News From OSA - August, 2015

We hope that your summer vacation went well – if you got one. As this is being written, the OSA leadership was busy with negotiations, exams, the aftermath of the exams and, of course, putting out the summer mailing.

OUR NEGOTIATIONS... were disrupted by the tragic loss of our well-beloved Tim Collins. Tim was our chief negotiator, as well as the head of our grievance department. He had earned the trust of labor and management alike. Tim passed away peacefully in his sleep and we will miss him, always.

By the time of his loss, negotiations had advanced quite far. We are asking for no more than the accepted pattern, but we are also seeking other items.

We do not want members seeking an unpaid leave of absence for up to one year to be unreasonably denied that leave. Members now are allowed up to twelve weeks under the Family Medical Leave Act, but that is not always enough.

We do want our members to be allowed to volunteer to work a four day week (8¾ hours per day), where the agency deems it practical.

We want our members holding noncompetitive civil service titles to be allowed to promote, by exam, into equivalent competitive analyst positions.

We want our Administrative Staff Analysts Levels II and III to be given the same longevity differentials as is called for in our contract for Administrative Staff Analysts Level I.

At the stage we have reached, we seem to have gone as far as we can go using the normal negotiation process. That process is absolutely required and it actually does help each side learn where the other side “is coming from.” As of May, Tim had concluded that we had exhausted the first stage and now should proceed to impasse or appeal to the Mayor's office. This is occurring.

EXAMS. We were able to get our revised item analysis for the Staff and Associate Staff Analyst exams on this website just before the first review sessions occurred. Hundreds did attend those review sessions and, as a result, we expect that any errors in either questions or proposed answers will be challenged. Once challenged, questions and answers are sent to the Test Validation Board for review. It is based on their report that the final answer key is generated.

Those who are worried about a low or failing score based on the tentative answer key should remember the test is competitive. The City can and will add points to your score if an insufficient number of candidates pass.

We have also posted the item analysis for the Administrative Staff Analyst exam on this website as well. All of the item analyses can be found on the “Exams, Lists and Training” page.

HOW WENT THE EXAMS? The experience of taking a civil service exam can be an ordeal, but it is always memorable. The recent exams in May and June were no exception.

In response to these exams, many letters were received by the union and DCAS. The union is always eager to receive these reports, because we learn what went right and what went wrong. DCAS also benefits from these letters and the mostly smooth administration of the June Administrative Staff Analyst exam may be due to lessons learned from the May exam.

What did we learn? The desks were too small, the papers and booklets too extensive, and clocks were often not present in the rooms. Some said there was too much math; others felt that part was okay.

The wait on line bothered many, but especially where the school doors opened far later than scheduled. The bathrooms were often a problem and especially so in one school.

The monitors, only a few of whom are regular DCAS staff, could be critical. If you got a good one, the test went as well as possible. If the monitor did not know what to do, or gave false advice or instructions, it could be a disaster. Reports about poor monitoring certainly should be sent to DCAS.

We also learned that the DCAS staff had often done their job well and that is also worth noting. The exercise in May was complicated beyond reason by the multiple exams being given all at once. The exams in June were less complicated, but there is a solid consensus that there were far too many questions for the time allotted.

We did learn that many candidates faulted the content of each of the exams. This was no surprise since every analyst exam we have tracked since 1978 has received the same criticism.

In 1978, the major complaint was that the exam was not job related. The union later compared the results of the promotional and open competitive exams for that year. It turned out that incumbent analysts had done better as a group than outsiders. The conclusion drawn was that the exam had been somewhat job related, but not enough to please everyone.

What do we do with what we have learned?

First, of course, we share our results with DCAS – and they often agree. Changes, over the years, have been made for the better.

Second, we seek to revise and improve our training classes where we can. No exam will ever be handed to the union in advance, so our courses will always have to rely on the general topics offered by the Notice of Examination.

The comments we received on our training were a mixture of favorable and unfavorable, but specific advice for the next training course was rare.

