News From OSA - January, 2005

Twenty years ago, members of the current administration of OSA and OSART were sworn in as newly-elected officers of our organization. At that time, our organization was fifteen years old, had 365 dues paying members and no one was covered for collective bargaining purposes.

In the twenty years that followed, a number of changes occurred. Soon, a small number of Analysts gained union rights at the Board of Education. At that point, OSA had to be split into OSA and OSART to conform with the New York State Taylor Law. OSA, tiny, but due to eventually grow a hundredfold, was the union for Analysts eligible for collective bargaining. OSART was, and is still today, the organization for those not yet eligible for collective bargaining as Analysts.

Over the years, the number of members and titles represented grew and is still growing.

During the past two decades, some things have not changed at all. Our group goals remain as stated in 1970: Organize (for collective bargaining purposes), Certify (for permanent civil service status) and Cooperate (working helpfully with other brothers and sisters within government service).

This month, at our general membership meeting, Joan Kiok, OSA's attorney for nearly a quarter of a century, will again administer the oath of office to those individuals who have both the honor and responsibility to represent OSA and OSART as officers for the next two years.

The reelected officers thank the activists, delegates and chapter officers who do so much of the day-to-day union work on location and also to thank the membership because, without their strong support, OSA/OSART would never have come into being and could never have lasted over the years.

Education Analysts. The Education Analysts job description differs from the Staff Analyst job description hardly at all. The exam for the two jobs is the same exam. The two titles are, nonetheless, separate titles.

OSA first became familiar with the Ed Analysts during the campaign to organize Staff Analysts at the old Board of Education. As we knew, the Analyst title had been "broadbanded" into existence by combining eighty-eight predecessor more specialized titles. Shortly thereafter, at the request of the Board of Education, the Department of Personnel agreed to "narrowband" the newly-created title series as it applied to their employees. Some, but not all, Staff Analysts series title holders were transferred into the new title of Education Analyst.

The newly created Education Analyst title was often filled by former members of the United Federation of Teachers, and, as a result, the UFT was allowed to represent those persons in their new title.

Thus, even before OSA won the right to represent the Staff Analyst series at the Board of Education in 1985, Education Analysts were represented by the UFT.

Over the years, OSA maintained close contact with the UFT chapter representing Ed Analysts and Ed Officers. Recently, the chapter became inactive due to the retirement or promotion of our contact persons and we lost touch. Nonetheless, a number of candidates for the recent Ed Analyst exam knew enough to join OSART in order to take our test preparation course, thus contact was renewed.

One interesting complaint was raised by some of the candidates during the training sessions. The candidates had been told by Management that, as Education Analysts, they could not belong to a union. The OSA leadership promised to bring the problem to the attention of the UFT.

We did so, and matters thereafter became even more interesting. It appears that the candidates were correct and that the Department of Education was seeking to improperly exclude scores or even hundreds of employees from union representation.

The UFT now has lawyers addressing the matter and we do expect a favorable resolution fairly soon. Two of our goals are for Analysts to help Analysts obtain civil service status and, also, collective bargaining rights. It is kind of neat that in this case, attendance at our exam preparation course also alerted some Analysts of their right to collective bargaining.

We were and are proud of our OSART brothers and sisters at the Department of Education. As you can see from the article from The Chief you can download here, the Department of Education was quickly put on notice that their unholy scheme to deprive Ed Analysts of union status had not gone as planned.

Party. The OSA Holiday Party was very, very nice but far too crowded. We will need a larger site for next year and both cost and location are important. Members who know of possible sites should inquire and let us know the costs and availability. We are not absolutely wedded to Manhattan but convenient public transportation is very important.

Negotiations. There are various negotiations still to be completed from the current contract but the one negotiation that is most absorbing at present is the PICA negotiation.

As most members are aware, the City pays for a large portion of the cost of the PICA drugs. PICA covers Psychotherapeutic, Injectable, Chemotherapy, and Asthma drugs. The City seems to feel they can't meet the increasing cost of those drugs.

In fact, over three years ago, the original cost of the PICA program came in at about $98 million annually which was a lot of money. By the time twenty-two months had gone by, PICA drugs cost $140 million and rising. Last year's negotiation led to a continuation of PICA but with co-pays added, mandatory generics and step therapy limitations designed to hold down the cost of the drugs.

As of this year, it became clear last year's changes had partially worked. There was a seven to eight percent decrease per person in the actual cost to the City of PICA drugs. That was especially impressive since, absent those changes, there would have been a fifteen percent increase in the cost of PICA to the City.

