News From OSA - June, 2014

I apologize for having to take space in this newsletter to once again write about Michael Bloomberg. He is gone, at last, but he did all he could to make negotiations impossible in 2014.

The story that follows is one that we all lived through, and it has a happy ending.

NEGOTIATIONS. Once upon a time, New York City had a mean multi-billionaire mayor who used his third term to get back at his enemies. He had, in his eyes, a lot of enemies.

Now, it is true that this mean mayor was never our friend. At the start of his second year in office he asked us for $600 million (recurring) as a “give back.” However, after the unions negotiated with him for eighteen months (never saying yes, never saying no), he had a change of heart. Well…no. He changed his mind (not his heart) because he had an election coming up.

All of a sudden he only needed a $100 million recurring give back, and he was willing to give us $100 million recurring if we would agree. We began to pay $15 for a GHI office visit, but he added money to our welfare fund. As a result, he could go back to wearing his nice guy mask during the election.

During his second term, he concentrated on the UFT, and did everything he could to get rid of seniority and undercut and demonize teachers. The only thing he did to the rest of us was to have constant small scale layoffs, attempt to destroy the civil service system and, oh yes, try to destroy NYCHA as well.

This bad mayor sweet-talked and purchased his way into still a third term, and then he let loose on us.

He accelerated his assault on civil service. He did not win. He got a groundswell going (in the press) to sell off NYCHA. It did not happen. He scheduled 20,000 layoffs for the teachers or else. Or else occurred, and not one teacher was laid off.

He also sought to destroy collective bargaining for city employees by giving generous raises before his re-election, and then only offered zeros after he was back in office. He sought to reach out beyond his years in office by spending the labor reserve and insisting there was not now (nor could there ever be) any retroactive payments for contracts that took a while to negotiate.

On this last effort, to hurt all the City unions, he had only one success. He did hurt the school bus drivers and matrons, and his actions there will cause pain for some time yet.

All the rest of us, over 100 collective bargaining units, acted appropriately. We told him no at the bargaining table. We also told our members that the mess he was making could be and would be undone.

It is now six months since the inauguration of our new mayor.

The Transport Workers Union settled their contract with retroactive pay for their members. That contract was approved by a vote of 82% yes. The United Federation of Teachers settled their contract with lots of retroactive pay coming to them, if a bit later than usual. The teachers voted 77% yes.

We are, ourselves, out of contract since late-August 2010. We will now be seeking fair raises for our members, and we would hope the process does not take too long.

You can help in two ways.

First, submit your bargaining demands, but also commit to marching in this year’s Labor Day Parade. It is hard for your union negotiators to be convincing if they act alone. When you come out and spend a few hours on a Saturday, you help the negotiating team enormously.

Most of the time, being a union member demands very little of you – paying dues, reading the mail, maybe an occasional meeting. Now, as we approach the negotiation that may cover a period of seven years of your working career, your union asks you to do one thing more. March in the 2014 Labor Day Parade on Saturday, September 6th.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL CARES. There has recently been a major scandal about waiting lists for veterans in need of care from Veterans Administration Hospitals. The problem was that some hospital administrators were using deceptive practices to make it look like they did not have large numbers of veterans awaiting care. These veterans sometimes died for lack of that care for which they waited.

Naturally, the Republicans blamed the Democrats who blamed the Republicans, etc. Since this problem goes back for a number of years and more than one administration, it would appear that both parties are partly correct. Democrats and Republicans are both to blame.

Incidental to the orgy of blaming the other guy, a few facts did emerge. Apparently, top level administrators were given financial incentives for either solving the increasing need for service issue, or for at least saying they did. Since there has been increased usage by veterans of hospital care thanks to our recent wars, and since there was both a shortage of primary care physicians and of funds to attract them, some top level administrators took the easy way out and lied.

Heads are now rolling, and we can only hope it is the guilty who are penalized. Congress is drafting legislation to fix the problem, so we can all hope for a better deal for those who served our nation. Sadly, Congress itself does not have a good record over the past few years.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal did come up with a simple villain and an easy fix. The unions did it.

The VA workforce is two-thirds unionized, and the 200,000 unionized nurses, technicians and clerical staff are defended against impossible work loads and unreasonable working conditions on-site by these unions. There is even release time for union officials, so one full-time worker is free to do union work for every one thousand unionized employees.

The columnist K. Strassel is very clear “any real reform inevitably ends with a fight over organized labor.” If we ignore the fact that the problem of under-reporting was repeatedly exposed by various federal government union leaders testifying before Congress, and the fact that none of the persons ordering the forms to be falsified were union members, she could have a point.

The real point is, for the Wall Street Journal, anything that happens good, bad or indifferent “inevitably ends with a fight over organized labor.”

Federal unions cannot legally strike, can’t bargain over wages, are not even as strong as either state or city government unions, and are nowhere near as powerful as private sector unions. Yet, still, they are far too strong for the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal cares…about Wall Street.

Note, the Wall Street Journal column can be found by clicking this link and another related article by clicking this link.

PLEASE NOTE. The hard copy version of this newsletter was sent to both active and retired union members, “agency shop fee payers” who have never signed a voluntary union membership card, plus OSART members and still others who have signed an OSA recruiting card. The active union members will receive a sheet to list proposed bargaining demands, and a flier advertising the Labor Day Parade. Those who are not active union members, including “agency shop fee payers,” will not receive the collective bargaining demand sheet, but all will receive the Labor Day notice…and we hope you will come.

LABOR DAY PARADE FLIER. You can download a flier for the OSA contingent in the Labor Day Parade, by clicking this link. Invite your friends and family to join us.

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. The next general membership meeting will be held a week later than usual, on the first Thursday in October, to avoid a conflict with a religious holiday. You can download a flier for the meeting to remind yourself of the date, time and location by clicking this link.