News From OSA - May 2010

Labor Heroes. Not all politicians are bad. In fact, some elected officials actually are good, fight for us and the public welfare, and are our heroes.

Two outstanding examples of good politicians are attending our general membership meeting this month. Both Peter Abbate from the New York State Assembly and Diane Savino from the New York State Senate are our friends. They have done us a great service in fighting off the Mayor’s attempt to turn our title into a pure patronage title.

The Mayor would like to hire us at will and fire us at will. He was offended by the City of Long Beach court decision that ordered adherence to the 1901 State Civil Service law. He ordered DCAS to come up with phoney titles so he could continue to hire his friends, his friends of friends, and his friends of friends of friends – plus an occasional relative. DCAS did as ordered and a host of make-believe titles were proposed.

Unfortunately for Mayor Bloomberg, when the new bogus titles were sent to Albany for approval, Assemblyman Abbate and Senator Savino asked all the right questions, raised valid objections and generally halted the Mayor in his tracks.

The recent exams given by DCAS were given largely because Pete and Diane are holding the City to account on the requirement to obey the Civil Service laws.

We are honored to have both of these fine public servants at this month’s membership meeting. They have both been severely criticized by the New York Post et al. for their work on our behalf. In return, we owe them our love and support.

If you normally take a pass on attending union membership meetings, you might want to seriously consider attending this one in order to show your gratitude to these two fine people. You can read more about why we are honoring Senator Savino and Assemblyman Abbate by clicking here.

The fight to defeat Mayor Bloomberg’s reclassification schemes is not over. He will certainly use his money to target Abbate and Savino, but we, in turn, will do what we can to help our friends in office.

Do Not Get Sick, But... If you do get sick, the OSA trustees have now improved the Long Term Disability benefit.

Previously, the long term benefit offered disabled members $1,000 a month until the member’s pension and social security disability began payments. Thereafter, in earlier years, the benefit would drop to $150 per month or, more recently, to $300 per month.

Henceforward, our contract now requires the company to pay the full $1,000 per month, even if the member has begun to receive pension and social security disability payments.

Hard Times. If you had not noticed, we have come upon hard times. Negotiations on the next contract for most of our members will not start until the Fall, but the season of givebacks and layoffs is already upon us.

The Mayor’s orders for budget cuts by City agencies led to a number of layoffs in 2009 and more this year.

Many members are aware of the rules affecting layoffs, but for those who are not, below are the basics. (Analysts knowledgeable about civil service rules can skip the next part.)

Layoff Rules. Your agency may be required to save money by cutting staff. If this happens, an employee can be “laid off” with very little prior notice.

Will it be you?

For those of our members who are provisional in title the risk is greatest. If you did not obtain your job by way of a civil service exam, followed by a list, followed by appointment from the list, you are either an exempt (unlikely), non-competitive (rare outside the Health and Hospitals Corporation) or provisional employee.

If you are a provisional employee, your status would be either “step up” or “pure.” A “step up” provisional worker is assigned to his or her current job provisionally, while on leave from another “lower paid” permanent civil service job.

A “pure” provisional (employee) does not hold an underlying permanent civil service job title and is the most vulnerable to layoff due to fiscal difficulties.

“Pure” provisional members are urged, always, to take civil service exams as they are offered, especially if the title for which the test is given is one used in the member’s agency. A provisional Analyst with a leave title of Clerical Associate is a “step up” provisional and is historically less likely to be laid off than a “pure” provisional.

If you are “fired” as a provisional or if you are asked to resign instead, i.e. you are not included in the layoff list, please call the union right away. Remember, if you resign you may not be eligible for unemployment insurance or a discount on your basic health COBRA. Therefore, if you plan to resign, please call the union for a discussion.

Somewhat safer, on average, than provisional employees, are those who were hired as non-competitive permanent employees. Those holding “non-compet” status are still more vulnerable than we would like because most of our non-competitive members serve within the Health and Hospitals Corporation. The HHC rules define their layoff units very narrowly and many of their non-competitive titles are held by small numbers of workers.

As a result, the HHC could lay off an entire title series and affect only five or ten persons. In such a case, the protection normally afforded by years of prior loyal service becomes moot.

Safest of all, but not entirely safe, are the permanent, competitive class employees.

For example, a permanent Staff Analyst is due to be laid off in June from the Department of Juvenile Justice. Had DJJ employed provisional Staff Analysts, the provisionals would have been targeted first, but as the agency has no provisional Staff Analysts, a permanent Staff Analyst was chosen.

Thereafter, it gets complicated. If the member is serving as a Staff Analyst at DJJ, the member will “bump” a provisional Staff Analyst in another City agency. The “bumped” provisional Staff Analyst would be laid off instead.

Generally, holding a widely used permanent civil service title plus long service tends to insure senior civil servants against layoffs. Many of us, as young civil servants, were either laid off or came close to being laid off during various prior fiscal crises. Harry Nespoli, now Chairperson of the Municipal Labor Committee, was himself laid off in the 1970s, as were a number of the current OSA leadership.

The Mayor, as far as we can tell, does not favor the current system of protection for senior civil servants, but we do.

Early Outs. The last “City” buyout or early incentive retirement offer came in 2002. At present, we do have an offer for an early retirement incentive for our OTB members and are set to negotiate one with the Transit Authority.