Unfortunately, not enough money was saved to indefinitely resolve the current fiscal problem and, in any case, the cost of drugs continues to increase rapidly.

Initially, the City had planned to discard PICA with notice to us but without negotiations; however, in response to a letter from Randi Weingarten on behalf of the Municipal Labor Committee, negotiations are now scheduled.

By the time of this month's general membership meeting, more information will be available. OSA has representation on both the Health Technical Sub Committee of the MLC and the Steering Committee so we should be well informed. On the other hand, we may find ourselves being well informed about planned PICA drug plan changes that will cost us even more than we are now spending.

Save a LOT of money. One of our members, Ellen Walk, sent us a note telling how she learned to save on her prescription drug costs. Ellen's note, reprinted with her permission, appears below. Please note, however, that Ellen's situation applied to her particular drug plan and other plans may vary.

Dear OSA:

I recently became aware that filling a prescription through Express Scripts, rather than a local pharmacy, could save A LOT of money. I had been under the impression that it was necessary to use Express Scripts only when refilling a prescription for the third time (and for ongoing refills).

I'll give 2 examples that make my point:

-- I filled a prescription for eye drops (for my husband) at the local pharmacy. The bill was $60. Because I thought the cost was extremely high, I called Express Scripts to inquire and was told that if I ordered directly from them the charge would be only $20. I returned the drops to the pharmacy and ordered from E.S., saving $40.

-- I had a prescription for a 3-month course of Lamisil which is a once a day tablet to treat nail fungus. I wasn't sure if this was a costly medication so I called E.S. They told me that if I had the prescription filled in a drug store it would cost me $284 for a one-month supply (including $150 deductible I hadn't yet met for the year). If I mail ordered from them I would avoid the deductible and I would only be charged $40 for a 2 month supply!

I called the OSA office today to advise them (and the membership) of this and the staffer I spoke with suggested that I send a letter to you detailing my experiences. I guess I just wanted the word to get out that by mail-ordering any prescriptions you don't need immediately from E.S., you can save A LOT of money.

Happy Holidays,

Ellen Walk

College Degree. Citywide Personnel, a branch of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, recently changed the requirements for the job of Staff Analyst.

As of now, a four-year college degree is required of a candidate for provisional appointment to Staff, Associate or Administrative Staff Analyst. In the future, the same requirement will be needed to even take the test for Staff Analyst.

OSA representatives met with Citywide Personnel and learned that there is no intention of applying the rule retroactively. Thus candidates who passed the recent Staff Analyst exam will be eligible for appointment so long as they had met the original work experience requirements to take the exam last year. Also, future promotional exams at the Associate and Administrative levels will be open to any candidate holding permanent status in the appropriate lower titles.

We asked what had sparked this major change in requirements for the Analyst job. We were told that a job analysis had been done and it had been determined that a four-year college degree was required by the nature of the position.

The union raised two separate issues that perplexed us. First, the Analyst job has been open to outstanding civil servants without college degrees for over thirty years now. Significant individual Analysts were known to have risen from Analyst to Manager and even to Commissioner without college degrees over the years.

Also, early results from last summer's Staff Analyst exam showed that while only twenty percent of the candidates with four-year college degrees passed, yet six percent of candidates with high school degrees passed.

It would appear that some, at least, of the candidates allowed to take the exam due to their years of City work experience outscored eighty percent of the college graduates on Personnel's own exam. The exam was designed to test merit and fitness to serve and had found that a number of non-degree holding candidates were superior. Even so, Personnel has decided that this will be the last time that high school graduates or holders of Associate degrees will be allowed to compete with four-year college graduates.

When the union raised these issues, Personnel responded that, these days, anyone who wants to do so and is bright enough can get a college degree. The union disagreed.

In addition, Personnel representatives indicated that, since Personnel's job analysis had made it clear that a four-year college degree was needed to be able to do the job, the appropriate next step was for the union to encourage their members to go to college.

OSA then asked to see this famous job analysis upon which the entire decision rested. We were told it was secret.

As Analysts ourselves, one and all, we repudiate utterly the concept that an analysis of this sort should ever be secret. The union will appeal to the Commissioner of DCAS for a copy of the job analysis upon which so much depends.

Meanwhile...Some of our members may be immediately hurt by this ruling. If you are an OSA member entitled to take the promotional exams but denied provisional promotion due to this ruling, contact the union, attention Bob Croghan. Since we may receive a number of responses, please send a letter giving the circumstances and providing work and home phone numbers.

OSA General Membership Meeting. The next general membership meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6pm sharp in the union office at 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 709 in Manhattan.