News From OSA - May, 2014

AND NOW WE KNOW. Before the mayoral election we heard every Republican candidate for mayor telling us there would be no retroactive pay, not for police or fire, and not for us. All of the candidates told us that future contracts had to come out of savings on our health programs. Folks at the Manhattan Institute and the Citizens Budget Commission were clear. If we wanted a one dollar raise in salary, we had to give one dollar or more in savings to the city.

Then came the election, and Bill de Blasio won. We knew that retroactive raises were going to be possible, but we did not know where the money was coming from.

In January, the police union restarted negotiations, but they were told that the old Bloomberg offer was still on the table, with three years of zeros and health givebacks. By February, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) was seeking binding arbitration. The teachers were already in arbitration, and no one knew how long that would take.

By March there were false reports of a teachers settlement, but the hopes proved premature. Then, in April, along with showers there came a contract, not for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), but for the Transport Workers Union (TWU). The TWU contract did have provisions for retroactive raises. The cost of health benefits was increased slightly, but almost all the cost of the contract came from sources other than health benefits.

Two imaginary dragons had been slain by the TWU. Contracts would be retroactive, and they would not be funded solely through increased costs to the employees. Even so, there was no cheering in the streets. The raises seemed very low. The governor told us that the TWU contract bore no relationship to the city worker contracts, and then, almost immediately thereafter, the UFT completed their contract.

And now we know.

We know that a pattern has been established. We will find out, after negotiations, how it applies to us. On the surface, the UFT settlement offers two years of good raises at the start of the pact. OSA members received those 4% raises in August of 2008 and 2009. We are happy for the teachers. We are very happy that justice was done and the retroactivity of contracts negotiated under pattern bargaining was affirmed. We even have our union brothers and sisters in School Safety and Traffic Enforcement who will, at long last, now get those overdue raises.

Most OSA members will start their next contract in the third year of the UFT agreement. What were the gains and givebacks? Starting in the third year of their agreement, we know that the UFT contract has two years of zero (if we ignore the $1,000 non-recurring signing bonus,) followed by three years of 1% and then, in the following years, 1 ˝%, 2 ˝%, and 3%. We also know there were a number of very generous fiscal extras thrown into the contract: $5,000 annually to teachers agreeing to stay in hard-to-fill positions in 150 schools, $7,500 as an Ambassador Teacher (visiting other schools,) $7,500 more to be a Model Teacher at their own schools, and $20,000 more if they have qualified to be a Master Teacher.

There are a wide variety of non-fiscal issues that apply only to teachers. Some can be viewed as givebacks and others as gains, but those details, important to teachers, do not affect us in any way.

We know that one huge item of the UFT contact that could affect us is the $3.4 billion to be saved on the delivery of health care to City workers and their families. This one item almost sank the UFT contract before it was signed. Work on that issue is not yet complete. We can’t know what it means, to us or to any member of the MLC, yet.

HEALTH BENEFITS There are three ways to cut the costs of health care paid by the city. You can make the employees pay all or a part of the costs through payroll deduction of premiums, or by co-pays for treatment. You can also deny coverage for some treatments or therapies, or not cover (in part or at all) dependents now covered. The third option is to save money on the delivery of health care.

It was this third option that was chosen by Mayor de Blasio and the Municipal Labor Committee. For months now, the MLC’s Health Technical Subcommittee has been working with representatives of the city. Their mandate was to find savings in the delivery of health care that were real, but that would not hurt members of the city workforce or their families.

The work on finding the changes that would save the city money and not hurt our members was already well started, but not finished. Even so, the city insisted that the conclusion of the UFT contract required an agreement that the city would save a total of $3.4 billion on health agreements. Exercises of this sort have been done before. Eleven years ago, Mayor Bloomberg demanded $600 million dollars, recurring. Eighteen months later, we allowed him to claim a victory and end the matter, but no one on our side remembers the defeat, because there was none. We had agreed to some minor give backs (GHI office visits went to $15 from $10) and he had agreed to give our Welfare Funds an extra $65 per member per year. There were other trades, but ultimately none of us got seriously hurt. The MLC and its Health Technical Subcommittee have achieved a fine record of handling threats to our health benefits.

