News From OSA - November, 2000

The current contract negotiations between the Mayor and all of us are becoming ever more interesting.

If you haven't already read it, I recommend reading an article in the Chief of November 10th which is posted on this website as part of the November 13th OSA Newsline. To go to the OSA Newsline page for November, click here. OSA members were introduced to the existence of a "Health Stabilization Fund" in our last "News From OSA." The Chief article rather accurately reflects the dispute that arose over different parties' plans for use of the Fund's surplus.

The surplus, currently at a bit over one-half billion dollars can and should be used for members' health benefits. The City and the unions together created the "Fund" through contract negotiations. The "Fund" was negotiated in 1983 and the City is obligated to add to it yearly.

Any use of the money is normally through agreement between the City and the Unions, and it was in this context that the Mayor first suggested making use of the money this year. The Mayor, of course, decided we should use the money to help him out.

The Mayor would like to split the money up and use some of it to pay for our expected (and needed) Welfare Fund increases and, in return, he would keep most of the rest. The Director of the City's Office of Labor Relations is expected to present such offers at the bargaining talks with enthusiasm and optimism. He does so, and with style. He is, thereafter, predictably hurt and troubled deeply, even offended, when our representatives are unappreciative of the Mayor's "offering."

In this case, our normal response, as labor, was diverted by the dispute recorded in the Chief article. The negotiations, thus far, have all been on the fringes of the main event.

On actual contract negotiations there is little substance since the Mayor continues to describe discretionary raises as "merit pay" and to reject across-the-board increases. The Mayor appears to be negotiating from a position of provocative irresponsibility, and if he is not looking to pick a fight with labor, it is clear he would not be opposed to one.

Curiously, we are actually doing well. The pension improvements are of huge value and are now law. Our contract negotiations are late, but that is not at all unusual. Most long service employees are used to raises issued retroactively, since our City has a habit of negotiating long past contract deadlines. There are some differences this year that work for us and others that are no help at all.

On the one hand the City is richer than ever previously recorded. Other, recently negotiated settlements outside New York have been reasonable and, in the eyes of most fair observers, we are due a bit more due to the difficulty in recruiting caused by a very prosperous economy.

On the other hand, the Mayor would apparently prefer to hand us all rotten contracts or, if we do not care for the taste of such, to simply leave office with a record of two years of zero (for us) on his arrival and two years of zero (again for us) as he departs.

The Mayor, one could argue is negotiating in bad faith, and it may not matter as much as usual since his departure is already scheduled. We could be patient, but it is not at all clear that we will be, and patience could have a price as well.

Were the stock market to crash, or other economic calamity to hit NYC or the nation during the next year, the next Mayor could claim an inability to give raises. We would lose, retroactively as well as prospectively. That would be very bad. We would have gone from a bad contract in a time of great prosperity to a worse one in time of need.

We are always willing to help our City in time of need, but we are not so willing to sacrifice our income to fulfill the Mayor's desire for a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. Moreover, the Municipal Labor Committee has shown renewed vigor under Randi Weingarten and she may not let the Mayor simply stall.

Our Mayor's habit is to attack, savagely, all who oppose him and he has already talked repeatedly of jail for Randi. The President of the United Federation of Teachers is a sof-spoken but deeply committed leader. If the Mayor does want a fight he may have picked on the wrong woman.

Talk of jail for Randi first occurred many weeks ago and was repeated by the Mayor on the eve of the November 15, 2000 demonstration outside City Hall. The Mayor keeps citing the no strike provision of the Taylor Law as a sort of "I dare you, I dare you" mantra. Does he really think we will not strike if he pushes us too far? Does he think we are slaves? We are not.

It should be noted for the record that exactly none of the local labor leaders wants anything to do with a strike. The problem is that membership dissatisfaction with the prior contract is widespread and a new contract, accepting junk, is not going to occur without repercussions. So then, negotiations are becoming far more interesting than usual. We are not getting our raises until the drama plays itself out, but it is drama indeed.

Our leadership seems up to its task. Norman Seabrook, the dynamic President of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, has promised Randi the best cell on Rikers, and virtually all the other unions are and will be united in support. If Tom Scotto is ordered to arrest her, the dapper President of the Detectives Endowment Association will probably go home first to put on his best suit. It is even possible that the closely aligned fire fighter union President Kevin Gallagher will have the union's famous bagpipe band serenade her as she enters and leaves the court. None of this will achieve a contract, but so long as the Mayor sticks to his guns there is no choice.

At some point soon the Mayor may put some actual money on the table. It will be too little and he will want seven times as much back in return, but at least it will not be the current nothing now being offered.

Merit Pay. He'll decide the details later.

Elections. Nominations for the annual elections of officers for both OSA and OSART will be taken at the Thursday December 7th general membership meeting. Nominations are accepted from the floor and traditionally for another ten calendar days thereafter by mail. The meeting is a week late this year due to scheduling difficulties relating to the Municipal Labor Committee. The meeting will be held at the union office 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 709, and will start at 6 pm.

The thirtieth anniversary of the organization was celebrated in style last month. Two hundred and thirty members and well wishers stayed for the full meal and still others arrived from our fraternal unions but had to leave before the dinner since Gerald McEntee head of AFSCME was being honored the same night.

