News From OSA - March, 2014

NEGOTIATIONS, PAST. The last four years of the Bloomberg administration did not include a lot of negotiation. We (OSA) did complete our 4%, 4% and 0.1% contract before he was re-elected so, for two years, we did get raises, up through August of 2010.

Other unions – the nurses and teachers, police officers and firefighters, etc. – were told that, instead of a pattern consisting of 4%, 4% and 0.1%, they would have to accept 0%, 0%, 0% (and a pittance thereafter if, and only if, they agreed to finance the raise by paying for their health benefits). In short, Bloomberg gave them an offer they had to refuse and then criticized them for not “negotiating.”

After three years of no negotiations, our former mayor became impatient. He then decided to go further and make decisions that would affect us on his own, with no input from us.

Health – For his first trick, the mayor chose to get rid of our health benefits and to replace them with lesser and quite costly (to us) benefits. GHI and HIP, we were told, were disqualified because EmblemHealth had not shown any enthusiasm for changing our health benefits without our input. We also showed no enthusiasm for his changing our health benefits without our input.

Instead, we went to court and stopped the mayor.

Audit – Mayor Bloomberg's next attempt to hurt us came with a proposed health care dependent audit. The unions favored the idea of an audit but pointed out that we would need an amnesty clause so members acknowledging past changes in circumstances would not be retroactively penalized.

The corporation doing the audit thought our request was reasonable. Mayor Bloomberg did not. We went to court. We won again.

Affordable Care Act – Finally, Mayor Bloomberg decided to use the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) as a weapon to hurt at least some of us.

Obama Care forbids any caps on prescription drug benefits. OSA members do not have caps or limits on our prescription drugs through our health care providers. Some other unions – especially smaller ones of a thousand members or less – do, and are fearful that an uncapped drug benefit could bankrupt their welfare fund. Three unions asked how they could arrange to have their members enrolled in the city health plans for drugs. The response was quick. The letter from the Office of Labor Relations stated that any union seeking to have their members enroll in city drug plans had to negotiate their contract and then determine how much of the union's welfare fund money would be given back to the city.

There were three things wrong with the letter. First, no union was going to open negotiations with Mayor Bloomberg (and his three zeros) in the month before he left office. Second, since the members pay for their own drug riders, why would the union's welfare fund owe the city anything? Third, and most serious, was Mayor Bloomberg holding those members in need of life saving drugs hostage so he could force their unions to give him money?

The MLC went to court and, on this occasion, our own union's bargaining history made a good case against Bloomberg. Since our welfare fund is similar to the Management Benefits Fund in that we do not have a drug benefit, our members can and usually do enroll in a drug “rider” on their city plan. Even so, we receive the full $1,640 per member per year received by most of the other city union welfare funds. We use it to buy extra life insurance, better dental or optical coverage, etc. If other unions choose to drop their drug benefit, their members also would be due improvements in other benefits.

As you can see from the letter from Harry Nespoli to the over one hundred unions of the MLC which you can download here, we won again.

NEGOTIATIONS, PRESENT. Our union met with Bob Linn, the new head of Labor Relations. The meeting was pleasant. No money was put on the table nor did we expect any. Initially, we expected, and the Office of Labor Relations Commissioner delivered, some very nice words about the need for labor and management to cooperate in this difficult time. We responded in kind, and with sincerity, although we did mention pattern bargaining and the need for retroactivity on raises.

The city has first to deal with the mess the prior mayor left behind. The New York State Nurses Association is in binding arbitration and the United Federation of Teachers is in non-binding arbitration. If the arbitrators award 4%, 4% and 0.1%, that discussion will be over and the city can move on to more recent years.

All of the unions are impatient and there will be talks with the city over the immediate period to come. In a sense, however, what is going on now has elements of a ritual dance. The city talks of seeking our cooperation and the need for give backs. The unions respond with research, comparative studies and argumentation.

NEGOTIATIONS, FUTURE. The final result of all the negotiations will be affected by many factors. The city's fiscal health matters a lot, as we all discovered in the fiscal crisis of 1974 and 75. Important, also, is the philosophy of the mayor. If our mayor is seeking to exploit us, as did Bloomberg, negotiations can not succeed. If our mayor is inclined towards fairness, we do better.

We are all hopeful that contracts will be negotiated that we can accept, but we would be wise to remember that there are no guarantees on that point. OSA is not the largest of the civilian (non uniformed, non pedagogical) unions, so we will not be setting the pattern. Our union has earned some recognition and influence over the years and we are very opposed to give backs. If the other unions agree with us, that will be good.

For now, and for a while to come, be patient. We are very overdue for a raise, but it is not the present administration's fault and this process, once started, takes time to play out. At least, we are started, at last.

LAST CHANCE. The application period for the SAT exam has opened, but closes soon, March 25, 2014.

The deadline for registration for the training classes is March 13, but we can extend it for a few days, so if you haven't sent in your training class registration, please do so ASAP.

This website has instructions for access to the DCAS application website. Many of you have already received the reminder OSA mailing and email. If you need assistance, click on the section of this website on “Exams, Lists and Training” which has a copy of the mailing about the exam. Please click on the link at the end of the paragraph “Staff Analyst Trainee Exam Training Course Information For Current OSA Members” or the following paragraph for non-members. The instructions and the forms are available. Training is free to OSA and OSART members. DVDs are also available for purchase.

The training will begin Monday, March 31st and continue for seven weeks in the evening from 5:30-9pm. Choose one day and come once a week on that day for seven weeks. The weekend training will last 3½ weeks, from 8:30am-4pm. Choose one weekend day and come once a week on that day for 3½ weeks. Keep a copy of your registration form for entry to the class.

The MATERIALS for the classroom training will be on this website beginning March 24th. If you are participating in the training, please bring the materials associated with each week's training to your class session.

OSA advises all pure provisional employees to take this exam. The exam will be given by DCAS at their testing centers, one in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn. You should be notified by them of the date and location before July 7th.

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. The next general membership meeting will be held on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at the union office, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 707, between Second and Third Avenues, starting at 6:15pm. You can download a reminder flyer for the meeting by clicking this link.