News From OSA - May, 2016

ELECTION. OSA is now engaged in two separate collective bargaining elections.

The first, to be decided this month, is between OSA and the Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association (LEEBA).

LEEBA is “raiding” us. This is not new for LEEBA. A “raid,” in a union context, is where one union seeks to convince members of another union to vote to decertify their current union and certify the new union as their representative for collective bargaining purposes.

LEEBA came into existence by raiding SEIU Local 300, the Civil Service Forum. As a result of their success in that election, LEEBA represents a couple of hundred upstate Department of Environmental Protection police officers.

After this initial success, LEEBA chose to focus on raiding many other unions representing law enforcement employees. Instead of organizing unrepresented workers, LEEBA raids other existing unions (Teamsters Local 237 and CWA, to cite just two). In all such raids the members of those unions have rejected LEEBA.

Now, it is our turn.

LEEBA’s approach is to promise “heaven on earth” and, if they win, to deliver really poor results.

As unions go, LEEBA is a poor excuse for a union. LEEBA has been sued by its own members, has a constitution that mandates a cash “initiation” fee and a 2.5% dues rate. (We know of no other New York State union that charges that much).

That same constitution provides for elections for their executive board, but only once every five years. The constitution does not specifically mention any term of office for the president, but it does spend many words citing the loss of the right to run for office for any member whose dues fall behind, even if those dues are subsequently paid.

For comparison, OSA's constitution requires election of all officers every two years and no member has ever been disqualified from running for office.

LEEBA, as a union, is not big on financial disclosure; however, they promised to provide financial documents to OSA’s members, but did not. LEEBA does provide salaries, cars and expenses for its top officers. The members of LEEBA do not do as well.

In their most recent contract, LEEBA agreed to give up a vacation day so the City would pay money to shore up their Welfare Fund. They also extended their members’ working day to get a bit extra in salaries and, of course, a bit more dues paid to LEEBA.

Again, in comparison, OSA has dues that are less than a third of LEEBA’s and has never, as a local union, offered any give backs in collective bargaining.

Our Welfare Fund parallels the City’s Management Benefits Fund. We report annually to our members in detail, have improved benefits continually since 1985 and have never offered to give up a member’s vacation day in order to get the City to give the value (in dollars) of that day’s work, to the union.

There is more to tell about LEEBA, but the points listed above give you a good idea of our opponent in this month’s election.

We hope that our brothers and sisters, the superior officers of the uniformed forces of School Safety and Traffic Enforcement, will vote in the scheduled election and will vote against LEEBA. School Safety and Traffic Enforcement officers organized themselves, as did OSA. They deserve better than opportunistic raiders masquerading as a union.

Our second contest is with a more admirable opponent. Transport Workers Union Local 100 is seeking to represent Staff and Associate Staff Analysts at MaBSTOA (The Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority).

TWU Local 100 was patterned after the Irish Transport Union founded by James Connelly and James Larkin. The New York City version came into existence in the 1930s and benefitted greatly by the leadership, for over 40 years, of Mike Quill, Mattie Guinan and a host of tough, idealistic leaders.

We are most distressed to find ourselves in conflict with a union which we have frequently supported in the past, one that has a major place in the history of New York City public service workers and a union we have often joined in demonstrations.

On the other hand, OSA also has an admirable history. When other unions ceased organizing in the 1980s, we completed the task of our own organizing. We then went on to organize thousands of other civil servants seeking to be covered for the advantages of collective bargaining. We are not as old as TWU, but in the past 46 years we never stopped organizing.

We first began seeking to provide union rights for Transit Authority and MaBSTOA Analysts in the late 1990s. We were involved with Local 375 of DC 37 in a joint campaign for Staff Analysts (OSA) and Transit Management Analysts (DC 37). The campaign did not go well. As the campaign began, DC 37 became mired in scandal after scandal. Eventually, the Council was put in receivership and the corruption was rooted out by the receivers, including current AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) President Lee Saunders.

OSA, against the backdrop of news articles reporting those problems, found ourselves completing the election alone. We did win the privilege of representing Transit Authority analysts, but, by a small margin, MaBSTOA analysts chose to trust management over the union.

Management repaid MaBSTOA Analysts by treating them as fairly as they were forced to treat our unionized TA analysts. This went on for nine years. By then, management felt OSA was no further threat and began treating the MaBSTOA analysts very badly. Raises were delayed, then skipped and, if there were raises, they came with strings attached. Not everyone would get theirs.

So OSA, at the request of MaBSTOA analysts, went back into action, collecting cards and preparing for an election. We would have filed the necessary number of cards by last summer and the vote would have been held in 2015, but there was a complication.

We had spent four years getting designation cards from the Senior Consultants (MIS) of the Health and Hospitals Corporation (now NYC Health + Hospitals). We had filed papers and testified at a long series of hearings at the Office of Collective Bargaining.

Then, to our surprise, OCB set an election for the Fall of 2015. We were being seriously challenged by DC 37, using the help of outside AFSCME organizers. We responded to the challenge and won the election by a 3 to 2 vote. Since then, the new leadership of DC 37 has begun to discuss future organizing of the unrepresented on a more cooperative basis.

As soon as we had won the 2015 election, we returned to MaBSTOA, expecting to complete the task this year. As we began to again collect cards (“union designation” cards are not valid for more than six months and so must be re-signed often in long campaigns), we learned that we had competition. We are, in fact, pleased that TWU has begun to organize unrepresented workers. For too long, most public sector unions have neglected their obligation to organize. A return to organizing is good.

Not so good is competition between unions seeking to organize the unrepresented. We would all do better cooperating – and there are tens of thousands of unrepresented workers in public service jobs. The leadership of OSA has reached out to the leadership of TWU Local 100. It is our hope that cooperative union action will be able to be achieved.

OTHER ISSUES The New York City Housing Authority has been having difficulty in various aspects of labor relations for a while now. Many members are aware of the recent issue of unilateral changes in working hours of employees covered by Teamsters Local 237. That issue was resolved amicably through negotiations.

We, too, have had some of our members alarmed by unilateral actions related to title change or potential transfers to other agencies. Again, after some effort by our union, NYCHA calmed down and gave assurances of proper behavior in the future.

It is unsettling to see management forget the rules we all live and work by and we hope that such behavior does not recur.

The new NYC Health + Hospitals (the old HHC) situation is also awkward. There is a long-term problem on funding and a short-term issue of redeployment. We will have representatives on the committees dealing with both of these topics. Stay tuned for later developments.

HELP DETERMINE OUR FALL SEMINARS. Every year, the union schedules seminars for OSA members on a range of topics. Most popular, year after year, is our pre-retirement seminar which counsels members on planning for their retirement. Other topics have included Effective Business Writing, Statistics, Effective Public Speaking,Civil Service Rules and Regulations, An Overview of the Union’s Welfare Fund Benefits, Disciplinary & Employment Issues and Long Term Care Planning & Insurance.

You can help us determine which seminars to hold this fall by printing out the form you can download at the link below, completing it and mailing or faxing it back to the union by June 3, 2016. Our choice of seminars will be based, in part, on your responses.

OSA Seminar Planning Form 2016

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING. Our general membership meeting will be held in the union office on Thurday, May 26, 2016. The meeting starts promptly at 6:15 with pizza and soda available before the meeting. You can download a flier for the meeting to remind yourself of the date, time and location by clicking this link.