The "Toy" building is a great place for a party and the portobello mushrooms were the start of a good meal. As promised the speeches were kept brief (mostly) and diners were able to hop onto the subway for home before 9:05 pm. Thanks are due to the speakers whose fond memories of OSA were shared with us all, to the many unions, firms and individuals who subsidized the event with journal ads, to the OSA staff who made it also go off so smoothly and to the many members who attended and made it a single giant, family affair.

We impressed the other unions attending and we even impressed ourselves. It was a fine night. Shortly, we will have a special News From OSA page on this website with photos from the 30th Anniversary dinner.

Showing the Flag. The OSA banner has been traveling around a lot lately. It was on Fifth Avenue for the Labor Day Parade, on lower Broadway for the UFT demonstration, on 57th Street to support a one day walk out by members of AFSCME District Council 1707, and at hospital after hospital in support of the fight by Local 237 Teamsters on behalf of the Hospital Police Force.

Our troops who go forth to bear witness on behalf of labor at demonstrations or City Council hearings do so out of conviction and a feeling of solidarity with labor. Even so, it would be nice to give a little credit, so we will.

When Joe Sperling is not organizing he is often demonstrating or speaking out at hearings or on soap boxes. Earlene, Joe's wife is often found holding the other end of the banner.

Shirley Gray, Richie Guarino and Eric Mayr are all grievance representatives mostly, but none of them pass up a worthy struggle. Marvin Lutenberg discards his office role and mobilizes our force by chauffeuring our pickets anywhere and back again.

Ida Chin, Tom Anderson, Mike Collins and a dozen others will often be out there, rain or shine, and pretty much all of our executive board and most chapter chairpersons can be counted on not to mention a large contingent of our retirees as well.

Actually, for a small union, we do seem to have a lot of activists and our impact on the local scene is noticeable. The photos in this edition of News from OSA were taken by our director of media services Rob Spencer at the November UFT demo.

Thank you Mr. Hess. Michael D. Hess, the NYC Corporation Counsel and Chief of our Law Department has just gotten the residency rule lifted for "All Assistant Corporation Counsels."
Good for you Mike.

We quote from his memorandum to staff, "The end of the residency requirement complements our enhanced salaries to allow us to continue our public service and yet meet our personal financial obligations." Now, about the rest of us?

Audit Report.The auditor has promised to be on time next year. OSA schedules this audit to be available for the summer mailing each year. This year we did not receive it on time, but we
do have it now, and it is has been mailed to each of you.

One point mentioned each year is our refusal to pay an actuary to provide an estimate of post retirement benefit obligations. We are Analysts and we will not pay for any estimates that we know in advance will mean nothing. We know and report upon how much comes in, how much we spend and how much we have left.

Paying, each year, for an oracle, a diviner or an actuary to make "reasonable" assumptions and thereafter to render his or her best guess as to our future income and costs appears to us to be an awful waste of money. Our accountant agrees, other accountants for other unions have agreed and yet no one wants to get into a fight over it. We do. Waste is waste.

Our Annual Holiday Party is to be held on December 14th at the union office at 220 East 23rd St., Suite 709. There will be lots of food, drink and even music. More important by far, there will also be hundreds of members of your union family, gathered from all across the City, celebrating together. On behalf of the Officers and staff of OSA, I look forward to welcoming you to our headquarters and sharing a bit of holiday cheer together. Do come.

Sal's Out
. Sal Albanese, a very decent man who ran for Mayor last time around, will not be running this time.

Last mayoral election, the Democrats chose Ruth Messinger and the Republicans\Liberals, Rudy, so OSA sat on its hands. Ruthie's record on Civil Service was abysmal and Rudy was Rudy, so our union chose to sit out the fight. Individual members of our leadership mostly ended up tilting towards Sal Albanese due to his pro-labor record.

Sal was the author and chief proponent of a "living wage" bill that was passed by the City Council. Under Sal's law, the City would not "contract out" government jobs unless the new private employer paid a decent wage to the employees.

The bill passed and prevented, to some extent, the raiding of government coffers by well connected entrepreneurs.

Sal spoke at our 30th Anniversary party and was one of OSA's favorites for possible Mayor next year. Sal was socially conscious and mostly moderate save for his strong pro-worker positions on labor.

We won't get the chance to vote for Sal because he is out of the race already. He had raised $275,000, but he knew he had far too little to run with any chance of victory. He returned the money from his last fund raiser and thanked everybody.

OSAPAC. In the member services section of this website you will find the sign-up form for the OSA Political Action Committee. A number of us have volunteered to donate regularly to the OSAPAC thanks to the prior mailing, so we will have some impact this coming election year. We could do better, and if you have not signed up yet, please do so. We expect to have the deduction start soon after January 1st, and if you can't manage Grand Poobah you are still most welcome at any level of support.

There should be no giant financial requirement for a candidate wishing to run for office and yet ... there is. Until the problem is remedied, if it ever is, by campaign finance reform, our union can and should be able and willing to assist those we feel are friends to our members.

The recent pension improvements are worth, now or later on, about three percent a year to us. If you check off $3.75 per pay period to the OSA PAC it will come out to about two tenths of one percent of an ASA salary. We got the 3% gain through politics, pure and simple. It simply is wise to continue to invest in our own future. Sign up and return the form, and don't forget to mark your "premiums" as well.