Our union has one member who calls himself (herself?) Anonymous. He (or she) writes us often and seldom has a kind word to say to us. On the occasion of the exams, Anonymous sent in the comment, in large block letters “Useless prep courses! Why did we bother! Useless.” On the other hand, members Nigel Manuel, John Roone and Ramon Garcia sent in very friendly thank you notes.

We were especially pleased to receive this note from Leigh Block:

“Thank you to all of the hard working staff of OSA who gave of their free time to work Saturdays and weeknights to help their fellow members. I appreciate that you came out to distribute your goody bags and offer encouragement. In a city filled with unions with selfish interests, OSA stands out as a shining star.”

Thank you, Leigh, for noticing.

OTHER MATTERS. This edition of the OSA Newsletter includes coupons, light reading and required reports as usual, but also includes two items of special interest. Our active members at ACS have asked for the union to share the work of our grievance unit with the membership. The enclosed report is our first effort to do so in many years. A well-running and effective grievance operation is the “bread and butter” of every union. Members should know, without doubt, that the union is able to protect them, and will do so whenever management acts against contract, procedure or decency.

We have had a fine grievance operation for OSA members for longer than we have been a union and we thank ACS activists for suggesting we document that fact.

Also, our usual Welfare Fund report is a bit unusual because 2014 was the first year the funds received due to our contract were less than we spent on benefits.

OSA generally seeks to match the Management Benefits Fund and, as a result, has unusually generous benefits for Dental, Superimposed Major Medical, Vision and Life Insurance.

Many members have asked that we add a drug plan similar to other unions. In response, we point out that we could do so only by taking the money to support that benefit away from the other existing benefits. As much as some members would appreciate a new benefit being added, even more so would other members be upset over the loss of an existing benefit, one upon which they had come to rely.

The OSA leadership has been fortunate enough to be involved with the citywide health negotiations and a joint effort is being made by the City and the unions to seek to handle prescription drugs on a citywide basis, but no great progress has been made yet.

LABOR DAY PARADE. If you are reading this before Saturday, September 12, we hope you will attend the Labor Day Parade this year. We mailed you a parade flier with the June mailing and another in the bulk summer mailing. We are gathering at 10:30am on West 45th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. Look for the union banner. Please invite your friends and family to join us.

Last year we had record attendance and we’d love to duplicate or even exceed the 100 or so members, relatives and friends who marched with us.

The parade is both important and fun for those who do attend. Our organization spent fifteen years trying to be recognized as a union, and for many years thereafter we were too small to be invited to march in labor parades. Finally, we were asked to march by the NYC labor unions, and each year that there has been a parade some of us have walked up Fifth Avenue. We wear t-shirts and hats with the bold OSA symbol. We show pride in our own union and, equally important, stand together with the other unions to demonstrate New York City remains a union town.

So, we hope you won’t miss the Labor Day Parade this year. Come and join us and share the cheering, get free clothes and a bit to eat, and spend some time with friends. You can download a parade flier below.

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. Mark your calendar for the September general membership meeting, which will take place on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 6:15pm at the union office on 23rd Street. Pizza will be available before the meeting. A flier can be downloaded below to remind yourself of the date, time and location.

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS. You can download the following by clicking on the links.

  • Reports

  • 2014 OSA Welfare Fund Analysis

  • 2014 OSA Financial Report

  • Tales From The Grievance Department

  • Coupons and Fliers

  • One Big Seminar Signup Coupon

  • Labor Day Parade Invitation - September 12, 2015

  • September General Meeting Announcement - September 24, 2015

  • Transfer Request Form

  • Quality of Work Life Committee

  • Member Information Update

  • Website and Hotline Information

  • Short Website Overview

  • OSA PAC Deduction Form

  • Agency Shop Fee Payer Procedure

  • HIPAA Notice

  • Articles of Interest

  • Why Joining A Union Is Good For Your Well Being

  • Calm Down: SCOTUS's Friedrichs Case Won't Mean the End of the American Labor Movement

  • Prison Revolt
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