News From OSA - June, 2003

The first round of collective bargaining is complete. Not one contract has been negotiated at the table. Instead, our Mayor has spent six months negotiating our pay decreases with the public (very little success) and with us (none at all).

At first, the Mayor denied there ever was a fiscal crisis, at least until the Governor was reelected. The Mayor then discovered that there was, in fact, a huge fiscal crisis and apparent to him, it was our fault. For six months now, the Mayor has been trying to wring concessions out of us and to secure his own version of business-friendly taxes out of Albany. He failed at both attempts.

On our front, the Mayor decided we owed him $600 million in give backs. The concessions required would be long-term losses in income that would last well after the fiscal crisis was resolved. We naturally disagreed and offered loans, with or without interest, early retirements, voluntary leaves of absence and political help with Albany.

The Mayor himself only met with us once and, thereafter, undercut his own negotiators by his public statements. His Deputy Mayor (Cunningham) used the newspapers, radio and T.V. to vilify us to whatever extent those media would carry the message. (The Daily News went far enough to reach the point where an editorial writer called union leaders, including police and fire, "selfish cowards" for not embracing the concessions asked for by the Mayor.)

Finally, Albany gave the Mayor the "wrong" taxes from his point of view and not a single union (out of over one hundred) caved in to his pressure tactics. We have lost twenty-two of our brothers and sisters to layoffs, and twenty-five Analysts who had requested a year off without pay are still being denied needed leaves of absence. The only bright side for OSA was that the Mayor's refusal of our offer of money saving, and recurring leaves of absence, made his actual position clear. We offered to save the money without layoffs. He preferred to do the layoffs.

Snapshots From The Front

During the attacks on Randi Weingarten as MLC chairperson, the City and the Department of Education pulled her confidential personnel files and shared them with reporters. It's not the worst thing that was done, but it is one thing that was clearly illegal. Randi, with a fine sense of irony, referred the matter to the City Department of Investigation for "followup".

During the weeks leading up to and the weeks after the layoffs on May 17th, Harry Nespoli, President of the Sanitation Men's Association (Local 831 IBT) visited most outer borough Community Planning Board meetings. His report, to each board, was brief but effective. He expressed regret that garbage pickups would now be cut from two per week to only one due to layoffs. The bright note he added to complete the picture was that they did not have to worry about Manhattan. Garbage pickups in Manhattan would stay at three times a week. Almost 200 Sanitation workers have now been called back to work as a result of the public pressure created on City Hall.

The Fire Unions were in a tight place. The firehouses were being closed, manning was being reduced on fire trucks and their union leadership was being singled out for special scorn by the media and Mayor alike. Then came Medal day. Medal day is when the Mayor gets to go on T.V. sharing air time with genuine heroes. Apparently somebody in the Mayor's office figured out how bad it would be if every firefighter handed a medal refused to accept the medal from this Mayor. A compromise was worked out, some firehouses left open, some more trucks were left with five-man crews.

The now famous ticket blitz by the PBA would not have worked at all, but the Mayor played into it. The Daily News can never resist a silly story about an absurd ticket being given out, but Mayor Bloomberg's reaction was dismissive. He did not say the ticket blitz was bad, he simply said there were worse stories from earlier years.

Genuine offers of help from the unions were ridiculed by the Mayor so, in turn, the Mayor himself was made fun of by CWA Local 1180. Their rather amusing T.V. commercial regarding a cocktail party scored so close to home on the Mayor's "Park Avenue" politics that Deputy Mayor Cunningham called CWA 1180 President Arthur Cheliotes to ask that they stop running it.

DC37, the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, the UFT, and the MLC itself all ran radio or T.V. spots along the way. It turns out this Mayor does not like getting back what he dishes out so freely, so a sort of dead heat has been reached, for now. Among the efforts by MLC chair Weingarten was an op-ed in the Daily News that examines the myths the media has been promoting about City workers and their unions.

Our own offer of voluntary leaves of absence got full coverage from the Civil Service Chief, and enough support from other unions and members of the City Council that Councilman Kendall Stewart submitted it to become a law. The resolution is favored by Council member Allen Jennings and Deputy Majority Leader Bill Perkins. We are not sure about the part about pension credit being legal, but the rest of it looks very good.

Other News

The union expects to have the details on monies owed to us from the last contract worked out eventually, but please don't hold the union to account for the other guy's delays. We are still owed the equity award from the last contract as well as a $125 payment to assist on our drug rider.

Most members are aware of monies due, but many find it hard to accept how slowly negotiations can go with New York City.

One recent victory can illustrate why some negotiations take longer than is reasonable.

Our members in the School Safety and Traffic Enforcement Divisions are the top supervisors of those divisions. The Police Department requires the purchase and proper maintenance of a police uniform. Our members' subordinates naturally get a uniform allowance to defray the cost of their uniforms. OSA asked for an appropriate uniform allowance as a part of the union contract over a year ago.

The Mayor's Office of Management and Budget took an unyielding position that the City would never, never pay for such a luxury. The police insisted the uniforms be worn, so it was actually a requirement of the job, not a luxury. Budget disagreed.

To make a (one year) long story short, we actually had the support of our traditional opponents. We had the support of the Office of Labor Relations and the Police Department and even a mediator assigned to the case. With all of this support, OSA still had to file for impasse, because no one was allowed to overrule Budget.

Finally, the Office of Management and Budget has agreed to offer a bit more than $500 a year for the uniforms that our members are required to wear and maintain.

There are other, more serious matters outstanding in those negotiations, but it is a matter of wonder that we can be delayed a full year by an issue over which no sensible person would argue in the first place.

Finally, we offer the words of Warren Buffett, billionaire, in an op-ed from the May 25th edition of New York Newsday entitled "Billionaires Don't Need Another Tax Break" on the absurdity of the Bush administration's ongoing welfare program for the rich.