|News From OSA - January, 2000
The news at the start of the year 2000 is cheerful. Not only did we survive Y2K, but the Transport Workers were even offered a decent settlement.
The Mayor, of course, hastened to tell us that the TWU pattern was no pattern at all. In response, the PBA and a number of other unions "burned" by pattern bargaining over recent years were heard to loudly disagree. We shall see what negotiations bring. Meanwhile, one correction is in order.
Laws: Condon-Wadlin, Taylor and None at All. The Mayor had a fine time on the day before last month's potential Transit strike. He threatened dramatic penalties, found a friendly judge, mobilized armies of police on overtime and found another excuse to retreat to his emergency bunker in the sky. At the end of the day, the Mayor smugly remarked that the point had been made that government workers were not allowed to strike. He implied that we can't strike, but of course we can and we have. If we could never strike, all the power would be on one side of the table and negotiations would not work.
Government workers in New York State are covered by the state "Taylor" law. The Taylor law was passed in reaction to the failure of the previous anti-strike law, the Condon-Wadlin Act. The Condon-Wadlin Act skipped all the minor penalties and simply fired any government workers who dared to withhold his or her labor as a part of a strike. It seemed a very effective law, until workers chose to strike.
At first, five tug boat captains struck, and were fired and stayed fired thereafter.
Next a few thousand Transit workers struck and then a few thousand sanitation workers. Thereafter, a few thousand school teachers and later yet a few thousand Welfare Workers and Hospital workers and still others went on strike in spite of the law. In each case, all the strikers were fired, quite officially, by way of telegrams (remember them?) sent to their homes. Many strikers were fired more than once in case they missed the first telegram or the second.
Curiously, being fired did not inspire the discharged workers to cave in or beg for their jobs back. Instead the draconian penalty rather strengthened the workers' resolve to continue the strike. After all, once fired, what more can one lose?
In each case, (save the tug boat captains), all were hired back, an amnesty was passed by the state legislature and a new contract was signed, generally on very favorable terms for the workers.
The flaw in the Condon-Wadlin law was in its assumption that use of an extreme penalty will absolutely deter a strike. The existence of such a penalty will tend to deter a strike, but the long term result is that pressure builds up and once a strike does occur, those on strike know their job is a stake unless they win. The contract settlements in New York City in the 1960's were, due to the strikes, probably the most generous in the City's history.
A field Caseworker entering Welfare employment in 1965 earned $5,150 a year. He or she could expect to rise in stages, to $6,650 after five years of satisfactory service. Due to the results of the 1965 and 1967 strikes (30 days in '65 and 43 days in '67). That same worker was by his or her sixth year earning over eight thousand dollars. Each striking worker had lost, on a one time basis, a total of twenty percent of a year's salary. They had also increased their take home pay by a total of about 40%. In addition, promotional opportunity went from rare to being nearly guaranteed to all, and working conditions, health, welfare and pensions were all dramatically improved.
Striking was illegal, but it paid off very handsomely. By 1968 probably two thirds of all government workers for New York City were City certified breakers of the law, or at least of one particular law.
One additional note. Many persons, once they were outlawed and fired from their employment, became quite radical, at least so long as the dispute continued. Ordinary folks in the 1960's, having already broken one law, often went further in defense of their cause.
The Condon-Wadlin Act was not a good law, nor a workable law, and it was repealed.
The Taylor law, currently in effect, has worked far better than its predecessor. The Taylor law as now written, denies unions' "check off" privileges after a strike thus making dues collection very difficult, generally hits the union with onerous fines and the individual members with a loss of two days pay for each day not worked. The Taylor law does deter strikes.
The Taylor law penalties are also not always fully enforced and in the one major case remembered, the TWU strike in the 80's, the City relented and restored union dues check off before the penalty period expired.
Since the Taylor law has worked well to deter strikes, what was the Mayor doing when he found a judge to issue an order to top the Taylor law penalties with vastly larger penalties quite impossible to collect? The Mayor was grandstanding, i.e. playing to impress the onlookers.
Had the MTA offer of 9% for four years been final, TWU would have probably struck. The penalties per worker, $25,000 for the first day, doubled thereafter, daily, would have exceeded the lifetime earning power of each striker by the end of the week and would have reached the level of the gross national product of a small nation before the end of the month.
The union itself would be fined into instant bankruptcy almost as soon as the strike vote was taken and the Mayor had still more penalties in mind. Not content with infinite fines he also mused about billing the (about to be bankrupted) bus drivers for the overtime it cost to hire the police to lock them up.
Fortunately the MTA nearly doubled their earlier offer, no strike was called and the Mayor was not forced to deliver on his "PATCO" promises.
The Mayor might really have been able to replace the tens of thousands of striking Transit Workers eventually. Still, unemployment is historically low and using WEPs as strike breakers might have had far reaching repercussions.
There would have been no holiday season in New York if the strike occurred. The cost to New York of the Mayor's strategy would resemble the "Mutually Assured Destruction" policy we recently escaped at the close of the Cold War. Government workers can and will strike, legally or illegally, if they believe it is the right choice. Any strike is costly, unpleasant and generally to be avoided. A public service strike may also be illegal, but if it ever became impossible our working conditions would soon thereafter become equally impossible.
