News From OSA - January, 2011

The 2010 Election. Our biennial election for union leadership posts went very quietly as there was no contest. Nominations were held at the November general membership meeting, but only one person was nominated for each office. No other nominations were received by mail, so those candidates nominated were elected without opposition.

This year, there were some changes.

Sherman Gould had been our OSART Corresponding Secretary, but he has retired and is assuming a role as a three-day-per-week OSA volunteer. His OSART board position is being assumed by Tony Lee, our NYCHA Chapter Chairperson. It should be noted that Sherman was the NYCHA Chapter Chairperson himself many years ago, before we became a union.

Jay Warshofsky was promoted to Administrative Staff Analyst Level MII. A recent Board of Certification decision gave Administrative Staff Analysts MII and MIII the right to belong to OSA, but the City has challenged this decision in court.

Since OSA represents unionized Analysts and OSART represents those not yet allowed to belong to the union, it was prudent for Jay to leave his position as OSA Recording Secretary. Fortunately, he has accepted a role as OSART Recording Secretary.

The vacancy that Jay filled was created by the retirement of John Harper, a member of our OSART board for many years. He too will be volunteering to work for OSA a few days a week.

Meanwhile, Jay’s position on the OSA board is being taken on by Stephen Parker, our Sanitation Chapter Chairperson. Steve’s service to our union goes back to before we became a union.

The final change also affects OSART.

Barry Mandel was one of two key people who helped OSA unionize the top level of the Traffic Enforcement branch of the Police Department. Barry himself got promoted out of our union thereafter, but was able to be a member of the OSART board until recently. He is not retiring, but is currently too busy to continue as an OSART officer. He is being replaced by Mike Daflos.

Mike is a recently retired Transit Authority manager. His record with OSA started when he worked for HRA in the 80’s and continued as he helped us win the right to represent TA Analysts in the 90’s.

The OSA/OSART elections since 1970 have often (but not always) been uncontested. One reason for that, over the years, has been that those of us who are active get to know each other and work well together.

The last internal political fight that did occur was between pro-union supporters of SSEU Local 371 and pro-union supporters of Local 237 Teamsters. Even on that occasion, both sides were equally pro-union and, as matters turned out later on, we affiliated with neither union.

On behalf of the delegates, agency chapter leaders, the staff and volunteers at the union office and the newly elected or reelected officers, we thank you for the opportunity to try to represent you, our brothers and sisters, as well as we are able.

More Power for the Mayor. Mayor Bloomberg wants to help you (out the door.) The recent findings of his hand-picked Task Force have resulted in twenty-three proposals. If you would like to read the Task Force report in its entirety, you can download it by clicking on this link.

Meantime, to highlight a few of the Task Force’s ideas, they propose to:

  • Get rid of the State Civil Service Commission because that commission has failed to rubber stamp the Mayor’s earlier efforts to dismantle the Civil Service.

  • Save money by requiring the TA and TBTA to design and administer their own exams so that NYC can ensure duplication of effort and waste of resources.

  • Move some job titles (Analysts, mostly) out of the competitive class so the Mayor and his appointees can give City jobs to worthwhile candidates whom they just happen to know or run into.

  • Add subjective criteria to promotional exams. The Mayor does know who should pass and, by adding subjective criteria, he can help the process along.

  • Better yet, turn real exams into education and experience exams, so we can adjust the criteria to fit our chosen candidates.

  • Use band scoring so we can give exams where hundreds (or even thousands) of candidates are tied and we can choose whomever we want. (Note, there once was an E&E exam for Staff Analyst where 3,900 candidates scored 100%, before the appeals process added hundreds more, all at 100%.)

  • Give credit for prior provisional service or exams. This was tried (against OSA’s strong objection) by Personnel in the exam mentioned in #6. The courts threw the exam out so we had to do it twice.

  • Use selective certification to jump past high scoring candidates by specifying an extra qualification that just happens to be possessed only by chosen candidates.

  • Get rid of the Test Validation Board because there is a better way to validate tests, although we haven’t found it yet. Meanwhile, trust the Mayor, he would never cheat.

  • Cease publishing the answers to Civil Service exams. The City already refuses to publish the exams after the testing is completed, so why should we let out the answers either? Meanwhile, trust the Mayor, he would never cheat.

    Listing all 23 proposals is tiresome, so we will just cite a few more.

    The Mayor needs a change in the law to remove union protection from workers whom he believes should be managers (i.e. every single one of us.) At present, he points out, union coverage of those workers is costing him a fortune in overtime pay (#12).

    The Mayor wants to increase the probationary period to an unspecified length of time (#16) and pretty much wipe out disciplinary due process for permanent employees.

    He would extend the right of the employer to suspend without pay (prior to a hearing) an employee from 30 days to whenever (#17). You could be suspended for a few years without pay, but it would not matter because, when you finally get to a hearing, the Mayor plans on so limiting the impartial arbitrator’s ability to find in your favor, that you will not win anyway (#19).