The State is passing legislation that would enable Mayor Bloomberg to make the rest of the City employees an offer. At present, we have no word yet that he is so inclined. We do hope that he opts for an early out and an early incentive retirement offer to mitigate the number of layoffs he has now projected. We also hope he will consider voluntary furloughs, but we do not believe that workers will favor involuntary furloughs over other options.

If You Read This. OSA represents a large number of professional workers, but we do not work in one place. We work all over New York City. We are linked by regular meetings, a phone newsline and regular mailings, plus a very fine website.

But, and it is a big but, some members do not attend meetings, call the newsline, read the mail or check the website.

For example, we recently learned that one of our members was called to a disciplinary conference, then was served with charges, later was summoned to a hearing, and then was judged and fired. From start to finish, the member never had representation and apparently was not aware that free help was a phone call away.

Okay, absent the facts of the case, it can’t be stated with certainty this was an injustice, but since even mass murderers get a fair trial, giving up one’s right to representation is foolish.

The OSA Constitution talks of Analysts helping Analysts. It is a good idea for our members to get to know each other, and since you do read the OSA newsletter, please share the information you acquire with those who don’t.

The Exams. The six recent exams for the various Staff and Education Analyst titles were taken by a total of about eight thousand candidates. Since some candidates filed for more than one exam, the total number of exams taken reached close to twelve thousand.

The entry level Staff Analyst exam attracted nearly four thousand candidates, while nearly five thousand candidates took the open competitive Associate Staff Analyst exam.

Far fewer candidates filed for the open competitive Education Analyst and Associate Education Analyst exams. There were fewer than one thousand for the Ed Analyst exam, and a bit more than one thousand for the Associate Ed Analyst exam.

Most OSA members know that Staff and Education Analyst are the same job and same exam, etc. The reason for the lower filing rate for Ed versus Staff is made understandable by the next set of numbers.

The number of permanent Education Analysts who were eligible to take the promotional exam to Associate Ed Analyst was less than 100. The number of permanent Staff Analysts eligible to take the promotional exam to Associate Staff Analyst was over 1,000. There are more Staff Analyst jobs available.

Citywide Demands. Don’t feel bad if you have not sent us your demands for citywide negotiations recently. If you ever did send one in, we kept it on file. As a result, when DC37 announced they were soliciting demands for a round of citywide bargaining, Research Director Tim Collins pulled out our file and sent off a list of demands.

If, however, you now have a new demand you never previously sent in, this is your chance.

Citywide demands are generally non-economic. For example, one year OSA pushed for and won a demand that civil servants appointed to our title be allowed to return to their prior title if they failed probation. (Prior to that victory, a small number of morally deficient commissioners had been tricking long-service employees by insisting no leave of absence was needed – and then firing the workers without charges once they were on probation as Analysts.)

On the other hand, the City also had demands. Rudy once insisted on routine drug testing for all of us at our supervisor’s whim. Since he had budgeted zero dollars for rehabilitation if he caught someone, he did not get our agreement.

Citywide negotiations are a bit odd in that, since money is not involved for the most part (transit passes, maybe), there is no pressure on either side to settle. Negotiations will be interesting.

First They Come For The Teachers (1). It is clear that Mayor Bloomberg is going after the UFT. The article you can download by clicking here from The Chief-Leader was actually sent as a letter to the editor. Thereafter, Richard Steier (editor of The Chief) upgraded it to an article – probably because the story added to his editorial in that issue.

[(1) "They came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jews. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up." - Paster Martin Neimoller, subsequent to his release from a Nazi concentration camp.]

Before The Union. The creation of a non-sectarian public school system in New York City did not occur until the late 1800’s. Prior to that, various private, charitable and religious groups offered education to many (but never all) children. The schools often utilized public funds, but still taught children from the religious point of view of the local school board or sponsors.

The arrival of large numbers of Catholics as immigrants to New York City resulted in political disputes over the choice of bible to be used in classrooms. In some districts, the King James (Protestant) version was used, and in others the Douay-Rheims (Roman Catholic) version was used.

It was highly democratic of New York City to apportion “religion-based” school districts according to the will of a majority of the voters in the district, but it was also absurd. The result was that, in all districts, some children were being taught a religious point of view disliked by the parents who sent them to school.

The eventual result was the creation of a non-sectarian, fully tax-payer supported public school system.

Since both the Protestant and the Catholic establishments found fault with non-religious education, parochial schools came into existence side by side with public schools. Both systems are still in existence today, along with many non-sectarian private schools, as well.

All of this history occurred before teachers were able to join a union. For the past fifty years, however, the UFT has represented teachers, and very well at that.

The Organization of Staff Analysts is currently discussing affiliation with the UFT/AFT on the one hand, and the Office and Professional Employees International Union on the other. The UFT obviously represents the public school teachers, but most members would be surprised to learn that OPEIU represents (among other groups) the New York Archdiocese Catholic School Teachers Union.

We have friends everywhere.

Whose Emails Are They Anyway? Given that a number of members have run afoul of policies on the use of email and other technology on the job, we think you might find the article you can download by clicking here of interest.

General Membership Meeting. The next general membership meeting will be held on May 27, 2010 at the union office at 220 East 23rd St, Suite 707, between Second and Third Avenues. You may download a flyer here to remind you of the date and time of the meeting or to post at your location. Remember - We'll be honoring State Senator Diane Savino and Assembly Member Peter Abbate. So be sure to come.