News From OSA - February, 2003

January was a busy month. The following will be a quick update on works-in-progress.

Now See This. The OSA Welfare Fund Trustees take pleasure in announcing the change (back) to Davis Vision. Our Welfare Fund had switched to NVA two years ago in response to a demand for more participating optical providers. National Vision Administrators did have more offices listed, but they did not have their own lab and there were other problems. After a few months of slow but insufficient improvement, we met with NVA's top executive and we were promised meaningful improvements that, finally, did not occur.

A list of the new participating providers can be downloaded in pdf format here.

The change will be effective at the start of the optical benefit year, March 1st, and will include some nice details. Most important to OSA, under our new agreement, most members will get their glasses from participating providers at no out-of-pocket cost at all. Naturally, if members choose to purchase fashion designer brand frames, the sky is the limit for price, as usual. However, if you can find frames from among the very large selection offered by Davis, you can leave your wallet at home on your visit to a participating optician.

If you choose to use a non-participating provider, the new plan will increase reimbursement from $125 to up to $150 per member.

If you have not yet used your optical benefit for 2002/2003, the last date you can do so is February 28th. As of March 1st, the optical benefit year begins anew.

Black History Celebration. This year, we have a two part celebration of African-American History Month. On Friday, February 21st, we will kick things off with a 6:30pm screening of The Killing Floor, a feature film about pioneering attempts to form an interracial union in the Chicago Stockyards in the early years of the 20th Century. The film stars Damien Leake, Moses Gunn and Alfre Woodard and is a part of our ongoing LaborFilms series. A flier for the complete Spring program of LaborFilms can be downloaded in pdf format by clicking here for page 1 and here for page 2.

Our main celebration will miss Black History month by a week this year. On March 7th, OSA will be hosting an evening of entertainment, food and togetherness. You can download a flier in pdf format detailing the events and a request for R.S.V.P. by clicking here. All members and their families are invited, but we do need to know how much food to order. The event went off splendidly last year, and we trust that Shirley Gray and her stalwart committee will seek to outdo themselves this year as well.

Lincoln's Birthday. As usual, the OSA offices will be closed on February 12th in honor of Lincoln's birthday. We will, in turn, remain open on the anniversary of the birthdays of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and, especially, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Layoffs. Our survey on voluntary furloughs resulted in finding a dozen Staff and Associate Staff Analysts interested in the offer, plus a dozen more from title series not yet targeted for layoff. Returns continue to arrive.

The survey also sparked a flurry of phone calls and letters, some of which have been especially helpful. The union had not even considered the possibility of an entire unit volunteering to work a four-day week for a year. If, as offered, five Analysts each worked a four-day week and got four days pay, the equivalent of a full salary would be saved by the City. Naturally, we would need to negotiate the details, leave accumulation rate, holiday pay, pension and health coverage, etc. If, however, those details were worked out, the suggestion might be appealing to at least some of our members.

The City seems to be taking our suggestion of voluntary furloughs quite seriously. Our initial written proposal received favorable comment from Labor Relations and our survey results led to OLR holding a meeting to discuss those early returns and to discuss the proposed details of our plan. We have not yet reached the stage of actual negotiations, and we are very impatient. Two of the layoffs announced in last month's letters have been resolved without actual loss of job. The third layoff has also been delayed for three weeks but is still pending.

Law. The attempt to amend the 1-in-3 law is moving forward. An article on the effort from The Chief. can be downloaded by clicking here. Sheila Gorsky, Tom Anderson, Mike Schady, Al Bowen, Neal Tepel, Bobby Lee, Shirley Gray, Joan Kiok, Hank Lenz and others have all had a hand in this effort. We could not succeed without the help of the other unions. As of now, DC 37, the Civil Service Merit Council and a large number of municipal unions are clearly on board for this attempt to reduce misuse of the 1-in-3 rule.

It is a group effort to increase the fairness of the civil service system, to reduce corruption and increase the honesty of hiring pools. The success rate of such efforts is generally low. Still, in this case, our determination to change the current corrupt promotional practice of some agencies may make a difference.

Monies. The equity increase due to our members (other than TA) has advanced one step. We have, grudgingly, on advice of our actuary, accepted their numbers and await the response. Members must remember as we have learned, not to halt breathing while awaiting the City response.

