News From OSA -- March, 2000

At Length. A member attending a recent SA chapter meeting held at the Department of MentalHealth asked if the letters sent out by the union could be less discursive. The answer, at least, was concise. No.

OSA members are employed by the Transit Authority, the Housing Authority, the Off Track Betting Corporation, the Campaign Finance Board, fifty City agencies and the eleven City Hospitals. The problems and working conditions of all our members are the proper concern of our union and can and should be shared with all members of the union. At the same time, it would be foolish to fail to recognize that overly long letters may go unread by our often busy members. Brevity does have value.

We try to use the headings to alert members to the topics covered, to enable a reader to skip the dull parts if time is short.

Contract Bargaining. Randi Weingarten, leader of the Municipal Labor Committee, has chosen to use coordinated bargaining as a tactic this year rather than the earlier model familiar to us as coalition bargaining. Since Randi is our leader in this matter and since her union, the Teachers, are early negotiators, the Mayor and the press (mostly the Daily News and the Post) have been attacking the UFT and the teachers' existing contract.

OSA members should be aware of the subtext of this sudden drumfire of criticism of teachers. The Mayor is (not very subtly) threatening the teachers and their leadership. The noise level will probably rise as negotiations get warmer.

If you follow the lead of the editorials you will conclude that the teachers are the source of every problem in education today and that creating non-union charter schools and giving the Mayor more power is the answer.

There is no question that if Randi will now accept a "sweetheart" contract, Rudy will himself turn into sweetness and light and all the papers will applaud the judicious statesmanship of both sides. Problems with education will cease to concern our local newspaper publishers if only Randi will accept a truly lousy contract.

Traveling Road Shows. OSA has chapters in most agencies and activists can request lunchtime meetings with union leadership on fairly short notice (two or three weeks notice is usually enough). At these meetings, specific agency concerns can be discussed in some detail, as well as more general union affairs.

In addition to other business, these meetings give members a chance to criticize any or all aspects of the union's functioning. The criticism, when valid, can be most helpful in pointing out our need for improvement.

Easy Rider. The GHI Drug Rider coalition has obtained some special client service phone numbers to assist our members if they run into trouble with the mail order program. If you have a special problem, call Eric Mayr at the union office and we will try to help.

Since OSA now has a member on the Technical Health Subcommittee of the MLC, we are also privy to the coming increases in costs. Prescription drugs will again rise in price this year, with a 10 to 15% increase likely. The price rise is a national problem and reflects, in part, the marketing changes in the drug industry. We are bombarded by TV commercials that start with beautiful images of some vague improvement in our health. They always end with descriptions of horrendous side effects and the lawsuit prevention mantra "speak to your doctor or other health care professional".

These advertisements are very expensive and the cost for them is showing up in our bills.

Estimates of Post-retirement Benefit Obligations. (Note: this is the extremely dull part you should skip if you are short of time. You could almost tell by the topic title.) These estimates are a new and silly requirement, by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, of all audits of funds such as our Welfare Fund. For three years in a row, OSA has refused to hire an Actuary to provide such an estimate, but last summer, a promise was made to the members to at least investigate the matter. Tom Geraghty of our office has done so.

Tom hasn't yet found anyone, from the Comptrollers office to the affected unions, who will argue in favor of any real value to these estimates. Tom is currently surveying all affected unions and we'll seek some sort of united action on this problem. We need to do this before it becomes an inescapable problem costing us all money out of our benefit package.

COMRO. This organization of retired civil servants is lobbying for an annual cost of living adjustment for our pensions. A request has been received from COMRO for OSA to pay for a bus for a day trip to Albany this spring. COMRO plans on sending a fleet of busses full of pensioners to lobby on all our behalf. The executive board of OSA, when it meets, will certainly authorize the expenditures, and we may throw in box lunches for any of our own retirees who go as well. The lobbying trip will be on a Tuesday, probably in April or May.

Membership Meeting. The next OSA membership meeting will take place Thursday, March 30, 2000 at 6pm at the OSA office, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 709, in Manhattan.

Photographs. The photos in this issue of News From OSA were taken at our Black History Month program on February 25, 2000 at the union office. Coordinated by Shirley Gray of our Grievance Department, the event honored African-Americans in labor and politics. The color photos are by Tom Gorse and the black and white images by Rob Spencer. More appear below.