News From OSA - March, 2005

It looks to be a busy Spring.

Drug Stories. The Municipal Labor Committee has been having fairly intense negotiations with the City over the PICA card for the past few months. An article explaining how it had all worked out was typed and ready for the newsletter when the City balked and the entire article had to be deleted.

Members will have to attend this month's membership meeting in order to learn how the most recent thrilling chapter in the never-ending saga of drug price increases is progressing. By the date of the meeting we may be able to explain where all this is heading.

Or, then again, maybe not. The City moves slowly.

Med D. Medicare Part D (for drugs) is coming; and none too soon. President Bush's plan to provide subsidized pharmaceutical drugs to persons eligible for Medicare has been criticized by many folks. Some say it will cost more than he estimated. (It will.) Some say it's not really enough. (It's not.) Some say it further enriches the very drug companies who are causing the drug price rise problem. (It does.) Some just sit back and marvel at the "doughnut hole", the gap in coverage between $2,250 and $3,600 when you, in effect, are on your own.

The leadership of the Organization of Staff Analysts, however, accepts the arrival of "Med D" for all its flaws. As of 1/1/06, some version of Med D will be in place and probably enrolling most retired seniors over the age of 65. If the plan is not perfect, and it is not, consider the existing alternative. In 1967, when Medicare arrived, both the City and the unions agreed to the enrollment of our over 65 retirees and other Medicare enrollees in the new plan. The reason that New York City reimburses our members for Medicare part B goes back to that time.

One result was that, from 1967 onwards, active employees and retirees below sixty-five became one group, for drug insurance coverage. All those retired over sixty-five or otherwise medicare eligible became a second group. The second (older) group uses more pharmaceutical drugs and often has lower income. The impact on most retired Analysts has been painfully clear. Prior to age sixty-five, the cost of a drug premium was noticeable. Right after age sixty-five, the costs move up to shocking.

At present, the cost of the GHI drug rider is $86.62 a month for individual employees and $163.32 for a family. The Senior Care premium is $170.56 per month and twice that if you have a spouse. Actually, the Senior Care plan was originally going to be $201 per person per month for 2005, until a major plan revision increasing drug copays dramatically was approved in order to hold the monthly premiums down.

Our senior members who are covered by the OSA Welfare Fund are subsidized for $50 per person per month for the GHI Senior Care drug coverage, but they are still left with a very expensive program. The Management Benefit Fund, on behalf of the City, chose to give, as we do, the same $50 per month subsidy to GHI or other similar health plan drug riders. They, also (as we did, in imitation), chose to pay the full cost of the drug rider for premiums for seniors who chose an HMO plan.

Last year, our Welfare Fund paid nearly $1,200 per person for each of our HIP Senior Care retirees. This year, at a cost of $127.70 per person, per month, the bill for the year will be $1,532.40 for a single and $3,064.80 for a couple. The OSA Welfare Fund receives $1,475 per member to provide all benefits. You don't have to be an Analyst to grasp that the situation is not sustainable, long term.

Serious consideration was given, last year, to changing the OSA Welfare Fund's provisions for subsidy of Medicare-eligible drug riders. The Trustees, knowing that Med D was on the horizon and would probably resolve matters for better or worse, by 2006, chose to continue benefits in place.

In the months to come, both active and retired members can expect to hear about Med D drug rider government qualified plans being established and on what terms they will provide coverage to those who choose them. GHI has already made its first very tentative presentation to the MLC Technical Subcommittee on health and it looked pretty good.

We do not yet know how many available choices we will have, nor the terms of those offers, but we do have a right to hope a bit. The addition of federal funds (however imprudently authorized) should result in a noticeable reduction of drug costs for seniors, at least in the short term.

The Other One. Our current contract provided $1,000, 3% and 2% plus another potential (some say mythical) 1% due to us as soon as we and the City work out the details.

As far as we can tell, the City has shown no interest in further negotiations on the missing 1% and the year of the possible 1% is almost up. DC 37's leader, Lillian Roberts, did make the City a number of offers on this topic but Mayor Bloomberg did not respond.

