OSA News - December, 1998

The holiday season is upon us and an entirely cheery letter would be welcome, but for this particular December, we have both good news and bad news.

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The Good News -- just a little bit. The first bit of good news is that we have all survived for another year and can now celebrate our holiday party together. The OSA holiday party is held at our office, which consists of two main areas. First, there is the big room (Suite 709) where all the food is, and as a result, it is often hard to move. Past the doors to Suite 707 are the other 4,000 square feet where both the music and also the quiet areas are located. It is a wise member who secures their food and drink and exits to the quiet areas.

The food is good, various and plentiful, the drinks are mixed for you by our former college interns, and the ambience is utterly friendly.

A second bit of good news, but for the next holiday party, is that our attorney Joan Kiok and the Fire Alarm Dispatchers' Benevolent Association are jointly taking space across from OSA on the same floor. By next year they expect to be able to open their 2100 square feet of offices and desks to accomodate our overflow crowd. Both Joan Kiok and David Rosensweig, FADBA president, have expressed their regrets that they will not be able to host at all this year as the move is still in the negotiating stage.

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The next tiny bit of good news only applies to some of our members, those who are earning the ten year longevity, but not the ten and fifteen year longevity. The information and the chart come to you from Jay Warshofsky, a member of our Executive Board and, obviously, an Analyst with a proclivity for numbers. Jay's chart appears below.

Our last bit of good news is that OSA is fiercely engaged, once again, in an organizing election. This time we are engaged at the Transit Authority and MaBSTOA. To be sure, the current news regarding corruption and vote fraud at DC37 is no help to an organizing election but it is our hope and belief that the Analysts at TA and MaBSTOA can distinguish between OSA and DC37.

As a part of that campaign, and in response to offers made at last month's membership meeting, OSA would be pleased to receive any personal testimony from members on behalf of our union. We will send out some of the letters received to the voters at TA\OA and thus will make use of our current members positive experiences with OSA for the current campaign.

Please keep the letters short. They will not be edited without your approval and must be typed. There is no guarantee a particular letter will be used although some, at least, will be used. A letter which simply says you think the union is wonderful is not of much value. A letter which tells a true story of how union membership actually helped you is of more value.

Please include your home telephone number since, as a matter of course, we would like the TA\OA voters to be able to call you if they have any questions. Send your letter to OSA, 220 East 23rd Street Suite 707, New York, NY 10010 or fax the letter to OSA at (212) 686-1231 attention Rose. The deadline is "real quick" since the mail balloting starts the last week in December.

The Very Bad News -- and far too much of it. As this letter is being written, DC37 has just been put into the control of trustees appointed by DC37's parent international, AFSCME.

The tragedy of municipal labor's largest union has been unfolding for months but, as long as the matter was internal to DC37, comment by our union was inappropriate. The recent revelations of vote fraud within DC37 change the matter from an internal affair to one that affects all municipal workers. The connecting link is an agreement titled the "1995 Municipal Coalition Memorandum of Economic Agreement."

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Background. Before 1967, New York City experienced frequent labor strife with tugboat captains, cops, teachers, caseworkers, sanitation workers, and a host of other City workers striking in absolute defiance of the old labor law. In 1968, the New York State Taylor Law replaced the old law. But even before that, New York City had concluded the "Tripartite Agreement" that created the Office of Collective Bargaining as a neutral party between management and labor. "Tripartite" also gave the largest civilian union the right to negotiate all issues that needed to be uniform throughout city government.

In addition, the City began to take the position that it would settle economic issues with one large union and thereafter, refuse to give more to any other union. The City's practice of refusing to give more to any union which came to the table after the first major union had settled was called pattern bargaining.

Many unions have sought to overturn pattern bargaining, over the years, but none have had any success. The City can be persuaded, on occasion, to choose to deviate from a set pattern but it has become very hard for any NYC public sector union, by itself, to escape the pattern.

In defense, the NYC municipal labor unions formed the Municipal Labor Coalition (MLC). One of the MLC's main tasks is to negotiate, jointly, on behalf of over two-hundred-thousand Municipal workers. DC37, as the largest union, led the MLC. Stanley Hill, Executive Director of DC37 was also the Chairperson of the MLC. A fine mess...

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The MLC negotiated the 1995 to 2000 agreement (The Municipal Coalition Memorandum of Economic Agreement - the McMEA) but it was felt to be a bad agreement by many unions. There was a two year pay freeze given in return for a three year no-layoff pledge, and the contract itself was for a very long period (five years).

DC37 allowed each of its 56 local unions to vote separately, but totaled the vote for a final decision. It is now known that thousands of "yes" votes were added to the Local 1549 returns, swinging the decision from rejection to acceptance. Once DC37 had voted, all 56 locals were bound by the decision. The Municipal Labor Coalition locals outside DC37 were free to accept or reject.

Many locals rejected the agreement, were unable to do better in negotiations on their own and went into "impasse bargaining" or sought legislative relief. Unions which went into "impasse" were forced to adhere to the pattern by the arbitrators, and those seeking help from Albany were also turned down.

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The bottom line is that all municipal unions were forced to conform to a settlement obtained by an act of fraud. The Mayor, of course, takes the position that he was unaware of the fraud although he did claim considerable credit for the settlement.

Where do we go from here? We don't know. Meetings are being called both within and outside of the MLC and many unions are talking of lawsuits and reopened contracts.

Perhaps. Our union will attend all the meetings and will take any action that seems reasonable, but there is no precedent for the current dilemma. There was one case in the past 30 years -- a leader of a municipal union falsified a vote -- but in that case, the leader cheated in order to reject the contract.

The penalties for falsification of a vote are generally harsh, even if the individuals involved felt they acted upon good intentions.

DC37 has often been of great value to its own members and their families as well. Had it not been for DC37, our city might, itself, have gone into bankruptcy in the mid-1970's. It is a truly sad moment to see it all go so very far wrong