News From OSA - January, 2018

STATE OF THE UNION ... All City and State unions are facing a major loss of income in 2018. This year, the United States Supreme Court is expected to ban collection of Agency Shop fees. An Agency Shop fee is the charge paid by an employee represented by a union when that employee has not signed a union dues deduction card. In the case of OSA, that amount is .007 of salary.

No employee can or should be required to join a union, since it could violate religious (Jehovah’s Witnesses) or political beliefs. Exempting such employees from payment of a fee to support the union representing them, however, is a different matter.

Our Federal, State and local laws all require a free and democratic vote by the employees to be covered before a union is allowed to represent them. Once the union is voted into existence, rules exist to provide for decertification of that union if a majority of the employees represented would prefer either no union or a different union. (Two years ago, OSA faced a decertification election involving our members from the Supervisory ranks of School Safety and Traffic Enforcement. OSA won the decision by a vote of 50 to 1, but the voting was real and had our members in those areas voted otherwise they would have left OSA.)

Unions are established only if a majority of the employees want a union and can be disestablished if a majority of the employees so desire.

However, once there is a union, that union has legal obligations. Contracts must be negotiated and enforced. Employees (union members or Agency Shop fee payers) have a right to grieve violations of their union contract or City or agency procedures. If the boss wants to discipline or fire an employee, the union must defend that employee.

To be sure, most unions would do all of the above without being forced, but the rules related to a union’s duty of fair representation mandate a union to do its job for all employees covered by the union.

OSA survived, for many years, as a voluntary employee organization seeking to achieve union status. Then, after a fifteen year fight, OSA began to legally represent some of its members. The union eventually reached the point where it required an office and paid staff. Legal costs for arbitrations, court actions and contract enforcement were – and are – significant. OSA also has to pay for supplies, postage, insurance and other non-discretionary costs.

Over the years, our need for organizational income grew. In 1970, two dollars a member a year seemed enough. By 1975, the dues had been approved by membership vote as $39 a year. Then, as the organization began to become a recognized union, dues were voted upwards by the membership in the 1980’s, first to $65 a year and then to $97.50 a year. In the early 1990’s, as OSA’s success and increasing obligations made it necessary, a final vote was taken and the members set the dues rate at .007 of salary. There were no increases thereafter.

In return for paying dues and having a union to represent them, OSA members gained a great deal. All through our pre-union years, Analysts received no longevity awards. Then, on our first contract, a $700 longevity payment after fifteen years of service went into effect. Presently, the value of longevity for Analysts is over $1800 after ten years, twice as much after fifteen, and about three times as much after twenty years of service.

Ignoring all of our other gains, our union status got us more money.

So, it was a good idea to form a union and it clearly paid off, for all those the union represents – union members or Agency Shop fee payers alike.

Now, the Supreme Court of the United States is about to free the Agency Shop fee payers of any obligation to pay for services received. The obvious result will be to reduce union income without reducing union obligations at all.

OSA will still need to bargain for union members and non-members alike, but we will have less money to do research or hire lawyers. All the benefits of a union will be available to members and non-members alike, but only members will bear the cost of providing the services.

It’s okay.

It is not right and it is not fair, but our union will survive this attack by the anti-union corporations who brought this case before the Supreme Court.

The one step we are taking to keep our union strong is our Activist Classroom Training sessions, already in progress. OSA will need a cadre of trained and knowledgeable leaders on location to be the immediate representatives of our union in the years to come. If you have not yet signed up for the ACT session call John LaGuardia at the union office.

NEGOTIATONS... The long, slow process of contract negotiations is now under way. One exciting change for this year, compared to recent prior negotiations, is that we will be negotiating alongside DC37 at the bargaining table. This is one of those “back to the future” situations. For many years OSA, along with the other civilian, non-pedagogical unions (CWA, Local 237 Teamsters, SEIU, etc.), sat in the room as the civilian pattern was set by DC37 under the leadership of Victor Gotbaum or Stanley Hill. The practice ended when DC37 was put under trusteeship, and was not renewed when Lillian Roberts took over the District Council.

On occasion, during the twenty years that followed, Randi Weingarten sought to carry out coalition bargaining and there were some major victories plus a few disappointments.

Our own OSA leadership put effort into seeking cooperation and coalition bargaining. We even did receive agreement to such a joint approach from Lillian Roberts prior to the last contract under Bloomberg, but it did not happen. Following the advice, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” we renewed our effort with DC37's new Executive Director Henry Garrido and finally succeeded. As of Monday, January 8th, OSA will join DC37 and the civilian locals in planning for bargaining with the City. The advantage for all of us is that Executive Director Garrido will now be speaking on behalf of perhaps 50,000 more employees – and we will all be better informed.

The contract bargaining now before us is likely to set the overall financial pattern for City-employed civilians outside the Department of Education. It will probably involve other matters as well, but there are traditional and legal limits.

For example, health benefits are solely within the purview of the Municipal Labor Committee, although at least one union (the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association) disagrees. They have challenged this previously in court and lost.

Also, matters such as time and leave are usually negotiated as a part of the “Citywide” contract and such negotiations have not occurred for many years.

We would actually prefer it if all City unions negotiated as a single force but, for good reasons, this is hard to achieve. Historically, for example, the uniformed unions achieved major gains many years ago and have sought advantage due to their status over the last forty years of negotiations. For many of the same reasons, the Teachers also have often sought and obtained more than other civilians.

In spite of all the “good reasons” for separate negotiations in years past, the OSA leadership still believes a negotiating team representing all of the over 300,000 New York City employees would be ideal. Since that is not in place at present, we will be satisfied that our efforts at least improved things somewhat.

This newsletter is being written before our first joint negotiation, so for early results members will need to call our phone hotline or read our website newsline or come to our next general membership meeting on February 1st for a full report.

The Activist Classroom Training session that takes place after the membership meeting will also spend time discussing local unit versus pattern versus Citywide bargaining.

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING ... We are scheduling our next general membership meeting on February 1, 2018, one week later than usual. Our plan is to start promptly at 6 pm, then take a break for food at 7 pm. Those participating in the next session of our Activist Classroom Training will stick around for our next ACT session, which will end at approximately 8 pm. A flyer with the information about the meeting can be downloaded at this link to remind you of the date, time and location.