Marcus Paca returns to City Hall Tuesday as the city’s new $98,000-per-year labor relations director.
Paca, who’s 37, beat out two other candidates for the mayorally appointed post—activist Clifton Graves and Alder Claudette Robinson-Thorpe—according to Mayor Toni Harp.
“I’m just happy that the mayor and her chief of staff had the confidence in me” to do the job, said Paca (pictured). “I worked really really hard acquiring the skills and knowledge that are going to make me effective for this position.”
Paca, who represented Edgewood on the Board of Alders from 2010 to 2011, said he now lives in Wooster Square.
Unlike many of his predecessors in the position, Paca is not a lawyer. Paca said he holds a bachelor’s in political science from Hampton University in Virginia and a master’s in business administration and management from Southern Connecticut State University. A law degree is preferable, but not required, for the position, according to the city’s job description. It calls for a candidate with “at least 7 to 10 years experience in labor negotiating activities.”
Harp said she chose Paca because “he was very enthusiastic about the job. He’s had many jobs over the years that show he could handle responsibility, and he’s a fast learner.”
“I think people will be happy with him,” she said.
She said Paca is “very bright” and has experience “developing jobs for people” and doing marketing. He has strong “analytical skills,” she said.
“Most of our negotiations [with labor unions] are done by an outside firm,” Harp added.
Paca outlined his qualifications in an interview.
Paca said while he has never negotiated a labor contract, he has settled other kinds of contracts—multimillion-dollar marketing contracts with national companies. Prior to coming to New Haven about five years ago, he spent five years working at Verizon Wireless in New Jersey, where he “headed up a multimillion-dollar segment of their youth marketing program.” In that job, he negotiated deals with the NBA, X-Games, and the U.S. Army, he said.
“I do have contract experience,” he said. “I know how to work with lawyers.”
“I think those negotiations and those experiences are going to do me fine when it comes down to the nitty-gritty and the verbiage” of settling labor contracts, he said.
“This job is not just about the contracts,” Paca added. “This is about the personal communications that have to happen between the city and the unions.”
He said he would use his “interpersonal skills” to ensure there is “open dialogue” between labor and management. “When people don’t talk, nothing gets done.” He added that he has directly managed employees and is able to “see the big picture, formulate a strategy and execute it to completion.”
Paca said for most of his professional life, “I’ve been in a fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world”—the kind of tough environment in which labor negotiations sometimes take place.
Paca served one term on the Board of Alders, representing Ward 24. He noted that he has also served on the city’s Development Commission; as a delegate to the National League of Cities; and as a delegate to the Democratic state convention. Paca most recently worked at Workplace Inc., a workforce development organization in Bridgeport, where he said he spent nearly three years.
Outside counsel will continue to negotiate labor contracts, according to Harp’s chief of staff, Tomás Reyes, who interviewed the three candidates.
Paca said he’s fine with that.
“The lawyers are the lawyers; they have their law degrees,” Paca said. “I don’t look to throw my weight around in areas that are not my expertise.” He said his areas of expertise include interpersonal communications and “making sure the interests of the city are being met.”
Paca’s daily duties will include handling employee grievances and municipal prohibited practice complaints from the city’s 13 unions, which are active in filing complaints, Reyes said.
Paca will “be also helping to set policy for what the city needs on contracts,” such as how to cut health care costs by changing health care plans.
Paca said he is committed to finding health-care savings and also ensuring that city workers have high morale.
According to the city’s job description, the labor relations director:
• “Negotiates agreements between City and recognized employee organizations. Supervises grievance, appeal and disciplinary actions and mediates grievances.
• “Meets with employee groups, organizations and individuals to discuss pay scales, fringe benefits, working conditions and grievances.
• “Investigates violations of union contracts and City policies, and effectuates appropriate remedies.
• “Supervises collection of data and information on labor relations activities in the public and private sector for use in establishing City policies.
• “Prepares annual budget and represents Department at budget hearings.
• “Provides technical assistance related to employee relations practices and problems.
• “Works in collaboration with Department of Human Resources to develop citywide employee relations programs.”
The job description lists the following requirements for the job:
“Graduation from an accredited four year college or university with major course work in political science, public administrations, industrial relations, or a related field; law degree preferable; and at least 7 to 10 years experience in labor negotiating activities; or equivalent combination of training and experience which provides the following knowledge, abilities and skills:
• “Thorough knowledge of the principles and practices of employee relations methods, techniques and procedures used in a municipal government setting.
• “Thorough knowledge of Federal, State and local labor legislation as it affects municipal government; ability to interpret relevant Charter, Ordinance, state and federal laws.
• “Thorough knowledge of the principles and practices of mediation, fact finding and arbitration.
• “Ability to analyze the issues in a dispute, and evaluate their relative importance and susceptibility to compromise.
• “Ability to develop and maintain effective working relationships with labor management and the general public.
• “Ability to express ideas effectively both orally and in writing.”
“I understand it’s going to be a lot of work,” Paca said. “It’s going to be long hours.” He said he will approach the job “with the goal of ensuring that our city and our unions have a productive dialogue.”