pickets of former employees at the Scarsdale Public Library | Scarsdale
Former Scarsdale Public Library worker Robin Stettnisch has been picketing – every hour she has available since mid-October – outside the newly renovated library, as well as at the corner of Olmsted Roads and Post and across from Scarsdale Station. She’s trying to bring attention to what she calls the “heartless treatment of staff” amid a $ 21.7 million library renovation and expansion that has been made possible by private and public funds.
Stettnisch is a former part-time employee whose library post was cut in a planned cut, which cut all 28 part-time posts before the start of the mid-2018 renovation.
At a meeting held on October 23, 2017 by the village human resources director Angela Martin and attended by union representatives from the Association of Public Service Employees (CSEA), part-time library employees, many of whom were from the union, were told their positions would be cut when the library cuts its opening hours and moves to smaller, temporary premises during the renovation.
Stettnisch alleges that at this meeting, part-time employees were also informed that if they were rehired after the renovation, it would be at entry salary ($ 30 an hour for part-time replacements and 31, $ 88 per hour for regular employees). At the time, Stettnisch was making $ 43.88 an hour after nearly 30 years as a library worker.
Library executive director Beth Bermel told the Inquirer that she “didn’t make any promises at this meeting. I didn’t make any statement about what would happen if they returned. I had to. see what had happened in two years, which became three [due to COVID-19]. “
Stettnisch further alleges that in a private meeting in December 2017, Bermel told him the library would hire him at his former higher hourly rate when it reopened.
Jessica Ladlee, communications specialist for the southern regional office of the CSEA union, emailed the Inquirer, saying: “We know this has been very difficult for everyone affected, but management has acted within its rights. abolishing posts. While full-time workers would be eligible as part of the civil service to be on a recall list, unfortunately the law does not offer the same guarantee for part-time workers and the library management was not willing to reach an agreement regarding the return of part-time workers at a later date. I cannot speak of any conversations that may have taken place between management and workers, but a written agreement would have been needed. I’m not aware of any commitments made to bring part-time workers back to their old wages.
Bermel, who has been director of the library since 2009, has not confirmed or denied having met Stettnisch privately, but told the Inquirer that part-time employees had been told “for years” that he could there may be staff changes depending on the renovation; one of the options had been to build in stages while keeping the library open.
A second meeting for library employees was held on April 18, 2018, with representatives from the New York State Department of Labor’s Rapid Response Division and the New York State Pension System. to help those who would be affected.
“We alerted our colleagues at the Westchester Library System that there would be former employees looking for employment and encouraged them to take them into account when filling their vacancies,” Bermel said. . “We also alerted former employees when we received job offers and provided letters of reference.”
On June 11, 2018, Bermel sent part-time employees a letter confirming the “downsizing” with their “last day of employment” being June 29 of the same year. Bermel said the letter made no mention of any future hiring or payment options, as changes in the civil service and its procedures are unpredictable.
The library closed for renovation in July 2018, and Stettnisch was called in to work part-time at the Library Loft at 244 Heathcote Road, which was about a tenth the size of the library’s previous location. She told the Inquirer that she worked there as needed from January 2019 until the pandemic forced the Loft to close in March 2020, and she agreed to do so at the minimum allowable wage ($ 30 of per hour) as a good faith effort on her part, since she believed she would be hired and paid at her pre-renovation salary ($ 43.88) after the library fully reopened.
The library reopened in November 2020 and has since hired 32 part-time employees at $ 15 / hour to $ 32 / hour depending on their position, four of whom had worked part-time at the library previously. But Stettnisch said she hadn’t heard anything.
“Here we are – they’re reopened, they’ve hired so many new people, and nothing… no interaction with me, no conversation, nothing,” she said.
She continued: “It was understandable that part-time workers had to be made redundant. What was not [acceptable] was no guarantee of your work, and the real killer was, “And if we hire you, you get back to base pay.” “
Bermel said when the jobs were cut – and not knowing that a pandemic would throw an extra key into the process – “we weren’t able to predict the hiring process” and couldn’t not “make forward-looking salary or continuous employment commitments”.
“With the library reopened and hours extended, we went through the Westchester County human resources process required to create positions in accordance with public service rules,” Bermel said.
A few weeks ago, Stettnisch sent an email to village officials and the library board, saying in part: “I would like the position to be advertised at 5 p.m. a week … I would also like to pick up my old salary, as promised by Beth, ($ 43.88). as a raise for the year I worked at the Loft.
Jobs are posted online for between $ 30 and $ 32 / hour.
She told the Inquirer that she relies on that higher salary to help cover her sons’ school fees and to maximize her retirement benefits, which are calculated in part by her final average earnings. She also said that by picketing the library, she hoped not only to get her job back to her previous salary, but also “to make it harder for other people to do that to their employees.”
Stettnisch, who now works part-time at another county library at $ 31.88 an hour, said her former colleagues had not spoken for themselves or for her.
“I am disappointed, but I have the impression that they are afraid,” she said.
She said she believes her high hourly wage, based on gradual increases over 29 years of service and contract negotiations when she was a union member, is the reason she was not rehired.
Bermel said she couldn’t talk about any individual cases, but she confirmed that four of the 28 part-time workers whose jobs were cut in 2018 were rehired at the entry hourly rate, which she said , is a “fixed amount and may be increased in accordance with an approved annual increase for all employees of the same title.
“Since the library is subject to Civil Service Rules as administered by the Westchester County Human Resources Department, we followed their strict and complex process which included several steps and careful review,” said Bermel said.
“Maybe it was legal,” Stettnisch said. “But was it the right thing to do?” Does Scarsdale do to its employees? “
Bermel said the decision to end part-time workers, taken years ago, was “not easy”, but was made “with the best intentions for the community of Scarsdale to make progress. this library what it is now “.
In 2016, the Scarsdale Village Board of Directors approved a $ 9.9 million bond offering to help offset the public portion of the proposed $ 17.9 million renovation, with the funds remaining collected by the Library Fundraising Committee in partnership with Friends of the Scarsdale Library. Funding was also made possible through a state grant facilitated by New York Assembly member Amy Paulin.
While the initial cost of the renovation was estimated at $ 17.9 million, according to a library project report updated in February 2020, “the offers have been high and no option has delivered savings.” . The report says “a combination of grants, endowments, trusts, fund balances and additional donor donations” filled the funding gap for the ultimate cost of $ 21.7 million and “no new burdens. had no impact on the taxpayers of the village “.
“I had a particular budget that I had to stick to and I’m not going to spend money that I don’t need to spend,” Bermel said. “I brought in the staff I need very carefully so as not to waste taxpayers’ money.
“We have long enjoyed a collegial atmosphere and see this as a peaceful and welcoming place, so it is disappointing that Ms Stettnisch has chosen to stake out the library,” Bermel said. “We of course support his legal right to express himself.”
In his November email to village and library councils, Stettnisch wrote: “I can picket almost anywhere and anytime I want. I intend to do this until I legitimately get my old job and old salary back or until the end of time, whichever comes first. I have no choice. “She said she needed her salary for her sons’ college education and pension benefits, concluding:” It’s rightly mine, earned through decades of dedicated service. “
– with reports by Valerie Abrahams, Nick Perrone and Todd Sliss