News From OSA - November, 2002
Monies Owed.. The City still owes some of our members money that was agreed upon, but not yet paid. Specifically, any member paying for a drug rider on 1/1/01 is due a payment of $50, and any member paying for a drug rider on 7/1/01 is due $75, so that most of our members (other than Transit Authority) are due a full $125. The problem is: a) that the City has not yet paid the money and b) has apparently been unable to figure out how to do so accurately.
The Organization of Staff Analysts has been pressuring the City to comply and, as a result, we did get the money for the retirees. The City sent OSA a check for the total amount due for our retirees and we used our Welfare Fund records to ensure that the individual checks went out to all those entitled to receive payment.
Since that effort worked (although for a relatively smaller number of retirees - about 600), OSA has now offered to provide the same service for the City as it applies to our more numerous active membership. Assuming the City agrees, OSA will be contributing the administrative work to get the job done, but our patience is at an end. It is not a great deal of money, per member, but is enormously annoying to have it owed to us for nearly two years after conclusion of the negotiations that won the money.
Somewhat more recent is the City debt to us for our longevity increase due since July. The City took a long time in determining the formulas under which both sides could agree on the value of the longevity award. Our union, having discussed the matter at length while awaiting the City's formulas, responded quickly.
We had hopes that the City would give a final okay and pay the money quickly. Instead, we were told one story after another (probably all true) about the shortage of staff at the Office of Labor Relations, difficulties at the Office of Management and Budget, and most recently, about the absence of a key budget cruncher who was serving on jury duty.
Now, OSA is made up of civic-minded souls, and let it not be said that we are opposed to persons properly meeting jury obligations. Still, could that person be the only worker available to work on the back monies due over four thousand City workers? We are being given weekly updates on the progress of our retroactive monies. That is very courteous of the Office of Labor Relations, and is appreciated, but Labor Day is long past and Holidays are approaching. We need to see the money soon.
Welfare Fund Changes
Fund Trustees. The OSA Welfare Fund covers all of our active and retired members outside of the Transit Authority. The Fund has grown since it first covered only 38 members until today when over 5,000 families are covered.
In response to that growth, the Fund Trustees recently amended our trust document to add two new voting members and one non-voting observer.
The non-voting position will be held by the President or designee of the Sanitation Chiefs Union, one of two new unions that have asked to be covered by the OSA Welfare Fund. Russ Taormina, president of that union, has already been attending meetings of the Fund since earlier this year.
A newly created spot specifically meant for a retiree will be held by Bill Douglas, one of the founders of the OSAWF, and a former Vice Chairperson of OSA. Bill, in his years of retirement, has never lost touch with the union he helped to found. We are fortunate to be able to draw upon his knowledge as he returns to the board.
The last position was created specifically to add a rank and file member to the board and will be filled by Geraldine Hardiman. Geraldine is a long-time member from the Human Resources Administration. The beefing up of our board of trustees comes at a good time, since we are facing a number of challenges.
Vision Changes. Our experiment with trying to provide more vision providers through switching to NVA is coming to an end. The trustees have ordered staff to seek new bids and foremost among the competitors is likely to be Davis Vision, providers for the Management Benefits Fund.
Increased Costs. Our increased schedule of payments to panel dentists is having its expected impact on increased costs, but we had planned for that.
Steeply increasing costs for our life insurance policies were not anticipated, but we cannot argue with census results. If the insurance company can show OSA members are departing this world at a faster rate than expected, insurance rates go up. We may need to go out "to bid."
Confidentiality. Finally, our Welfare Fund has been busily complying with recent laws requiring confidentiality (to an extreme) in relation to health benefits and insurance. The costs involved for staff time, new machines, and a reinvented system are burdensome, but the law is the law. We never did have a single case where any information our Fund had was used wrongly by anyone but, of course, it could have occurred. (Anyway, the lawmakers thought so.)
Vice-Chair Tom Anderson has been in charge of reading all the new rules and overseeing compliance with the "Health Insurance Portability Act". He will report on his efforts at our upcoming meeting.
Constitution Amended. The recent vote to amend the OSA constitution resulted in over seven hundred ballots being received. The vote was in favor (503 - 199). Meanwhile, during the voting, it became clear from phone calls to the union that the issue was misunderstood by some.
A number of members were upset because they felt that the amendment would result in increased dues. This was not correct. All City unions have a small number of "released time" positions plus a larger number of officers or staff paid out of dues. The transfer of the released time from one elected officer to another does not generally impact on the budget of the union. The result, in fact, for our union was that instead of the Chairperson being on "released time" from the City, the Vice Chairperson Tom Anderson has been assigned those hours instead. Our apologies for any lack of clarity in the presentation and a thank you to all who voted.
Elections. Nominations for the biannual election of offers for both OSA and OSART will be taken at the general membership meeting. Nominations are accepted from the floor or can be mailed to the union office prior to the meeting or up to ten days after.
Layoffs and Lists. In the near future, NYC members may be facing many difficulties including, the worst of all, layoffs. OSA's history of protecting its members from layoffs has been, to this point, superb.
In 1991 and again in 1998, OSA came up with approaches that saved the jobs of those listed for layoff. In 1991, the OSA members voted to give up two days of work and pay to return our laid-off brothers and sisters to the job. The City recovered from its fiscal crisis and our temporary victory became permanent for those involved. (It turned out we only lost one day after all.)
In 1998, our role within the MLC (after a very tense month) led to the redeployment of hundreds of hospital workers who had otherwise been scheduled for layoff.
Our union intends, during the period before us, to do two things. We will be closely involved with Labor's response to the challenges created by the prior Mayor's fiscal imprudence. Second, as we have before, we will be seeking any viable alternatives to layoffs.
