News From OSA - March, 2001

March is a busy month. We end stage one of a thus far seven year effort to extend collective bargaining rights to Administrative Analysts at the same time as we begin the training classes for Associate Staff Analysts. If two major events were not enough, OSA has been asked to help some non-analysts to become members of OSA and the Executive Board has agreed.

We are four thousand now. First, welcome to our (newly certified for collective bargaining) Administrative Staff Analyst members. On January 9, 2001 a stipulation was signed (by the City and NYCHA) agreeing that most Administrative Staff Analysts, Management pay grade Level I are in fact eligible for representation by OSA.

Background. As far back as 1980, Mayor Koch had begun a practice that deliberately lowered the cost of the career managerial work force while also discouraging civil servants from seeking managerial status. His method was to simply not raise managerial minimum salaries when raises were given.

The result, today, is that the entry level salary for an Analyst hired to manage on behalf of New York City, is below the entry level salary for Staff Analyst. Our Staff Analysts Level II have a higher minimum salary than do Managers at the MII entry level and our Associate Staff Analysts earn more than the third level of Management over them.

Strange. In addition, the once proud managerial class, praised and supported by Mayor Beame, began to be divided into two classes. The career, non political managers began to be assigned to a lower class status that was very obvious to them. This did free up money to reward the Mayors pets and appointees, but it was not good for the service.

During the latter part of the 80's, the first question posed to a class of candidates preparing for the Administrative Staff Analyst exam was, "Why are we doing this"?Even then, the promotional increase had shrunk to about a $1000, or less than 3% of salary. In return, anyone who passed the test (and was promoted) now lost the right to paid overtime, and yet could still be ordered to work overtime at the will of their boss.

By 1992 OSA had succeeded in unionizing Staff and Associate Staff Analysts in most Agencies. At the same time our long-range goals were being frustrated by the treatment being accorded to Management pay levels I, II, and III.

The natural goal of most civil servants is to be able to work at a job that gives some personal feeling of satisfaction. Part of feeling good about one's job is the hope for eventual advancement to more responsible and remunerative jobs later in one's career.

What had occurred instead, was that the lower levels of management had been turned into an exploited, (although highly skilled) work force kept without rights or protections and solaced only by the fact that they were "Managers". Analysts are generally able to add and subtract fairly well and, as a group, we decided that what was going on did not add up to the benefit of our members.

We filed in 1994 for the right to represent Administrative Staff Analysts, Managerial Levels I, II and III. The City was outraged at our presumption. We, in return, had numerous unkind words to say to the City about its treatment of workers they termed lower level management.

Since, objectively, the City has been misusing the term managerial since 1980 (and abusing the lower level "management" class as well), testi-mony before the Office of Collective Bargaining went in our favor. The one good defense the City had, and used to the full, was its ability to drag matters out beyond all belief. Even so, by 2000, briefs were being prepared for the final judgment. At that point the City "cried Uncle" and offered a settlement.

The Office of Labor Relations decided to offer OSA a stipulation because our attorney, Joan Kiok, was clearly winning on the merits of the case for most Administrative Staff Analysts levels MI, II and III.

The leadership of our union had mixed emotions about accepting any stipulation that involved compromise - and stipulations always do. We finally agreed to the City's offer. We had two main reasons for doing so.

Our first reason to accept the offer was time. The City's desire and ability to drag disputes over justice out beyond normal human life spans has been well established. The City had delayed the unionization of any Staff Analyst for two decades, and even this relatively quick victory of the Administrative Staff Analysts has taken us seven years thus far.

We wanted to set a precedent by the unionization of a large class of "managerial" employees, and the stipulation does just that.

We are not the first union to succeed in this task. We are setting a large precedent, but it must be noted to their credit, that a few smaller unions got there before us. A handful of Administrative Fire Alarm Dispatchers had already joined the ranks of labor, thanks to the efforts of FADBA and their President David Rosensweig. More recently the Sanitation Chiefs under Peter Kelly were recognized for the same purpose. OSA's precedent is, however, massive in comparison. We have added hundreds to our ranks.

A second reason for our agreement was the money we will obtain for our new members.

It should be a matter of honor and prestige to reach the level of a management career with our city. Many of our own new members first served long years of apprenticeship working their way up through the ranks of the Civil Service. They also waited long years between exams and, when finally the last Admin Staff Analyst exam was given, the union had to go to court because the exam's marking system was a cheat. We won in court and many more OSA members were appointed to the position.