Just when we were convinced management had lost all further interest in the one percent, the MTA surprised us by giving that one percent extra to the non-represented Analysts of MABSTOA. There is, of course, a bit of history here. For over ten years, the TA and MABSTOA stiffed our brother and sister Analysts out of the equity monies paid to the unionized Analysts of City Agencies. By the time OSA organizers were being physically expelled from work sites, in 1995, our Transit brethren had lost 3.75% versus all other Analysts.

As soon as OSA did show up, the MTA began paying the Analysts raises on time and communicating their love and loyalty to them in writing regularly. The MTA's attempt to convince the workers that they loved them came too late to influence the Analysts of the Transit Authority who voted to join the union. The Analysts working for MABSTOA (The Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority) do not have Civil Service permanent status and often have less time on the job. Since management had been acting nicely during OSA's five year effort to organize, MABSTOA Analysts, by a small margin, voted to stay unrepresented.

OSA has not forgotten our brothers and sisters in MABSTOA and the MTA has not forgotten OSA. When our TA Analysts got the 1% extra in equity from the last contract (4/1/00 to 6/30/02) the TA Analysts voted to include the 1% in rate rather than longevity. Then, not to be outdone, the MTA, for the very first time since equity awards began in the 1980's, also awarded an equal 1% to the non-represented Analysts. In this contract period (7/1/02-6/30/05), however, MTA appears to want to go still further and grant an extra 1% to the non-unionized workers so they will receive that much more than the union contract.

(Take that, OSA!)

Unfortunately, Management being Management and Bloomberg being Bloomberg, the money for this extra one percent was found in the pockets of the unrepresented Analysts.

While it is true that all non-represented Analysts at MABSTOA will now get an extra 1% in their paychecks, any non-represented Analyst working evening, night or early morning hours will lose ten percent from their paycheck. No more night differential.

Since the MTA is a 24-hour operation, and now that there is no pay differential, we can also look forward to more Analysts assigned to the graveyard shift.

If subtracting 10% from the paychecks of Analysts working evenings turned out to be not enough to pay for the raise for the other Analysts, the MTA also cancelled Meal Allowance. Since paid overtime for Analysts in Transit is a rarity, and compensatory time is common, saving a meal allowance here and a meal allowance there can really add up.

Also, in a move that truly challenges worker productivity, maternity leaves have now been limited to two years. Thus, female Analysts will apparently be expected to raise their children to the age of three within two years. We are not sure how this last change saves money but, for the MTA, the beauty of unrepresented status is that employees have no right to even ask.

There are also various arcane "take backs" relative to vacation days and personal leave and sick leave but the first three items are the highlights. OSA has passed the information along to the MLC and there will be more on this topic later.

Make History if You Can. Hank Lenz is working with Michael Nash of NYU's Taminent Library to record the history of OSA. New York City labor history is not well recorded in general and, until recently, OSA's history was almost entirely an oral one. Hank, after retirement from the City, volunteered to sort through musty document and bring order from chaos.

Among the items discovered are a series of documents showing not only that there was a COPE (Committee of Personnel Examiners) which evolved into an OSA, but there were also a number of predecessors to COPE. Hank has now brought the history of OSA back to the mid-1950's and is searching for still earlier evidence. OSA celebrated its thirty-year anniversary in the year 2000. It looks like we were at least fifteen years older than that.

Of enormous help to Hank has been the personal collections of documents from, thus far, a small number of Analysts who kept papers relating to our organization. The Zimmerman File, for example, was presented to OSA on the occasion of Allen Zimmerman's retirement from NYCHA. Allen had retained leaflets, news articles, meeting notices and minutes and many other documents from the period 1978 thru 1984. Since 78 to 87 was a crucial and somewhat tempestuous period leading up to OSA becoming, at long last, a union, Allen's file was invaluable.