    Now, in case you don’t ever do anything wrong, and you serve with a spotless, even an admirable record for thirty years or more, the Mayor has plans for you as well. He wants your Agency to be allowed to designate lay off units as small as your individual office, or even a part thereof. Thus, when it turns out the Agency needs to cut its budget, you could be sent a letter of termination that may note that you are the most junior of all the Analysts assigned to work at 60 Hudson Street on the CASA evaluation project. (Actually, you are the only Analyst assigned to that work). Therefore, you are being laid off while a truly worthwhile, talented and potentially brilliant provisional Analyst, just out of college, retains his or her job at the desk next to yours (#21).

    And…just in case you work in a unit with one hundred other Analysts doing exactly the same job, the Mayor wants the right to lay you off using selective certification criteria that he will establish as needed (#22).

    P.S. Don’t plan on being brought back to work for the City either. The Mayor wants to shorten the period you have a right to be reinstated from four years to two (#23).

    Jonathan Swift once wrote an essay he titled “A Modest Proposal.” In it, he proposed eating Irish babies as an Irish famine relief measure. The essay was a satire and was not meant to be taken seriously.

    Mayor Bloomberg’s own modest proposals are meant to be taken seriously. “Mayor Mike” wants to hire and fire at will, just as he does at Bloomberg, Inc. New York City is not a private company, it is a city of eight million citizens. We elect the Mayor to serve us, not himself.

    There is a record of over one hundred years of using patronage to fill New York City government jobs. It did not work out well at all. At one point, police officers appointed by the Republicans fought it out with police officers appointed by the Democrats. This occurred on the steps of City Hall in 1857 (The Metropolitan Police Force versus the Municipal Police Force). The National Guard had to be called out to settle that particular patronage dispute.

    Because of the defects of the patronage system, a series of civil service laws were put in place by most cities and states, and the federal government as well. By 1900, the problems associated with government by cronyism had begun to be diminished.

    Now, in the year 2011, Mayor Bloomberg seems to have decided that, while Democratic patronage led to corruption, plutocratic patronage is okay.

    One of the points not discussed above was #20. The Mayor wants to lay off teachers “using criteria that include, but are not limited to, consideration of on-the-job performance, unique professional skills, and contribution to the school community.”

    Actually, we do know the criteria that was left out, that led to the inclusion of the phrase “not limited to.”

    The missing criteria is salary. The Mayor’s pet Assemblyman, Jonathan Bing said it more clearly; older teachers cost more. We need to save money.

    (By way of full disclosure, the OSA Chairperson’s mother began teaching in a rural one room schoolhouse at age 19. She took time out to get married, move to New York and raise three children, but then she returned to work, taught school for another twenty plus years and retired at age 71. She returned to the classroom occasionally thereafter to fill in for short periods. She finally stopped teaching at age 76 as her health began to fail. She was as sharp and effective on her last day of teaching as she ever had been).

    Mayor Bloomberg does not really hate old folks, it just seems that way. All he wants is a dirt cheap, totally subservient work force and, for that, he thinks he needs young folks he can train properly and at low cost.

    Our Response. Our response to the Mayor’s proposals will be as loud and clear as we can manage. OSA will be playing a part in crafting the Municipal Labor Committee’s written response. As time passes, we may be calling upon all members to assist us in fighting this horror.

    One more thing. Keep in mind that Mayor Bloomberg is doing this to us while telling us there will be no raises, none at all, that he wants us to pay for our health costs and he wants to cut savagely our pensions.

    A Tiny Bit of Good News. Any good news at all is welcome. The City has finally figured out how much we are due in increased longevity due to the final one tenth of one percent increase from our last contract.

    Those with ten year longevity will get an extra $38 yearly. (Yep, yearly.) Those with fifteen year longevity will get another $38 yearly and, if you are past twenty years of service, a third $38 will be added for a total of $114 per year.

    Since the increase is so tiny, its addition to your pay check might not be noticed except that the City owes us the money since August 24th of last year. Thus, when the retroactive payment hits in February (or later) you will probably notice the retroactive payment. We normally warn members not to spend it until you get it, but the advice is not needed in this case.

    Nice Party. Our regular holiday party was combined this year with our 40th Anniversary party. As a result, the party was more elaborate than usual. There were bagpipes and drums to start and a live jazz ensemble to follow, speeches, awards, a video presentation and green and white OSA balloons cascading onto the dance floor towards the end of the evening.

    The evening’s printed program not only included congratulations from other unions, but also recounted the story of our efforts to become a union, from 1954 until today. The booklet was a very well done history of our organization’s multi-decade long struggle to obtain permanent status and union protection for workers like us.

    We have a few copies left over, so if you attend this month’s membership meeting you’ll be offered a copy.

    There was one flaw in the evening. The food was excellent as usual. The drink flowed freely. The special chocolate “OSA” coins and the large “OSA” cookie were a new addition to the famous charlotte russes and other desserts.

    However, almost no one danced to the live music, because it was not the popular dance music of today. Someone did point out, after the fact, that jazz is best enjoyed while seated and smoking funny cigarettes. Live and learn.

    It was wonderful to have the founders of our organization present for our celebration of the survival and success of OSA.

    General Membership Meeting. The next union general membership meeting will be held on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at the OSA union office, 220 East 23 Street, Suite 707, between Second and Third Avenues, starting at 6pm sharp. You can download a flyer to remind yourself of the date, place and time or for posting at your workplace or to share with your fellow analysts at work by clicking this link.

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