Although the City of East Lansing has taken steps to retain current employees and make its workforce an anti-racist one, the City currently has 64 fewer employees than it did on Dec. 31, 2019 — and the departures have been most prevalent among Black or African-American employees, as 15 Black and African-American workers have left the City since the end of 2019.
When East Lansing Info compared 2019 and 2022 workforce data that it received from the City through the Freedom of Information Act, it found that men still hold roughly two-thirds of full-time jobs and several key departments continue to employ only white people.
The demographic data of City employees represent two snapshots in time — Dec. 31, 2019 and Feb. 1, 2022, respectively — and shows the net changes in the demographics of who is employed by the City of East Lansing. It does not provide any information about staff turnover, meaning it’s not always possible to discern if a new person has been hired to fill a vacancy that came open between the above dates. If the new hire is the same race and gender as the person who previously held the position, the change won’t be seen in the data.
East Lansing portrays itself as an anti-racist City. The number of Black and African-American workers employed by the City has declined by more than one-third since the end of 2019.
In the last two years, East Lansing elected its first Black Mayor, examined how Black residents and visitors have been disproportionately affected by police stops, passed a resolution banning race-based hair discrimination in the city, declared racism a public health crisis, and created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Division for the City.
During that time, 15 Black employees — or about 37% of the City’s total Black employees at the end of 2019 — left their jobs with the City. At the end of 2019, Black employees made up 7.8% of the City’s workforce. Now, Black people account for 5.4% of the City’s workforce. For reference, 6.8% of residents in East Lansing are Black, according to data from the Census Bureau.
In 2019, 44% of the City’s Black employees held full-time jobs, with 56% working part-time. Now, 58% of Black employees are classified as full-time, but that is due to the denominator shrinking as the City saw a net loss of 3 Black full-time employees.
The City also experienced a net loss of one white, one Native American, and two Latinx full-time employees, and a net gain of one employee of two or more races.
The number of Asians employed full-time by the City held steady at eight. While Asians account for 12.5% of East Lansing’s residents, they make up less than 3% of workers employed by the City.
As was the case at the end of 2019, six departments are still staffed entirely by white employees as of Feb. 1, 2022: the City Clerk’s Office, the City Manager’s Office, Information Technology (IT), Communications, Human Resources, and the Seniors Program.
Parking, which had been the most diverse department in 2019 with 40% of its employees non-white, is now 89% white.
Parks and Recreation is now the most diverse department, but it also has the most contingent workers. The five administrators – three women and two men – are white. Of the 26 non-white employees in Parks and Rec, only four are full-time employees.
Two departments are led by people of color: the East Lansing Police Department by Kim Johnson and the DEI Division by Elaine Hardy. The DEI Division has two employees, both of whom are Black women — Hardy included.
Parks and Rec, the East Lansing Public Library, and the East Lansing Police Department saw the greatest reductions in their staff ranks.
Parks and Rec had 15 full-time workers in both 2019 and 2022, but still endured a net loss of 35 employees — all contingent workers — or 21.3% of its workforce.
Writing to ELi over email, the City stated, “Employee turnover happens regularly in the organization, especially in part-time, contingent positions. We are consistently filling positions as they arise.”
ELi reported on some of the available vacancies in 2021 after ELPD’s Neighborhood Resource Specialist Tonya Williams reached out to ELi about a shortage of crossing guards.
Both ELPL’s and ELPD’s workforces have been reduced by nearly 20 percent, clocking in at 18.6% and 18.8% respectively. The data show a net loss of six employees at the library (one was full-time) and a net loss of 19 employees at ELPD (eight full-time).
Employees at ELPL unionized during the pandemic in response to what workers considered unfair working conditions. A contract was finally reached between the non-supervisory workers at ELPL and the City in late 2021.
The City also reached a contract agreement with the Command Officers Association of Michigan (COAM), the police union that represents the 11 sergeants and lieutenants that currently serve in ELPD. Council member Lisa Babcock expressed concern about the contract, but the discussion at the Oct. 19 Council meeting did not lead to any reworking.
When the City’s original draft plan for use of its American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds were revealed, it did not include premium pay for frontline workers during the pandemic. A coalition of union leaders wrote to the City, and Council ultimately voted in favor of using some ARPA funds for retention bonuses for employees.
Employees who left and retired prior to February 2022 were ineligible for the bonuses as the City Manager made clear that the money was intended to keep current employees working for the City. Union leaders representing East Lansing firefighters, police officers, police support workers, public works employees, and East Lansing Public Library employees again petitioned the City, arguing that those workers had not been justly compensated for their unique risks and sacrifices during the pandemic.
Initially, contingent workers were ineligible for retention bonuses, but a reader shared with ELi that the City Manager established small bonuses for contingent employees, relative to their weekly hours worked.
Although many departments are led by women, female workers only account for approximately one-third of full-time employees.
Since 2019, the City has appointed two women as department heads: Dawn Carson as the chief for the East Lansing Fire Department and Cathy DeShambo as the head of Parks and Rec. With Scott House, East Lansing’s director of the Department of Public Works on leave for military service, Deputy Director Nicole McPherson is currently serving as Interim Director of DPW.
Women continue to lead the Human Resources department, the East Lansing Public Library, and the Seniors program.
While women make up 49.8% of the City’s employees, they only account for 36.5% of full-time ones. In comparison, they make up 73.8% of regular part-time employees and 68.2% of all part-time contingent workers for the City.
Full-time jobs typically come with higher salaries and better benefits while contingent workers, in comparison, tend to receive lower wages and no benefits.
Parks and Rec — the City’s largest department — employs 129 people including 95 women, but only 11 are full time. More than half of the women employed by Parks and Rec are contingent workers for the department’s child care program and just five of the contingent workers for that program are men.
The City told ELi over email that its 2022 report is slightly different, explaining, “The latest report utilizes the employment type field whereas the older report utilized the benefit group field.” The City neither confirmed nor denied a net loss of 64 workers.
In looking at data from 2019 and 2022, ELi did not include election workers.