If you, kind reader, also have any old documents relating to the early years of OSA or its predecessors, Hank awaits your valued contribution to the history of a small but very persistent organization. He will consider any documents you think might be of value, but he is especially interested in material before 1986. If you have stuff and will part with it (or give us copies), call Hank at the union for a discussion. If Hank is not in, Alyson has been kind enough to offer to take messages for him. If you are in doubt as to the value of your old papers to our archives, do call.

MCU. All members of OSA are eligible to be - and many are - members of the Municipal Credit Union. The MCU is the organization that provides many a city office with a huge wall calendar with city holidays noted clearly. The MCU is also a source of low cost loans for many of its members, as well as a savings institution with over one billion dollars in assets.

The MCU is run by its President/CEO and that person is hired by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is elected by the membership of the MCU. Any member can seek election to the board after 12 month membership. There are two ways to get your name on the ballot. You can either gather almost 1500 signatures of MCU members and nominate yourself or you can appear before the MCU nominating committee, which can give you a spot on the ballot without petitioning. Once you are nominated, members vote at the annual meeting and you will be elected if you get enough votes.

A few years ago, the Chairperson of OSA was asked to serve as a member of the MCU Nominating Committee and has served ever since.

In the past few years there have been over a hundred candidates for MCU office interviewed and although, many candidates were excellent and very well qualified to serve, only a few were ever nominated. There is a natural tendency to re-nominate serving directors who have served well and, as a result, few others ever received the nomination. If, however, year after year, many are called, but few or none are chosen, eventually no one will respond to the call. That happened this year. This year, when the MCU Nominating Committee actually had vacancies to fill, almost no candidate came forward.

The members of the nominating committee have requested that the MCU go to extra length for next year's elections. It is dangerous for the credit union not to have sufficient qualified candidates to fill all positions up for election or re-election.

It was especially distressing to us for a reason unique to OSA. In prior years, Analyst was the one title series that provided at least one or two entirely acceptable, qualified candidates each year. During these years, incumbents were generally re-nominated and, as a result, no Analyst ever became a Director of the MCU. This year, when actual vacancies did occur, no Analyst had sent in a resume.

If you are a member of the MCU and feel you have sufficient time to contribute to a good cause and feel strongly about employer credit unions, please feel free to respond next year when the annual call for nominations is given. Over a dozen OSA members presented themselves to the nominating committee during the past few years. All were interviewed and all were intelligent and very presentable. Some of them finally ended up on the Board of Directors, but each one had actually served the MCU well just by the very process of volunteering to serve if needed.

Staff Analyst Appeals. Thanks are due to the volunteers who assisted Staff Analyst candidates in need of help on their appeals. Four hundred candidates had been disqualified based on their education and experience paper. The appeal period was far too brief, but we were able to help over eighty candidates. From the appeal effort, we learned that our original training had been effective, since very few of those disqualified had taken OSA's training course. We also formed the conclusion that most of the candidates disqualified were, in fact, very well qualified but had not properly stated so on the original application.

Lost and Gone, but not Forever. Of all the stories of the 2004 Staff Analyst Exam, none is more strange than that of the lost exams. Our union was contacted by two candidates claiming that DCAS had lost their exam papers. Joan Doheny, a retiree volunteer for OSA, is our former Chairperson of the DCAS/Personnel Chapter. Joan took the matter in hand, insisting DCAS would not and could not lose an exam paper - and she began making phone calls. Within a day, Joan reported, in triumph, that one paper had been found, graded by hand and now the experience paper was under review. Good work, Joan, good work, Tina Ramsey at DCAS.

The second case turned out to be more complex. Sheila Gorsky became involved and reports that the information needed was sent to applications and was also resolved.

Staff Analyst Hiring Pool. An OSA rep attended the DDC hiring pool Tuesday, February 22. She learned that no one showed up in person. Almost every candidate was already a City employee and was either being turned over at DDC or HPD or LAW (all of which called the list on the same day). As a result, DDC was unable to fill their vacancies, and will probably be calling another pool very shortly, as will the other agencies. Apparently, the vast majority of the 1,359 candidates already work for the City. The list should move quickly.

