News From OSA - May, 2011

Your Job.The first two items both concern civil service. The mayor wants to be rid of it entirely, but he has not yet been successful in his attempt. Since it still exists, we can expect the Staff and Associate Staff Analyst exams to bear fruit soon, and that there will be lists and hiring pools.

Patronage Jobs. To start with, the mayor’s twenty-three suggested civil service reforms have now become a proposed law seeking sponsors at the City Council. A hearing was held before the City Council Civil Service Committee and Chairperson Sanders heard statements and answered questions.

The mayor’s plan was outlined in the January membership mailing. In essence, since the “Long Beach” judicial decision forbids the mayor from continuing to employ tens of thousands of provisional employees, he wants to change the law.

He wants the power to unilaterally change all the rules to, in effect, allow him to hire and fire at will. He asserts that his proposals bear no relationship to the old, despised, patronage system of the 1800’s, but most who have read his proposals disagree.

The Municipal Labor Committee responded to the city’s proposals at the hearing. Nine union leaders spoke, one after another. There was no disagreement among the unions. We all saw the mayor’s proposals as being bad for our city, although each speaker attacked a different aspect of the plan. The Organization of Staff Analysts made a presentation at length. At the end of our presentation, we offered each member of the committee a copy of a book by William Riordon, the 100th anniversary edition of Plunkitt of Tammany Hall.

G.W. Plunkitt was as opposed to the civil service as is our current mayor. Boss Plunkitt, however, was charmingly candid about his need for patronage jobs to sustain his political machine. Plunkitt was openly in favor of "clean" graft and of making use of the opportunities offered by government office to enrich himself and his friends. His story is refreshing – and far more interesting and honest than that of the current mayor’s report on civil service reform.

The books were very favorably received by the City Council members present, and a copy will be offered to each member attending this month’s membership meeting.

Permanent Jobs. Our union is anticipating the release of test results from the recent Staff and Associate Staff Analyst exams. At some point, hopefully soon, cards will be sent out with results. If you have changed home addresses since you have filed for these exams you should contact DCAS so they can update your address.

If you did pass, there will be further letters to you from DCAS and other agencies as hiring pools are scheduled. There is a lot to know about hiring pools and how to handle them and, as you might expect, OSA will be providing a one session training course on the topic.

We expect, since it is late in the Spring and matters slow down in the Summer, that we should schedule training for the Fall. We will have the coupon in the Summer mailing so you can sign up for training on how to handle hiring pools. The union will also seek to have trained representatives at each pool, but that is not always possible.

Bike Lanes. In our last mailing, a negative comment was made about bike lanes. One member did complain, so we promised to explain. Over the past year, the Department of Transportation opened up two nearby protected bike lanes: one on First Avenue, the other on Second Avenue. In order to create these lanes, concrete islands were placed in the street and parking was both reduced and limited to parking between the traffic lanes and the bike lanes. (You can’t pull up to the sidewalk without blocking the bike lane. If you park as directed, passengers can’t exit a car without stepping into the bike lane.)

For the first six months of their existence, few bicyclists made use of the bike paths and nearly none during rush hour when the streets are jammed with cars. It was infuriating to see money being spent on “protected” bike paths while the mayor insists he has to lay off our fellow civil servants.

Had the mayor, or DOT, wished to experiment with a painted bike path only, we would not be upset. However, investing a large amount of capital funds on miles of roadway with, thus far, little positive result and much disruption is infuriating in a time of an alleged fiscal deficit.

Demonstrations. Many current civil servants have never attended nor been a part of a demonstration. There has been a long period of peace between management and labor in New York City. It was not always so.

In the late 50’s and early 60’s, demonstrations at work sites and at City Hall were common. One day it would be nurses in uniform marching around that large block. A week later, it would be the police officers, out of uniform, following the nurses’ footsteps. A week after that, DC37 would have park workers, some in cages on flat bed trailers, showing how Robert Moses treated workers in the city zoos.

By the mid-60’s up to the early 70’s, the demonstrations had turned into work actions, illegal strikes that cost both sides but did achieve a sort of balance of power. The city wanted the work done, but we wanted to be treated fairly and would only do the work if we were respected.

At present, we are without a contract and thus losing ground to inflation, but this is the least of the threats being raised against us. There are forces at work seeking to reduce or eliminate our pensions. They wish to wipe out seniority and job protections so we can be hired and fired at will, so that cheaper, new employees can be hired instead. They wish to abolish our unions and call us “managers” so that we will work overtime without pay and will never dare complain. They wish to end the free health care enjoyed by city employees since the 1930’s and if there is anything else we have left, they will want that as well.

The public is being informed, through the media, that we are unfair, unwilling to do our share, greedy, lazy, incompetent, and in serious need of correction.

In short, we are under attack.

We do know that our enemies are not talking the truth. Our third of a million local government workers know our salaries are minuscule beside those paid on Wall Street. We see luxury apartment buildings rising all over Manhattan and yet we can not afford to move into any one of them.

We are told that the rich must not be taxed or else they will leave New York, but no one explains how we are to continue to live in New York City when salaries are lowered by inflation and then further diminished by health care costs.

In response, we demonstrate. We stand, surrounded by luxury buildings we can not afford, and demand the respect due to us as workers who give our lives to the service of our city. Let no one be deceived. Demonstrations are a mild form of protest. That is why they are good.

General Membership Meeting.The next union General Membership Meeting will be held on Thursday, May 26, 2011 at the OSA union office, 220 East 23rd St., Suite 707, starting at 6pm sharp. You can download a flyer at this link which you can post or share with colleagues or use to remind yourself of the date.