In the latter part of World War I, the French Army at one point, went on strike. They would defend, but not attack. No orders, threats or even use of force was able to break that strike. A new commander was appointed by the government, rations improved, increased regular furloughs arranged and other improvements put in place. Soldiers voted to return to regular duty.
If even front line soldiers of an invaded and partially occupied nation can go on strike in desperate circumstances, any belief that government workers can not go on strike is false. We can. We really would rather not, but, truth is, we can.
Negotiations. Our own negotiations at Transit are only now getting started since TA was unwilling to start until the TWU crisis was over. Those negotiation for the old contracts have been delayed since last year's election victory but are getting on track now. We did get the 4.75% last June, but we are looking for a bit more for our brothers and sisters in Transit.
Outside Transit, our new coalition negotiations will, this time, be separate from DC37 and the novelty of the process will be interesting. We do not yet know if matters will be improved by the new approach, but since DC37 itself felt a need, for internal reasons, for this approach, the other civilian unions had no input on the decision.
Mitchell Lama Issues. OSA representative John Ost reports that OSA has learned (at a November meeting with C. Virginia Fields, Manhattan's Borough President) that some of our membership may be at risk of seeing their monthly housing costs escalate astronomically.
Those affected presently live in Mitchell-Lama rental housing where their landlords are attempting to leave the program and charge market rate rents.
The following developments are presently affected: Cooper-Gramercy, Middagh Street (Brooklyn), Ruppert Yorkville Towers, Waterside and Westview.
So that we may better serve the membership, if you live in a Mitchell-Lama development, please print, fill out and send in the coupon below as soon as possible.
OSA MITCHELL-LAMA RESIDENT INFORMATION FORM
Please print, complete, and mail this coupon to: OSA, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 707, NYC 10010 Attn: John Ost.
I LIVE IN MITCHELL-LAMA HOUSING
NAME (print) __________________________________________________
CITY/STATE ________________________ ZIP _____________________
OFFICE PHONE ___________________HOME PHONE_______________
NAME OF MITCHELL-LAMA HOUSING:
TYPE OF HOUSING__ /___/__ RENTAL __/___/__ CO-OP
DATE MOVED IN _____________________# OF ROOMS ______________
IS YOUR HOUSING COMPANY PRESENTLY SEEKING TO LEAVE THE MITCHELL- LAMA HOUSING PROGRAM?__ /___/__ YES __/___/__ NO
African-American History Program. Shirley Gray, OSA grievance representative, is putting together a ew events for the evening of February 25th at 5:30 P.M. Refreshments will be served. If you would like to become involved please call her at 212-686-1229.
Pension Equity. A recent change in the law will soon allow members, in certain cases, to switch from one pension tier to another. If you once belonged to a pension plan with the City, but left to have children or for any other reason, returned and found yourself in a different pension tier, you will now be able to be reinstated to the tier in effect on the date you first joined. The bill allowing for your reinstatement into the earlier, more valuable and less costly tiers has just been signed by the Governor.
"All employees who have yet to retire and who became a member of the retirement system in one tier, left employment temporarily and then rejoined the system in another tier are eligible, regardless of the number of year they were absent"
The New York City Employees Retirement System will have a re-opener for all affected at some point soon and OSA will attempt to notify you when it occurs. Call the newsline or check the newsline section of this website weekly.
Thanks are due to Assemblywoman Arlene Weinstein who sponsored the bill, the Chief, which reported her success and OSA Retirement counselor Bob Hershkowitz, who brought it to attention.
Good Scores. Results of the appeals of low scores on the Staff Analyst exam are being received now. Our record before the appeals was pretty good. Of about 6000 total test papers judged 11% were awarded 100% without OSA training, 25% of our OSART candidates get a 100 and 40% of our OSA (union) candidates made a perfect score. Naturally we were pleased with the results but not entirely satisfied. Our reviewers re-assembled and helped on the appeals of grades below 100 and while results are only now coming in, the results look pretty good so far.
If you appealed and received an upgraded score please call George Morgan and report new score and new list numbers. Our next effort will be to assist those still graded too low in their final appeal to the Civil Service Commission.
If you did appeal and your appeal was rejected call George Morgan at the Union Office.
Easy Rider Coalition. One area of minor success occurred recently as the Easy Rider Coalition obtained a seat on the Municipal Labor Committee Technical Health Sub Committee. Chosen as representatives were the OSA Chairperson and, as alternate, Irwin Shaness of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators. Members suffering from the poor communications sent out on behalf of the GHI drug rider now have some hope of improvement but still must be patient. The award of a seat to the Easy Rider Coalition does mean that our concerns will be heard.
Welfare Fund Benefits. The new Welfare Fund Benefits update will be posted to the Members Services section of this website shortly.
Oops Late. The membership meeting normally held at the end of January will be held instead on Thursday, February 3rd. Coffee and cake will be provided at union headquarters. See you there.
Membership Meeting. Thursday, February 3, 2000 at 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 709, Manhattan, at 6:00 p.m.
Photographs. The photographs in this month's edition of News From OSA were taken by Director of Media Services Rob Spencer at a December 8th midtown demonstration in support of transport workers' demands for a fair contract, and at our annual Holiday Party on December 14th. For more Holiday Party photos, scroll down.