News From OSA - January, 2017

UNION ELECTION. The current officers of the Organization of Staff Analysts were nominated to continue in office at the November general membership meeting. There was no opposition. Therefore, they will be sworn in at the January membership meeting for a new two-year term.

On behalf of the officers and staff of the Organization of Staff Analysts, I wish to express my gratitude for the opportunity to continue to represent you and all of our brothers and sisters for the next two years. It will be a challenging period.

TRUMP. There will be major changes when Donald Trump takes office. It is true that many of those who voted for him do want change, but they may not like all the changes that will now occur. Time will tell.

One set of changes that we will not like are those affecting labor. First and foremost, the Supreme Court will undoubtedly forbid agency shop fees.

Until now, northern states, in general, allowed unions to represent all the workers in a job title, so long as a majority of those workers wanted to be represented. In the private sector, union membership could be required by negotiated contract. In the public sector, membership was always voluntary, but represented nonmembers would pay an agency shop fee because they were getting the same representation and services as everyone else.

The southern states, in general, discouraged unions, forbade by law requiring union membership and seldom allowed agency shop fees. The result was that unions in the southern states were weaker than those in the north.

Now, we expect, the southern rules will become the law of the land by way of Supreme Court rulings over the months to come. The public sector will be the first target.

There are many details that matter and have not been worked out, but the goal is to diminish the financial support received by public employee unions. This will occur.

Our union has always maintained a low rate of dues (7/10ths of 1% of income). We have done so by maintaining generally low salaries and a heavy reliance on volunteers, but some expenses (lawyers, arbitrations, phones, office equipment, and leased office rental space) are highly inflexible. In short, we have a problem.

There is an asset that OSA has that will matter a lot. Our history.

OSA spent 15 years seeking to become a union (30 years if you include prior efforts by personnel examiners to obtain unionized status). That may well be a record for persistence by a group that never lost hope. Even in 1985, only thirty or so analysts were allowed to be represented, but twenty times that number were paying dues seeking to be unionized.

Those of us who supported a union believed that the union would get us more money.

The union did. Between 1989 and 2016 our union added longevity raises that, today, are worth over $5,400 a year for Staff and Associate Staff Analysts. (The amount is less for titles added after 1989, but all longevity awards grow with time.)

No such raises went to unrepresented employees. We have also, year after year, won payroll and out-of-title grievances. The total amount is into the millions of dollars in gained raises.

Those of us who supported a union wanted increased fairness for our members.

In 1988, 4% of our 300 provisional members were told they were going to be fired. The reasons for these firings were outrageous, but we were only OSART, a professional association. Even so, we were able to stop three of the twelve firings. The next year, we were OSA, a union, and only one member was brought up on charges. Since we now had the right to insist on proof of wrongdoing, we were able to win the one case that did arise.

Those of us who supported a union wanted permanent civil service status for our members.

In 1988, 80% of analysts were provisional. By 1993, we had sued for, won the right to, and prepared our members for Staff and Associate exams. Soon, we were 80% permanent in status.

At present, thousands of our members are being appointed or promoted and this, too, has a lot to do with our union.

These are all reasons why we believe in and support our union and hope you do too. Some 36 other reasons to thank a union are included on the flyer that you can download at this link.

But... we also recognize that once many of those who are currently paying dues or agency shop fees are offered the chance to save .007 of salary by not paying dues, they will choose to save the money, and be very happy to do so.

They will be wrong because we have never, ever wasted their money and always used it to try to get a better deal for them. And we did succeed, financially and in terms of on-the-job fairness, permanent status and promotions.

Even so, we will lose those who choose to be “free riders,” letting others pay dues for benefits they receive as well. But, OSA will retain those of us wise enough to understand that we are stronger together than alone, that fighting for our rights is worth doing and that there is an enormous value to having “brothers and sisters” who care about us.

TRAINING. OSA needs a few good leaders for the years to come.

It is good that John Ost still volunteers one day a week in our grievance office. He is very experienced, having done grievances and represented analysts since long before we became a union. John, however, wants to train his replacement for the future.

There has never been a financial reward for caring about and helping OSA succeed and, given the likely near future, this is not likely to change (except probably for the worse).

There has always been a huge emotional reward from being a part of a group seeking to use our skills and energy to help our fellow members. We have done marvelous things together.

Training for delegates is soon to be offered to any and all interested. The goal is to prepare ourselves for the years to come.

The OSA Activists Classroom Training (the OSA ACT) will cover a number of topics:

  • History… Who we are, where we came from, how it happened and why.
  • Grievances… What is a grievance, who can bring one, and how does it work.
  • Pension Counseling… Members often ask questions about their pensions. OSA activists should be able to provide the answers.
  • Civil Service…Tests and exams, pools and probation, permanent versus provisional – and how does that “1 in 3 rule” work anyway?
  • Negotiations… Forming demands, various negotiations – Citywide, Unit, and Health Benefits – plus pattern bargaining, impasse, OCB and PERB.
  • Welfare Fund… Activists are always being asked why OSA does not have a drug plan. The answer, as you will learn, is history plus the members’ choice. But there is more. We have the best dental, optical, audiological and insurance benefits of any union plan and our members often do not know this.
  • Disciplinaries… How to advise members on how to avoid trouble. Then, once trouble arises, what to do about it. Weingarten Rights. Grievance Steps 1, II, III. Arbitration, Sections 72 and 75. Who needs a lawyer? Who does not?
  • Organizing…Why do we do it? What do we do? Internal vs. External.

    All of these topics should be a part of our “ACT,” but how many sessions should there be? How long per session? Class size? We’ll use the union office for the training and will need to use evenings or weekends.

    Beyond the topics above there are some other tempting possibilities. Possibly, an optional labor film series with discussions would be interesting to some. Sessions led by guest speakers on appropriate topics might also be popular. For example, we plan to reach out to Richard Steier, award-winning editor of The Chief newspaper and author of the book “Enough Blame To Go Around.”

    There should be reading materials and possibly videos to be provided, if we can.

    Some have suggested group discussions and even videotaped (or not) role play exercises, but we shall see.

    We have two problems. We need to make the course both worthwhile and interesting.

    If you have an idea or ideas about the OSA ACT, please send us a note or even a full letter or send an email to John LaGuardia at What would you want us to cover? How should we go about it?

    If you send us your idea or ideas, we will take them into account. If not, we will try to work it out ourselves.

    But everyone, interested or not, should wish us luck. The OSA ACT could be important for the future of all of us.

    GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. January 19th is the date for our next general membership meeting. Food will be available as early as 5:30pm. The meeting will be held, as usual, in the union office. A flyer can be downloaded at this link to remind yourself of the date, time and location.

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