Getting Drafted Into Byron Brown’s Volunteer Army


What, me coerce?

Everyone knows that city workers are “encouraged” to work on the mayor’s political campaigns.  The problem has always been in documenting that encouragement, but Jim Heaney at the News got his hands on some emails from Community Services Commissioner Tanya Perrin-Johnson that do the trick:

Tanya Perrin-Johnson, commissioner of community services, has sent her staff a series of e-mails over the last month, informing them of opportunities to volunteer for the Brown campaign in language that appears to leave little doubt about what she expects.

“Your services are needed minimally 8 hours per week,” Perrin-Johnson wrote in a June 2 e-mail sent to 20 employees.

And not just at a time of their choosing. Perrin-Johnson specified a four-hour shift during the week—preferably Tuesdays, which is the department’s night at campaign headquarters — and another four hours on the weekend.

Perrin-Johnson said in her e-mail that “everyone is expected to be at the Headquarters after work” the following Tuesday because it was the first day that nominating petitions could be circulated for signatures.

If employees cannot work on the campaign on Tuesday or on a weekend, Perrin-Johnson wrote, “please notify myself and Dana Bobinchek at the email above and accommodations will be made for you to make up the time during the week.”

There are a few issues here, obviously.  First, the idea that people can “make up the time” if they can’t volunteer on a particular day seems to make it pretty clear that these city workers are being informed of an expectation rather than being presented with a volunteer opportunity.  If someone is telling you that you can “make up the time,” the clear implication is that they control your time.  That isn’t volunteering.  It’s work.

Second, no matter how the emails were worded, it’s hard to see how a request from a boss can be anything but coercive, despite Perrin-Johnson’s claims to the contrary.  These aren’t emails being sent between friends or even peers — they’re being sent from a boss to a group of workers.  Just as a boss can’t casually solicit “volunteers” to service him sexually and claim that there’s no coercion involved, neither can a boss’s “suggestion” that her workers help out on a campaign be taken as anything other than coercive.  And that’s particularly true when workers know that the boss’s job depends on the reelection of the mayor.

Finally, the story notes that at least one of the emails was sent just before 1 PM.  That’s the workday, even in City Hall.  It might be that Perrin-Johnson was on her lunch hour at that point, and it may be that she’s free to do anything she likes during her lunch hour.  But the idea that she stops being a city employee (and a boss) just because she has her lunch in front of her seems like a pretty flimsy defense to me.

I’ve been thinking about city workers campaigning on taxpayer time for a while now, so I did a little experiment back on June 22.  Jessica Maglietto, the coordinator for CitiStat Buffalo, was listed as the contact person on a flyer for a Byron Brown fundraiser.  I emailed her at 9:10 AM that day to ask a question about the event, and got a reply at 10:34AM that same day.  Maybe she’s taken a leave of absence to work on the mayor’s campaign, or maybe she was out sick that day.  Who knows?  But it’s telling that a city employee will give such a quick answer when the question is about helping the mayor to raise money, yet City Hall is notorious for being unresponsive to actual constituent demands.

And the best part of it all is that I’m giving $10 a month to an organization that happily endorsed all this shit!

Ugh.  Again.

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9 Responses to “Getting Drafted Into Byron Brown’s Volunteer Army”

  1. Camille Hopkins Says:

    I was an employee of the the Dept. of Community Services and eventually left due to the bullying I received from Tanya Perrin-Johnson. I filed a harassment complaint with Human Resources for her actions against me. She escalated her bullying afterwards so I filed another charge, this time for retaliation.

    Human Resources didn’t investigate my charges for over 7 months. In the meantime the bullying and intimidation continued. HR never interviewed me about my charges. I wasn’t surprised when they eventually found my claims lacked “sufficient” evidence, although I had supplied them with memos and emails showing otherwise.

    I got tired of her bullying ways and left after working 21 years for the City. I eventually ‘voted with my feet’ and moved to a city in the Pacific Northwest that appears to be honest and forthcoming.

    I heart goes out to current employees of my old dept. It’s City Hall business as usual and I believe that things won’t change. And so it goes.

  2. Rebecca Says:

    I wouldn’t say “happily” endorsed. Also, it’s a member-run organization and the members voted, unfortunately, to endorse Brown. It’s not some BS handed down by the party leadership – the members need wake-up or folks like you and me need to bring in some level-headed folks.

    Also, $10 is for two people.

  3. Camille Hopkins on Campaign “Volunteers” | Artvoice Daily Says:

    […] on Eager Colin’s site, former City of Buffalo employee Camille Hopkins remembers her former boss, Tanya Perrin-Johnson: […]

  4. | Buffalo and Western New York's online news resource Says:

    […] on Eager Colin’s site, former City of Buffalo employee Camille Hopkins remembers her former boss, Tanya Perrin-Johnson: I […]

  5. Byron Brown and the Inevitable Thing « Will There Ever Be a Rainbow? Says:

    […] emails “suggesting” that city employees should work on the mayor’s reelection campaign surface, and Brown issues contradictory […]

  6. Giovanni Centurione Says:

    Screw Brown and Tanya Perrin-Johnson, a bunch of IGNORANT & DISRESPECTFUL excuse of human waist.

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