We lost on the job. The job itself was not managerial and our newly appointed Administratives knew it.

Large numbers of current Administrative Staff Analysts were originally members of OSA and joined OSART when, as they became Administra-tive Analysts, were no longer eligible for the union. In effect, many of the Admin Analysts have paid to support the organizing drive for many years. Now they will get, in return, an instant benefit.

Normally any new title organized into our union does not start off with any longevity awards at all. We fought from '92 to '94 to unionize the Assistant, the Systems and the Senior Systems Analysts (HHC) but then we had to fight through collective bargaining negotiations on their contract until, finally, in 1999, those members got the full longevity.

Even now, in the middle of the next contract period, we do not yet have any longevity contractually agreed upon with the Transit Authority, nor yet with the HHC for our more recent addition of the HHC Supervising Systems Analysts.

Thanks to the stipulation, those Admin Staff Analysts who were in the title by the date of the 1/9/01 stipulation, will receive a $500 longevity retroactive to 1/9/01,if they have 15 years of city service. (Those appointed to Admin Staff Analyst after that date (1/9/01) will have to wait for our next collective bargaining agreement.) Those who were in the title at the time of unionization but do not yet have 15 years of city service will be due the money on completion of fifteen years.

After taxes, the result will be to pretty much cover the OSA dues. Since these same Analysts had been paying voluntary dues to OSART, the stipulation rather neatly rewards their faith in our union.

There are some other benefits as well. Many of our new members are in sight of retirement after long years of service. Under "managerial" rules any managerial retiree who has less than 30 days of sick leave in the "bank" loses them on retirement. If a manager does have over 30 days of sick leave, the City will offer one day of paid terminal leave for every three days of unused sick leave. Union members, on the other hand, are due one day of paid terminal leave for every two days of unused sick leave.

At least one former "manager" called OSA to point out that he would now gain two months of terminal leave thanks to our victory.

In terms of overtime our members will still be expected to work until their tasks are completed just as before. Meanwhile, as of 1/9/01, the City has to pay for the work that is done. We will be curious to learn if our new members work is as "needed" by the City as it has been up to now. If it is, our members will get a windfall of overtime cash. If not, they will have a lot more free time with their families.

It was almost one hundred years ago that Labor Day banners sported the (infuriating to employers) slogan, "Eight for Work, Eight for Rest, Eight for `er We Will" to promote the eight hour days. Our union members generally are very willing to work overtime if it is really needed, but in such cases the employer is supposed to pay for those hours of work.

Even if there were no monetary advantage, union membership would still bring a very noticeable increase in a scarce commodity; justice. The right of an employee to grieve wrong doing by his or her superiors is a very valuable right. It levels the playing field when the employer has rules to follow as well as the employee. We have a contract. They must honor our contract.

We, as civil servants, expect to be held to a high standard ourselves, and we are. Here again, with the union, fairness increases. Alone, a manager accused of false charges faces one of two likely fates. If provisional, in title, the manager is fired or demoted before any trial and no trial would occur at all. If permanent in civil service status, the manager has the choice of a long and costly court battle with the risk of loss of pension attached or else the generally preferred choice of voluntary retirement. As a part of a union, defense on charges is automatic and without cost to the member (In the case of the OSA labor reps and attorneys, that defense will be passionate and aggressive, but that is simply a matter of style).

If the member is guilty, a good defense will probably not help much, but where our members are innocent of the charges brought, our record is excellent. What is the value to a worker or a manager of an increase in justice in relation to one's career, reputation and life's work? It is immeasurable.

Finally, it should be noted that we did not exactly promise to stop organizing. It is true that we did give a promise to suspend the Admin Analyst drive for three years. Actually, we don't believe that over that period our City will start treating Admins levels II or III fairly. Therefore, we expect to return to that fight soon enough.

Wait. . . There's still more. In the meanwhile, our trusted attorney, Joan Kiok, on 3/1/01, filed a petition for OSA to represent: Admin. Traffic Enforcement Agent, Levels I, II & III Admin. Supervisor of School Security Levels I, II & III and Associate Supervisor of School Security (all levels)

OSA agreed to file the petition because we were asked to do so by a majority of the work force in those titles and that's a really good reason from our point of view. A number of other unions were unable to help these workers. It was felt their chance of success was slight. Fair enough.

