News From OSA - March, 2013

Growing. The year has started well. We have added over seven hundred members, Administrative Staff Analysts Levels II and III. To be sure, it took nine years and endless work, but we did succeed, again.

Over forty years ago, analysts came together to seek three things. We wanted to be able to help one another, to gain civil service permanent status and to be covered for collective bargaining.

In 1985, our first victory at the Board of Education gained union status for 38 analysts at the agency. It took until 1992 before all Staff and Associate Staff Analysts were covered for collective bargaining and we went on from there.

By 2001, we had gained the right to represent analysts in the Health and Hospitals Corporation and, that year, we added Administrative Staff Analysts Level I and Supervising Systems Analysts. We agreed, that year, not to file for Admins Levels II and III for three years. The unexpected result was that the City began appointing new employees directly to levels II and III. This deprived the new analysts of union rights, but it did improve our case when we started anew in 2004.

Between 2004 and today, OSA became the bargaining agent for another half-dozen titles related to analysts in the City, the HHC, the Transit Authority, and the Housing Authority. Each of these drives was different, although none took as long as the Admin Staff Analysts.

We have kept faith with those of our members who advanced into higher titles over the years. The City offers us more money as we move up, but it also takes away our union rights at the same time. Our union remedies that problem.

Benefits. Most of our new members are happy to have union rights restored (due process, overtime, grievances, etc.), but some are unhappy due to things lost (gym benefit, managerial flex, a sense of being special, etc.) or the necessity to pay dues. We should address each issue.

Gym. The gym benefit can be replaced by membership in a New York City Parks Department gym.

The current benefit of the Management Benefit Fund pays you up to $500 a year if you are paying to belong to a gym, but you have to send evidence that you are regularly using the gym.

You are taxed on the $500 benefit and it costs you between one and two hundred dollars in extra taxes (depending on your tax situation). An alternative to the lost benefit are the City gyms. The cost for a public gym membership is only $100 a year for gyms without an indoor swimming pool. For $150 a year, you can get access to facilities with indoor swimming pools, vital in winter.

The cost includes use of fitness equipment and computer resource centers. The cost is lower for senior citizens (62 years and older) at $25 for gyms with or without indoor pools and free for children under 18.

Flex. Managerial Flex Time has been convenient for a number of our new members. Some arranged their schedules based on predictable flexibility. If this has to change, it would be regrettable and wrong. We are not sure it has to change in all cases, since the agency can allow any beneficial arrangement it wants without challenge by the union.

Even if the agency is spiteful and inflexible, local units can permit regular comp time accumulation and usage, so in many cases the new member should be able to be accommodated.

Special. The sense of being special should not go away. Our members are special based on who they are, not on what someone else calls them. If another person can make you special by calling you a manager, that same person or another can take away the title, but are you then no longer special?

At least a few of our new members have voiced anger at the union for taking away their management positions. Since those members work at the same desk for the same boss as before, doing the same job, the problem is one of perception.

It may be some help to realize that in Western Europe most managers are union members. In the United States, we are usually taught that managers are automatically excluded from the union. Not so, elsewhere. If, for example we were living in London, our new members would still be called managers and would also have full union rights. That seems to make sense, since a manager can be unfairly mistreated by his or her boss either in New York or in London.

Dues and Due Process. One area where the leadership of the Organization of Staff Analysts can not argue at all is paying dues. More than a few new members are unhappy about paying dues. We agree it would be far nicer if the union, as an institution, came for free.

Due process, however, does not come for free. Rent for an office, lights and phones, computers and office equipment, representatives, legal fees and more are needed. In return, this ensures that when you are unfairly targeted, you will have an effective and experienced set of defenders.

“How much of a chance is there that we could be fired without doing anything wrong?”

Our own union had a chance to learn the answer in the late 1980's. There came a point where the City had agreed to allow us to represent over 600 members. Working out details took a year and during that year, there continued to be no due process for some of our members. Those who had civil service status had some job protection, but about 300 members had none.

During the course of the year, one dozen OSA members called for help because the boss was firing them. OSA was able to help a couple due to our connections, but none of those targeted for firing had due process rights.

The stories were sad.

One member said the boss had volunteered his team for a project that, finally, could not be completed after a year of trying. He needed a scapegoat and he chose our member. Another member had five prior bosses. He had pleased each one and he had the ‘outstanding’ ratings to prove it. The sixth boss and he did not like each other from the start, so she was firing him. One other analyst was told that the boss had a cousin who needed a job. The other nine cases were similar in that in none of the cases would the average citizen and taxpayer favor discharging an experienced worker for the reason given.

