A glimpse inside Mazzoni Center

Mazzoni Center, a brick building with black and white accents.
The front of Mazzoni Center’s 1348 Bainbridge St. headquarters.

As an employee of Mazzoni Center, I can say the work environment there feels unsafe. Staff meetings are disrupted; staffers scream at management in the halls; others complain of bullying by coworkers; staff members “walk out” in the middle of the workday.

I’ve heard speculation that Mazzoni Center canceled its annual staff outing out of retaliation — but in retaliation for what exactly remains unclear. The fact of the matter is, the last thing we needed was this planned outing. The setting felt to me even more unsafe than being at work — and that is saying a lot. I, for one, had no intention of going. I know others weren’t going to attend either.

Had management decided to move forward with the outing, they would have further stressed a workforce already on the point of breaking. That they did not gives me hope that they are beginning to listen. It’s a step in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong — they have miles to go, but every journey begins with a single step.

We’ve heard the accusations: “You’re impinging on my right to free speech; you’re trying to silence me.” And why shouldn’t they be allowed to speak? After all, they’re just words, right?

Well, it’s more than the words themselves — it’s the stridency in tone, it’s the emotion behind the words, it’s the threat of violence. Shouting can quickly escalate into physical violence. Ask anyone who has ever been a victim of domestic violence. Perhaps unless you have been, you don’t get that. But ignorance is no defense. I have been the victim of domestic violence. And I can tell you, every time an employee is allowed to rage unchecked, I am taken back there: My ears ring; I feel every stinging blow; taste my own blood in my mouth; experience again the certainty: This time I will die.

I have had more than a decade to process and release those feelings, those memories. I can only imagine how much more triggering and traumatizing it is for those for whom domestic violence is recent history or, worse, current reality.

We talk a lot about safe spaces — and, for many of us, safe spaces are few and far between. If we are not safe at Mazzoni Center, where are we safe?

Mazzoni Center owes us a safe work environment — all employers owe that much to their employees. So, who is to blame?

The failure to provide a safe work environment can be placed squarely on the shoulders of management, who often fail to act to protect employees, and SEIU Healthcare PA, the union that staff members voted to represent them in September 2017,who either cannot or will not hold bargaining-unit employees accountable for their conduct.

Yes, management has failed us, SEIU has failed us, our former director of diversity, equity and inclusion has failed us — but the hardest failure to accept is the failure of our peers, our coworkers, to ensure we all feel safe at work, no matter our differences. 

The author works at Mazzoni Center and wishes to remain anonymous.

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