two classifications of employees in the city with peace officer status. The $64,000 question is who gets paid more. It’s sad to say in 2013 the answer is so obvious. The women get shortchanged by 20 percent,” Linsey said.  

School safety agents, 70 percent of whom are women, work  throughout the city’s schools in very demanding circumstances. They’re responsible for confiscating weapons, disarming people and have the authority to use deadly force if necessary. 

According to the union, the women earn about $7,000 less annually than their mostly male counterparts who perform the same duties in hospitals and other city offices.

As the city and the agents face off in court, Linsey noted that city lawyers sought and were granted permission from the judge to question the agents about their jobs and he’s been astonished by the line of questioning.

“What do you do, what’s the most difficult aspect of your job, do you make arrests, how many floors, exits and staircases are in your school city lawyers are asking. I’m watching this go on and on and the city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars interrogating primarily women on things the city already knows,” Linsey said.

The pay inequity is contributing to low morale among the school safety agents. According to Linsey, Elena Constant, the top security official assigned to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told the judge that compensation for the agents is not enough to attract or retain qualified safety agents.

“Ms. Constant told the judge that the effect of the pay disparity is a 50 percent attrition rate among agents.”

Mr. Linsey also said that the high attrition among the agents is placing students and school staff at risk. He questioned whether its wise for the city to continue to spend money on questioning agents when the agents hired an expert who determined that their jobs are similar to their counterparts, special officers, in hospitals and other city offices .

“On February 25 Drs. Kathleen Lundquist and Tony Locklear, after analyzing disposition transcripts, city documents including job descriptions and visits to worksites issued a report arguing that the safety agents’ and special officers’ jobs are similar,” said Linsey.

He credited the mayor for being a savvy businessman, but noted the mayor is spending money like a drunken sailor on the litigation.

“If he’s not only a responsible businessman, but a responsible mayor, he’ll come to the table and talk with the agents who do this important work.”


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