Administrative Staff Analyst Exam. The application period is open 3/2-3/22. If you are a permanent Associate Staff Analyst, you are eligible to take this promotional exam for Administrative Staff Analyst. Those of you who responded to the OSA Administrative Staff Analyst Exam Eligibility form and who were agreed to be eligible will have received a special separate mailing containing the application forms and the Notice of Exam. Unfortunately, the mailing contained two errors. First, the special circumstances form attached to the mailing was incorrectly photocopied. Instead of two separate pages, two copies of page one were placed back to back. In addition, the Application Supplement need only be sent in if you answer YES to the first question on the form.

Those permanent ASA's who have not sent in the OSA Eligibilty form, please call OSA at (212) 686-1229 or download the form here and immediately fax it in to 212.686.1231. You will be contacted if there is a question of your civil service status.

Some Analysts, we noted, were not eligible to take the promotional exam, since they were not permanent in the ASA title. Those members were notified not to spend money on the application or time on the training because, in the end, they would not be allowed to take the exam.

Training will be scheduled for April - June, probably evenings (one day a week) for some Analysts, and weekends (Saturday or Sunday) for others.

Most Analysts have participated in OSA's training classes before, some as recently as the past ASA exam in 2001 and others from about 10 years ago. The problem with creating any training program is that all Analysts do similar work, but with different responsibility levels. That means that some of the prior course tapes may still be viable, along with the previous class material. More information will be sent with the registration for the training. Announcement of the training will only be sent to those who respond to the OSA eligibility form. There are 6,000 members who receive general mailings, but only 2,000 need the Admin S.A. information. It will save quite a lot of stamps to send information only to those who need it.

Help Wanted. The Notice of Examination for the Administrative Staff Analyst exam puts some emphasis on planning and budget work, personnel and staff development. All of these and more are topics on which OSA has trained in the past and is prepared to train again.

The NOE also mentions exceptionally difficult quantitative analysis and cost analysis plus highly complex economic research. Hmm. The abilities section mentions adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, integrating, differentiating. We will seek to learn more about what is meant by integrating and differentiating, but it does appear we might benefit from the availability if someone who could help with quantitative analysis. If you think you can help, please call Sheila Gorsky at the union office and we'll get back to you. Actually, if you even know what integrating and differentiating are (in terms of numbers) call Sheila.

We are never going to be able to turn a person from "numbers adverse" to "numbers facile" in one or two sessions, but we would like to see if we could do something in this area.

A Qualified Comment. Our union's position on the recent change in requirements for Staff Analyst is supported in an article You can download below. The article was sent in by Irwin Polishook, former President of the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York. PSC-CUNY represents the most educationally well-qualified of all our municipal unions since most of their members have at least one or two graduate degrees.

Both Dr. Polishook, the former head of PSC-CUNY and Dr. Barbara Bowen, the current leader of those highly qualified folks, agree with the leadership of OSA that an arbitrary increase in educational requirements should be backed up by more than a position classification study that is not available to the public, the taxpayers or the union.

The article which you download by clicking here is from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Bits & Pieces. Congratulation to union activist Susan Wong. Susan will be receiving the Nita H. Henick Social Worker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Social Policy from Borough President Helen Marshall at Queens Borough Hall March 18th. Good work Susan!

For Download. An excellent piece from the Civil Service Chief describing the 1965 Welfare Strike. That strike had more impact on OSA that might seem immediately clear. When Ed Koch said no, no, never, never to Analysts Organizing, many of those formed by the atmosphere of the 65 & 67 Welfare strikes paid him no attention at all.

The article on the pricing of mailorder drugs is self explanatory and provocative.

Our African American and Women's History month celebration may be a few days late but the evening will be as welcoming and welcome as always. Do come.

Some basic info on the Medicare Part D drug benefit from the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services.

OSA General Membership Meeting. The next general membership meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 31, 2005 at 6pm sharp in the union office at 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 709 in Manhattan. See you there.