News From OSA - January, 2016

In effect, this letter will be a “State of the Union” report, covering the recent past and the expected future. 2015 turned out to be a good year for our union on two separate issues.

PAST. FIRST, OUR CONTRACT. In September 2014, our union’s bargaining strategy was laid out at that month’s membership meeting. We proposed to seek extra items not mentioned in the “pattern” set by DC 37. It was acknowledged, in advance, that this strategy would delay payment of retroactive monies due to the members. There was a lengthy discussion at the meeting on the extent to which any delay in the money due would distress a number of our members. Only one person at that meeting spoke to argue that the plan was a bad one.

The number of members attending a typical OSA general membership meeting is low. Those who do attend the meetings are more interested in the union than the average member. As a result, it can be safely assumed that those attending will also be more knowledgeable and supportive of the union’s goals and activities than other members.

OSA’s plan for negotiations was shared with all of the members in letters, on the phone hotline and on the union’s website. Unfortunately, such communication is often ignored by members who are not actively interested in the union.

By January 2015, as other unions settled their contracts, members of our union noted the arrival of retroactive pay checks for others, but not for OSA members. Our phone lines became busy. In nine out of ten cases, once the union strategy was explained, the member calling was satisfied. In one out of ten cases, the member calling disagreed with what the union was doing and became very angry.

The arguments against our bargaining team and strategy went as follows:

  • We need our money
  • OSA can’t win this fight
  • Even DC 37 could not win this fight
  • The extras being demanded are -- unnecessary -- silly -- don’t affect me

    and, especially

  • We need our money.

    The countervailing arguments were that the union leadership thought we could win the fight, that we had won fights that DC 37 had not won more than once before, and that the demands made were necessary and very serious for some, if not all, of our members. Those arguments were dismissed by the one member in ten who disagreed. They needed their money.

    Those members who rejected our bargaining strategy often went further and attacked our union as undemocratic, ineffective and venal. All of this was most unpleasant, but it was also predictable.

    In fact, the OSA leadership was assailed in an identical fashion in 2001 (when we delayed a contract to help Administrative Staff Analysts Level I and Supervising Systems Analysts) and in 2007 (when we delayed a contract to obtain the full 1% productivity award that we were overdue to receive).

    The level of hostility expressed in 2001, 2007 and 2015, by those who don’t believe in a union fighting at all, was and is remarkable. We received petitions and letters and emails by the score. Some were very harsh and threatening.

    Keep in mind that we were only delaying payment of agreed-upon raises. No suggestion of a work action or money-losing strike was ever made. Even so, 10% of our members were ready to cast out the union leadership immediately or to (as some urged), better yet, get rid of the union entirely.Finally, of course, we won our victory exactly as it had been predicted in September 2014. We even signed the Memorandum of Agreement on September 30, 2015 – the earliest date forecast at the meeting a year earlier.

    There is a point that should be made before all of this fades into history. I would not have sought more without you, the active supporters of the union. We (the bargaining team) could not have fought this fight without you.

    Your union came into existence against the will of the City government because 20% of the analysts insisted. Seven different unions were defeated by the City when they sought to offer union status to analysts. The City won every battle from 1970 until 1985, and, at that point, the City began to lose the war. We won because some of us had never stopped seeking what was right.

    As we finally began to succeed between 1985 and 1992, thousands more joined us, but it would never have been possible without a core group that had never wavered. In the years to come, OSA, like any other union, will have to rely upon its leadership, but also upon its active members. Absent a core of knowledgeable, interested and caring local leaders, no leadership of a democratic union could ever be effective.

    In 2015, as in 2001 and 2007, on-location activists provided the OSA bargaining team the support needed for us to make each of these fights successful. They read the mail, or called the newsline, or read our website, or (especially) attended the meetings. They presented our case accurately to their fellow members. This was crucial.

    In their role as a union delegate, chapter chairperson, or simply strong union supporter and activist, they made it possible for us to act as a united force seeking fairness for all.

    SECOND and less contentious was our victory over DC 37 in organizing the Senior Consultants, Management Information Services.

    Twenty-three years ago, OSA began an effort to bring the union to Systems Analysts. Once we had enough signed cards, DC 37 intervened. Soon thereafter, DC 37 made an attractive offer of affiliation. We agreed, in concept, to affiliate, but only if DC 37 went back to the task of organizing unorganized workers.