Our own chance of success since the year 1970 had often been called slight and yet a current total of four thousand union members in a score of titles can testify that a slight chance does not mean no chance at all. So long as our new brothers and sisters from the Police Department are willing to stand up for their rights to fair treatment, OSA will be there with and for them and nothing could be more appropriate.

Testing. . . Testing. The Associate Staff Analyst exam filing has closed with over 1500 applications filed. The number is not final since Personnel will allow late filing for those potential candidates who subsequently became permanent Staff Analysts through the moving of the list or lateral transfers.

Our training starts on March 19th and proceeds at the union office and two other locations for what now looks like seven days a week until just before the exam.

There are two other promotional Analyst exams now scheduled for the same day and it is suspected that those exams will be very similar to the Associate Staff Analyst exam. The two exams are left overs from the "Narrowbanding" phase of our title in the late 70's and are "agency specific," that is, limited in use to one or two Agencies.

In the Transit Authority and MaBSTOA, Assistant Transit Management Analysts promote to Associate Transit Management Analyst. At the Board of Education, Education Analysts pomote to Associate Education Analysts.

OSA members in the TA or the Board of Education should mention to persons in these parallel titles that our training ourse is open to them as well. They will have to join OSART ($97. 50 a year) for at least a year, but the value in return is actually greater.

Eyes Right? OSA's Welfare Fund switched from Davis Vision to NVA on March 1st and OSA's phone lines lit up days before as the notice arrived.

The most distressing type of calls occurred right after the 3/1/01 date occurred. As members tried out the new system many doctors tried to get extra fees, offered fewer frames or misinterpreted the plan. Our staff forwarded problems to NVA and got resolutions pretty quickly as far as we can tell.

The new plan is supposed to be the same as the old plan, so if a doctor or receptionist or anyone else informs you that it is not, they are wrong.

The participating part of the plan is designed to be absolutely no-out-of-pocket cost, period. Also offering a member only three frames to choose from pretty much guarantees the doctor an invitation to leave the panel.

The trustees spent over a year investigating before switching vision providers. We expect the plan to be running smoothly once these initial problems are resolved. Thereafter we will have more providers and that was one of our goals.

Beat the Clock, Join Now, Now, Now! One of our members called in to ask if it was a good idea to join the pension system now since we will soon lose the five year health benefit "vesting". The answer is yes.

You should be aware that the City adds two to three times as much money to your pension as you are asked to contribute for the first ten years of service. Thereafter your share shrinks to little or nothing, but their obligation continues. The Tax Deferred Annuity or 401K options are very good pension savings plans but the City does not add one cent to those plans.

The actual value of your pension, far in the future, is often hard to visualize, so a concrete example will help.

Our example of choice is an Associate Staff Analyst at minimum salary plus full longevities earning $53,600 per year. His pension contributions and the interest earned on them can be isolated and taken out of the equation.

The value of his pension, City contributions and interest only, is now over $400,000 after 33 years of service. In the case of our example, in addition to cash value our future pensioner gets health coverage in his retirement.

Currently, each and every NYC civil servant, permanent or provisional, has the right to join the NYC Employees Retirement System and, after only five years of service, to receive health benefits coverage for all of their retirement years. The offer ends sometime this year.

The legislature will soon pass a new law that will require new members of NYCERS to serve ten years before being eligible for health coverage in retirement. Note that the only persons affected will be those who join after the law is passed. If you join the NYCERS before the law is passed, you do have the right to your five year health benefit vesting. If you don't join the pension system until after the law is passed, you will be subject to the new and less generous rules.

Please note that a great many City workers choose the TDA or 401K instead of joining the pension. Bad move.

You can not lose on the pension simply because the City is forced to add to the pension. More money going in will almost always equal more money coming out later on. If you can afford both pension contributions and TDA/401K, do both. If you must choose only one, choose the pension.

But when? Right now.

If you would like some personal pension counseling give us a call. OSA provides trained counselors to assist both days and evenings.

OSA General Membership Meeting. The next general membership meeting is to be held Thursday, March 29, 2001 at 6pm sharp at 125 Worth Street, 2nd Floor Auditorium. Please note that the meeting this month is not being held at the OSA office.

African-American History Month Celebration. The photographs in this issue of News From OSA were taken by Director of Media Services Rob Spencer at OSA's February 23rd Second Annual Celebration of African Americans in Labor and Government.