The $125 drug reimbursement due those actively employed as Analysts and paying a drug rider as of 1/1/01 and 7/1/01 has also come one step closer to being paid. The City finally sent us a list of who they think is due the money. The list appears suspiciously short so, before we sign off and accept the money, we have to check nearly 3,000 records going back eighteen to twenty-four months.

Negotiations. We are completing outstanding negotiations from the last contract period as quickly as we can on our uniformed School Safety and Traffic Enforcement Unit. We are seeking mediation on the issue of a uniform allowance. The City wants our guys and gals to pay for their uniforms, and we have a friendly counter offer; the City either pays or our members work in civilian clothes.

All of our members supervise subordinates who do get the uniform allowance so the City's position is entirely unreasonable.

New negotiations for the current contract period are advancing slowly. DC 37 has begun negotiations although against a backdrop of fiscal crisis and layoffs. The MLC has advocated restraint, suggesting a coalition bargaining stance in time of fiscal difficulty. OSA will follow the MLC lead on this matter.

Negotiations are, of course, ongoing in the media even if few of the unions are actually at the table at present. The Manhattan Institute has, in the interest of "fairness", suggested we pay some or all of the part of our health care costs now paid by the City. (Current value, about $8,000 per employee.)

Going a bit further, the Citizens Budget Commission sees no reason why we should not work a 40-hour week with no increase in pay. As you can see from the excerpt below from their publication, "Five ways to lower the cost of government by $1 billion dollars per year", dated 12/07/2002), they have studied the matter in depth and have concluded their suggestion is reasonable.

Savings Proposal #1: A 40-hour work week for civilian employees.

Value: $498 Million annually

Of the nearly 2 50,000 full-time employees of the City of New York, about 80,000 are "non-managerial civilians." This means they are not teachers or other educators at the Department of Education or the City University, they are not uniformed employees such as police officers, firefighters or correction officers; and they are not managers such as Commissioners or other senior officials. Of these 80,000 civilians, less than 10,000 are required to work a 40-hour week. About 3,400 civilians work a 37.5-hour week, and more than 67,000 work a 35-hour week.

Those civilians not working a 40-hour week should be required to do so. The savings to the City from this change - $498 million annually - would be realized because fewer workers could accomplish the same amount of work. About 8,500 positions could be eliminated if all of these civilians were required to work a 40 hour week. The average savings per worker would be about $58,000 including salary, fringe benefits and space costs.

Two obstacles must be overcome in order to achieve the full, potential savings. First, there is a high degree of occupational specialization among the civilians. If fewer than eight workers do the same job, then it might not be possible to reallocate the work among a smaller group and accomplish the same volume of work in 40 hours as was done by more employees in 35 hours. In fact, the City's civilian employees are divided among more than 1,100 different job titles, but most are in positions with many incumbents. Only about 7 percent of the workers, or about 5,700, are in job titles with less than eight incumbents in the same agency. For these workers the shift to a 40-hour week should be accompanied by sharing of work across agencies and combining tasks now limited to narrowly defined job descriptions, known as "broad-banding," in order to achieve the full savings.

The second potential obstacle is geographic dispersion of workers among many different locations, making it difficult for a smaller- number of workers to share tasks. In fact, civilian employees work at 1,556 different locations. However, most are concentrated at a few large locations; fully 73 percent, or more than 49,000, are at facilities with at least 100 civilian workers. About 22 percent are at locations with 10 to 100 workers, and less than 5 percent are at locations with fewer than 10 workers. For those at the smaller locations, the shift to a 40-hour week should be accompanied by relocation to more concentrated offices or dividing time among two or more locations.

In difficult fiscal times, it is reasonable to require City employees to have a 40 hour week. Most similar federal employees have a 40-hour week; workers in other large cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and Washington, DC have a 40-hour week; nationally, among all state and local government employees fully 85 percent of the blue-collar workers and 64 percent of the white-collar workers (except teachers) have a 40-hour week.

It is reassuring to note that New York City has so many noble institutions funded by rich folks and dedicated to lowering our salaries and extending our hours of work. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy to see such open examples of class warfare in action.

Welfare Fund Privacy Notice. Finally, you may download a copy of the privacy notice for the Organization of Staff Analysts Welfare Fund required by the administrative provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 by clicking here.