Meanwhile, the PBA had stopped bargaining with the city and was seeking binding arbitration from the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). They insisted that since they were in arbitration, no citywide health agreement should be signed. Instead, each union should be responsible for its own health benefit negotiations. It is also true that the PBA does not want the teachers union to negotiate for police officers. This led to opposition by some of the locals representing uniformed employees to any MLC agreement over health benefits at this time. The issue has been tested before, and the MLC has always been found to speak for all city employees on matters of health benefits. The other unions of the MLC voted to sign the agreement and, by doing so, to allow the UFT to conclude their contract.

At present, a few areas of savings on health have already met with joint approval by labor and management. For example, Bloomberg had delayed any savings from the audit of dependents who were receiving health coverage while not eligible to receive it. The city was losing money month after month because the old mayor would not allow interim coverage for those who appealed the city’s decision. As soon as we got a sane mayor to deal with us, we easily resolved the details. The result is the city saves millions of dollars a year and we get credit towards the goals set.

PATTERN BARGAINING The objection of the PBA to pattern bargaining is not new. If a union feels that their members could do better if there was no pattern bargaining, that union will always oppose the practice.

The UFT negotiated for their members, and this, of course, did affect the police officers. It put a limit on how much their union could obtain, unless they exceeded the fiscal pattern set by the UFT contract. Each union will negotiate how the fiscal settlement is interpreted for their own union members.

Our OSA contract has different dates for raises than the UFT contract. We also have no members who are “Ambassadors” or “Masters,” or are hard to recruit. As a result, assuming the city is going to bargain honestly, the cost of paying extra to those teachers will result in extra funds available for other purposes.

We have already requested to start bargaining. If our bargaining team is successful, we may find a way to avoid years of zero increase in salary. We may even find a way to increase some percentages, increase longevity, or improve welfare fund benefits. The pattern has been set, and fiscal limitations exist. That we do know. How well we can do within those limits is what we will find out.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION. Bill Douglas was our vice chairperson for nearly fourteen years and, prior to that, had been active on behalf of us all for another dozen years. Since his retirement from city employ, Bill has found a second career by being trained as a psychotherapist. He is now a licensed clinical social worker with over twenty years of practice. The leadership of the Organization of Staff Analysts may not be qualified to judge on the professional issues, but we do know that Bill is an excellent listener and a very caring person.

If any of us ever feels a need to talk to a professional, New York State licensed therapist, Bill can be reached at the following address for a confidential appointment:

William Douglas, LCSW

56 East 87th Street, Office #1B

New York, NY 10128


STAFF ANALYST TRAINEE TRAINING The Staff Analyst Trainee (SAT) exam preparation courses provided by the union will be concluded on May 16, 2014. Over 600 people attended the OSA training classes.

Most of them agreed, through completing evaluation forms, that the trainers were very professional and did an excellent job. We would like to thank them for their expertise and training materials, which are available on the OSA website:

  • Onyinye Akujuo

  • Iris Bishop

  • Lucia Delapaz

  • Sybil DeVeaux

  • Lorraine Williams Gittens

  • Gregory Hinckson

  • Irena Nedeljkovic

  • Bernard Nenner

  • Jeanne O'Sullivan

  • Edwin Pauzer

  • LaVonne Pridgen

  • Sandra O Thompson-Reid

  • Renaldo Hylton

  • Hilary Hudson

  • Mitchel Volks

  • Diane Murray Ward

  • Barry A. Washington

    Thank you for your excellent work.

    We have learned that there were six thousand applicants for the SAT exam. This means that the test administration, which takes place starting on July 7, 2014, may take over a week to complete because the testing centers are too small to handle thousands of candidates. Those taking the exam will receive notice, within a reasonable time, of when and where to go. Candidates will receive their score when they complete the test. Please pay attention to the appeals process in order not to miss the deadline date.

    If a candidate feels that a question may have had two right answers, or believes the question had no valid answer, the appeal can change a score. If a candidate is in doubt, they should appeal.

    All candidates who do appeal will be given a chance on a later day to review the exam, and to write a protest where appropriate.

    GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. The next general membership meeting will be held on Thursday, May 29, 2014 at the union office, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 707, between Second and Third Avenues, starting at 6:15pm.

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