So, of 300 vulnerable members, 12 were targeted for firing without good reason. That works out to a 4% annual rate of arbitrary and capricious firing for employees with no protection. Then, came union status. During the next year one case of a serious nature was brought to the union... and we won that one.

The union’s role in defending our members is twice effective. First, we do provide a measure of increased justice if you are accused of wrong doing. Also, we prevent most false charges from ever being brought since everyone knows we exist and will demand proof.

Paying union dues in return for due process is a sort of job insurance policy. If the union had no other value save due process and increased fairness on the job it would still be a bargain.

Note: The union rights detailed are in dispute at the New York City Housing Authority. NYCHA does not provide due process for provisionals as negotiated between the City and the unions. OSA and other unions are seeking a resolution to this problem.

On The Other Hand. Our new members will be compensated for overtime work in all cases, not just some. In addition, the Acitywide@ contact now covers our new members and if the agency violates that contract, we can now grieve and win.

A copy of the “citywide” contract can be found on OSA’s website at Click on “Member Services” and then “Contract Highlights.” Information about the citywide agreement is at the top of the page. A link is provided there to open the complete contract in PDF format.

Some of our grievances are worth a lot of money. If your agency asks you to work above your title in return for promised advancement, the agency has thirty days to show good faith and if they do not, you should file an out of title grievance. The ruling on your complaint can take a year or more to resolve but, if you win (and OSA has won many such cases) you will be paid the promised increase, retroactive to the filing of the grievance. A victory worth five figures in back pay is not uncommon and often there is an upgrade in title as well.

Arbitration. It always seems to take a long time, but the Arbitrator has finally ruled on the snow days of December 2010.

These were the days of snow-related difficulties that month and most of us had real trouble getting to work. (Note, this was not the time the Mayor told us to stay home; that was a later snow storm.)

The ruling was less than ideal from our point of view but it does grant relief in three situations. First, if you went to work but got there late, lateness is excused due to transit difficulties. Second, if you went and the office was closed, you get full credit for each day you showed up. Finally, if you are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, you are also excused for all three days since the City did not provide alternative ways of getting to work.

Our next Arbitration, over attendance at work during Superstorm Sandy, will also take a while. That situation was more dramatic than 2010's snowstorm and more complex. That ruling will probably not be out before the Mayor has left office.

Fighting. One benefit that comes with the union is that OSA fights very effectively for its members in many ways. The Civil Service exams and the moving of lists affect our job security and advancement. OSA is a strong civil service advocate and we do fight (sue, lobby, advocate and monitor) the entire process as it affects our members and the other titles as well.

Most recently, Andrew Cuomo has issued a report advocating corruption. The report, the "Final Report" of the "Spending and Government Efficiency Commission" has discovered that Civil Service ties the hands of the executive, prevents appointment of truly qualified individuals and generally reduces the numbers of discretionary hires available to the governor.

The report tells us that civil service used to be a good idea, but today is different. Testing for merit and fitness is too cumbersome and slow. Instead, we should trust the governor and his appointees to decide who gets the job.

If the "Final Report" leads to legislation, State civil servants who work for the public will be superceded by temporary employees who will work for a politician.

Actually, Mayor Bloomberg has sought the same goal, for himself, for years. We were able to stop him with some help from Albany. Now it is the Governor in Albany who seeks a return to the spoils system. We will respond as always. The Municipal Labor Committee’s Civil Service Committee will be talking to good government legislators and our friends in Albany.

In honor of Governor Cuomo's efforts to turn the State Civil Service into a job producing machine, we will have copies of “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall” at this month’s membership meeting.

The book is amusing but instructive. Boss Plunkitt may have been corrupt, but he was open and honest about it. Governor Cuomo’s AFinal Report@ does favor cronyism and patronage, but it is neither open, nor honest and not at all amusing.

OSA Women's Committee & Black History Programs The union’s women’s committee and black history committee have each put together evening programs set for late March and early April, respectively. The women’s committee seeks to empower OSA’s women and provide them with the resources that will help them lead healthy lives and productive careers. On Thursday, March 21, the committee will present a program with the theme “Women on the Move - Going Forward,” which will feature a panel of leading women in labor and politics.

Then, on Thursday, April 11, the Black History Committee will celebrate the past, present and future of the black community with several guest speakers. Both programs will also feature entertainment, vendors and light refreshments. You will find a flyer for the women's committee program here and the black history committee program here. Please join us for both evenings.

General Membership Meeting. The next general membership meeting will be held on Thursday, March 28, 2013 at the union office, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 707, between Second and Third Avenues, starting at 6pm sharp. You can download a reminder flyer for the meeting by clicking this link.