At the moment we have heard nothing. But we will keep you posted by way of the newsline page.
A Movable Feast. OSA's holiday party is a nice tradition. It is a popular event and seems to grow in attendance each year. Therein lies a problem. Recently the crowding of the union office during the party reached a very awkward (picture the IRT Lex at rush hour) level.
This year our party will be transferred to the Park Avenue Armory on Park and 67th. The OSARC (Retirees Club) had their 10th Anniversary there this year and it is a neat place.
On entry, as you approach the elevator to take you to the fourth floor, you pass huge oil paintings of the soldiers who have served from that Armory. There are also display cases and memorabilia as well. Parked right by the elevator are authentic but now retired tools of the trade, a small field cannon and a shining brass gatling gun. (For those unaware of military history, a gatling gun was an early style of machine gun. It was first used in the Civil War.)
The food and entertainment will be the same as before except that by popular demand, we are more than doubling our order of a strange but delightful pastry. Hopefully there will now be enough Charlotte Russes to give everyone a taste. If you'd like to RSVP for the holiday party, you may download the reservation form, complete it and fax it to the union office.
OSA Wins One. In September, the Municipal Labor Committee held its biannual election. The person chosen to speak for the 94 collective bargaining units and their 400,000 members was, as expected, Randi Weingarten, President of the United Federation of Teachers. Also elected at that time were the normal officers' positions plus a seventeen member "steering committee."
One of the persons elected to serve on the steering committee was the Chairperson of OSA, and that, of itself, was unusual. OSA is a relatively new union, whereas nearly all the other City unions have been around for generations. OSA is also unusual because we are not yet affiliated with any international union. That would normally count against a union in an election of this sort. OSA did not enter the election process equipped, as most other unions did, with institutional allies bound to us by formal labor affiliation.
That a representative of our union was chosen to be a part of the "first team" of the MLC, can and should be a source of satisfaction to OSA members. It is especially pleasing to those Analysts who were members in the early days. A dozen years ago, members of other unions would ask, "So, you belong to OSA. What's OSA?" We are a union, and in the eyes of other unions, a pretty good one. If you'd like more information on the MLC, you can download a small flyer entitled "What is the MLC?"
Swindle. Almost a year ago there was a flurry of hiring pools and quick movement of the Associate Staff Analyst promotional list. The apparent initiative at the time was to protect highly placed provisional employees and managers from the effect of a change in Mayor. OSA was pleased, since our members were often appointed along with the chosen few.
We were, however, also greatly displeased because, in some agencies, some of our members were passed over (under the one-in-three rule) and were not subsequently restored for further consideration for appointment. In some cases they were not even informed of their status. See the April 16, 2002 memo from DCAS Deputy Commissioner Joe DeMarco to agency personnel officers and OSA Chairperson Bob Croghan's October 29, 2002 letter to Mr. DeMarco on this subject.
A proposed law will be introduced by Allan Jennings, Chairperson of the Civil Service Committee of the N.Y. City Council. We have tried persuasion and giving awards to agencies that do the right thing. For those agencies continuing to practice the patronage system, a little more exposure is now being scheduled.
Councilman Jennings has promised to hold hearings on the proposed law. As soon as he notifies us, Executive Director Sheila Gorsky will be reaching out to candidates seeking testimony on the behaviors of agencies misusing the one-in-three rule.
AICPA Aggravation. Brynne Thomas, our energetic student intern from the Queens College Union Semester program has been in touch with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Washington, D.C. Her report to the members was originally given out at the September membership meeting and can now be updated.
The AICPA has apparently had a long history of dispute over the "post retirement employee benefit obligations." They will not defend their position to us and have told Brynne that the matter has been decided. If we don't like it, too bad. We don't like it.
Why should we like it if our Welfare Fund is forced to hire an actuary to tell us something we know already, and worse yet, to hire and pay an actuary each and every year hereafter to tell us exactly the same thing.
Our next step is to the NYC Comptroller Office and thereafter to form a coalition of unions unhappy with the AICPA's mindless rule. We may even be forced to hire an actuary at some point if only to fight the AICPA's requirement to provide employment to actuaries.
Our position, and that of our Accountant is simple. Our Welfare fund has limited reserves and is supposed to have limited reserves. We are not supposed to pile up many years of reserves and if we did so we would be criticized by the Comptroller's Office.
Northern Lights Visible From OSA Office. The final two screenings in the fall schedule of LaborFilms, OSA's labor films series will take place on November 15th and December 6th. Both start at 7pm at the Union office, 220 East 23rd Street Suite 709, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Bring a friend or co-worker. Discussion follows and light refreshments are available.
November 15th we will screen WITH BABIES AND BANNERS (1978, 45 minutes, US) an Academy-Award nominated documentary tracing the story of the women who formed the backbone of the great General Motors Sit-Down Strike in Flint, Michigan in 1937, a pivotal moment in labor history and the formation of the United Auto Workers Union. Also to be screened is a clip from ROGER AND ME (1989, US) Michael Moore's scathing portrait of Flint, Michigan a half century after the struggle depicted in WITH BABIES AND BANNERS.
Then, on December 6th we will screen NORTHERN LIGHTS (1979, 96 minutes, US). Winner of the Camera D'or for best first feature at the Cannes Film Festival, this visually spare drama examines farmer-labor politics in the northern Plains in the early years of this century. The personal story of an engaged Norwegian American couple, Ray and Inger, and Ray's radicalization, is the vehicle for the true story of the struggle of small farmers during WWI against larger natural and economic forces and their fight back through the Nonpartisan League.
OSA General Membership Meeting. The next general membership meeting is to be held Thursday, November 21, 2002, starting at 6pm sharp at the OSA office, 220 East 23rd Street Suite 709, between Second and Third Avenues.