    As a first step, both OSA and DC 37 “shared” the Systems Analysts series (Assistant Systems, Systems, and Senior Systems Analysts). Next came the Health Care Program Planner Analysts and, then, the Transit Authority and MaBSTOA analysts.

    Had the DC 37 scandal not occurred in the late 1990s, we would have been voting on affiliation upon successful completion of the joint TA/MaBSTOA, OSA/DC 37 campaign.

    Instead, due to the scandal, there was no joint campaign. OSA won the TA election, lost MaBSTOA and DC 37 was placed in receivership.

    Even so, DC 37 could have proceeded (under its trustees) to return to organizing, but they did not. Their one campaign during that period was against OSA. They decided to intervene against us in the election for Supervising Systems Analysts. (We won that election 3 to 1).

    In the years since then, DC 37 has done little organizing. They have often challenged OSA as soon as we were close to representing a new title. They even won one election (for Enrollment Sales Representative) by heavy use of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees organizers.

    The most recent contest followed the, by now, standard pattern. Our hospital activists told us there was a group of co-workers seeking to belong to a union. Our volunteer organizers obtained over one hundred cards signed by workers seeking representation. We filed before the Office of Collective Bargaining to represent the workers. DC 37 intervened, sent lawyers to argue and never contacted a single worker on location.

    Then, this year, OCB finally ordered there be an election and DC 37 went to work using local and out-of-state organizers to “blitz” the work locations. Their activity was impressive. They did home visits, sought them out in hospitals and at the central office and had an email and phone campaign.

  • They praised DC 37’s fine benefits and said we had none.
  • They cited DC 37’s size and strength.
  • They faulted us for failure to conclude our contract.
  • They worked hard and persuaded many.

    In turn, our outnumbered organizers were at least familiar to many voters as we had been coming to visit for years. Also, we could and did easily match their literature. If their claims were very attractive, our intense accuracy was even more so. They did a video; we did seven. They held meetings; we held larger and more frequent meetings. Finally, we won.

    The importance of this election was not the addition of 277 members to our union. NYC Health and Hospitals will, undoubtedly, soon transfer large numbers of our new members into new, non-union titles, as they have done before.

    The importance is that DC 37 has a new leadership and this election may do a bit towards winning the new leadership over to the concept of a return to organizing.

    Intervening in the organizational effort of another union is not organizing. In fact it discourages organizing.

    Once upon a time, DC 37 was a major force for organizing in New York City. It can easily be argued that OSA itself is an offshoot of that movement, created by DC 37. There would be truth in this argument.

    So, we are pleased to note that a contract negotiation commenced under the auspices of our fallen brother, Tim Collins, ended with a success that will echo in years to come in many other unions’ contracts.

    And, we are also pleased to note that an unusually important election was won and that the victory may yet affect another large union very positively.

    You have helped to sustain an excellent union for another year.

    PRESENT. We are still completing negotiations on the NYCHA and Department of Education contracts and must negotiate on behalf of our newly organized Senior Consultants (MIS).

    The Senior Consultants will be joining our benefit plan, probably in February, so we will hold an informal meeting for them at the end of February. A notice will be going out to these new members when they receive their OSA welfare fund package soon, with the date of the seminar. The culture “shock” will be minor, since OSA patterns its welfare fund on the Management Benefits Fund.

    We will also return to MaBSTOA. Analysts at that authority have reached out to us and we will respond. Our Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority campaign has already started. Our volunteer field organizers will be visiting MaBSTOA locations as weather permits. We are seeking a vote by late spring or early summer.

    DURING THE YEAR. Our union needs activists in order to do a good job. We have willing members, but we are scattered far and wide across many different agencies. For this reason, transmission of information is usually done by letter, and one obvious drawback to that is the lack of give and take.

    To improve the situation, we plan to offer a union leadership training program to help activists help their fellow members at their agencies. There will be more details as we get closer to holding the course.

    GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. Our general membership meeting will be held in the union office on Thurday, January 28, 2016. The meeting starts promptly at 6:15 with pizza available before the meeting. You can download a flier for the meeting to remind yourself of the date, time and location by clicking this link.

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