News From OSA - November, 2011

Oops... Before we get to the substance of this month's newsletter, we must apologize for an error that inadvertently occurred in the mailing of this edition of News From OSA to your home.

You probably are wondering why the first name on the envelope was not yours. There was an error in extracting the names from our database for the mailing and, thankfully, the last names, street addresses and city/state/zip were all correct. Just the first names lost their moorings. So, we are sorry for any confusion, want to reassure you that we do, in fact, know who you really are, and promise it will not happen again in future mailings. And now, the news...

Negotiations. By clicking this link, you can download a page listing city unions and their contract expiration dates. OSA does not make the first column. It is fourteen months since our contract expired and the mayor continues his mantra of crying poverty while spending on anything he likes.

Recently, the mayor has endorsed sending the #7 subway line west to Secaucus, New Jersey. It is exactly the sort of bold thinking that might attract us if he had not been the third mayor to announce, start and then abandon the Second Avenue subway. (The City tore down the Second Avenue Elevated in 1938. It was to be replaced immediately with a subway.)

At one point in the incumbent’s long stay in office, he demanded we “self fund” our own raises. That, apparently, was when he was feeling generous. Recently, at a dinner of the Citizens Budget Commission, the new deputy mayor laid out his boss’s plan for the near future. Since none of the unions have responded to his offer to give him money through negotiations, he plans to threaten massive layoffs to force the unions to agree to the workers paying for their health benefits.

He is going to threaten us with layoffs.


Did he not start in 2003, by demanding $600,000,000 in recurring give backs from city workers? Did he not state then, that the city could not get along without those givebacks? Did he not threaten, and then carry out, layoffs when we did not agree?

In other words, what’s new?

What’s new, of course, is the fiscal crisis.

It is killing the mayor that he can not make use of the fiscal crisis to shrink our income. Main Street was devastated by the Wall Street shenanigans but New York City is doing pretty well. Tourism is up, real estate never went far down, and is improving, and we have the money for strange projects the mayor happens to like.

The city just agreed to pay $56.50 per square foot for 500,000 square feet in the Freedom Tower in order to house the central office of the Human Resources Administration. The Organization of Staff Analysts used to pay $35 per square foot for our office space until recently. (We obtained a sizable decrease under the new lease.)

Somehow, the Mayor was unable to do as well as we were, so he was forced to agree to $21.50 more than OSA had been paying. That extra $21.50 per square foot will cost our city an extra, wasted, ten million dollars a year.

In one sense, it is strangely attractive that the Mayor has chosen to gift the headquarters of the city’s welfare agency with a luxury site. Moreover, since the staff are our brothers and sisters, we are happy for them. Still, when he then asks those same workers to lower their income to help pay for his taste in real estate, he goes too far.

Finally, the civil service newspaper, The Chief-Leader, reporting on CityTime on November 4, 2011, called it a “…troubled time keeping project, where costs spun out of control after an unnamed aide to Mayor Bloomberg changed the contract to make the city responsible for any cost overruns.” The mayor has now asked for hundreds of millions of dollars of stolen, wasted money to be returned, so he feels there is no further reason for us to be upset with him.

He is not correct.

99 to 1. Between 1979 and 2007, according to the Congressional Budget Office, tax rates went down for the rich. As a result, over the last three decades, the top one percent more than doubled their share of our national income. After adjusting for inflation the budget office found that the after-tax income of our top one percent grew by 275%.

No one else did so well.

The middle class, the “middle” sixty percent of all taxpayers, did not do well at all. Even though we went from single earner families to families with two breadwinners, our household income did not double. Instead, we gained only 40% after taxes in spite of long hours of work and reduced hours for time with our family.

It would appear that “we was robbed;” by Congress, by corporate lobbyists and by our tax laws.

Our tax forms are more complex than in 1979. Almost everyone now needs tax preparers, whereas we did not in 1979. Our taxes are less progressive than in 1979 and loopholes (for the few) make them less progressive still. General Electric did hugely well last year and paid no taxes at all (loopholes). (You might find the New York magazine Intelligencer column you can reach at this link enlightening.

Meanwhile, we are being told our civil service salaries are too high, our pensions too rich, social security is unaffordable and that our health benefits should be our problem, not our employer’s or the government’s.

At least one candidate for high office is offering us a tax form to be filled out on the back of a postcard. We like the postcard idea but not the flat tax idea that goes with it. Sales taxes are regressive, license fees are regressive, bridge and tunnel tolls are regressive and even fees for civil service exams are more costly for the middle class than for the rich.

Is it too much to ask that income taxes, at least, still be progressive?

We have reached the point where you will pay a lower tax rate on investment income than on income earned from working. We have also reached the point where the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few citizens distorts our democracy.

It is recorded that the ancient Roman form of government went from tribal democracy to republic to oligarchy to dictatorship,in that order. In Rome’s case, the transition took hundreds of years.

We can, as Americans, act to diminish the over-concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. Since the tax laws have been changed to enrich the few and burden the rest of us, a simple solution presents itself: tax the rich.

We will not solve the current fiscal crisis by returning the tax rates to the level in place under Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower in the 1950’s. Still, if our nation is in economic difficulty, placing the entire burden on us – while exempting the truly rich – is both unjust and unwise.

Neither Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo favor progressively taxing the rich. In return, we do not favor them.

Fair Warning. You have a right to due process as a union member. That right starts with having a union representative present when your boss or any other agency representative summons you for a discussion of your failings, even prior to the bringing of charges against you.

Supervisors do have the right to supervise, including offering guidance and even warning or cautioning as a part of everyday business. In the normal course of events, such supervision should be welcome if it is reasonable and founded in reality.

Unfortunately, there are times when the supervisor is not being fair or proper.

If you think your boss is out to “get you,” not only is this uncomfortable, you could even be right. OSA grievance representatives hear occasional stories of members being denied representation at disciplinary interviews. This behavior by management is highly improper.

If you become suspicious that your superiors are setting you up for an interview where your words will be taken down and used against you, call OSA. The grievance representative you speak to will be a person with years of experience, who can give you advice.

Do Not Resign. Some Analysts who are provisional in status are apparently being encouraged to resign these days. Reports from the field convince us that more than one agency is suggesting that provisional employees resign before the Staff Analyst and Associate Staff Analyst exam lists are published, certified and moved.

Sometimes there is a value to resigning rather than being fired, but not in this case. When a provisional employee is let go due to the moving of a civil service list, not only does the employee become automatically eligible for unemployment benefits, but also no blame is attached to the separation from service. You can leave with a good record and still get the U.I.B. payments.

We do not know how soon DCAS will get around to our lists, but it should be within a few months. We have sent a letter to DCAS Commissioner Handy requesting publication of the list and are awaiting her response.

We Win Again. The Analyst title series was created just before Ed Koch came into office as mayor. Ed decided all Analysts were managerial or confidential employees.

Ed did not mean to give Analysts any real power nor did he actually share any secrets with us. Instead, he wanted to keep us under his thumb, powerless, unrepresented employees he could hire and fire at will. We disagreed.

We started in 1970 and by 1992 almost all Staff and Associate Staff Analysts were represented by our union. There were less than one percent of us who were excluded due to work that actually was confidential because it related to labor relations or our next contract.

As soon as our first task was completed, we (as a union) began to set new goals. We wished to obtain the right to representation, due process and collective bargaining for other Analysts, in the Health and Hospitals Corporation and the Transit Authority, and for the Administrative Staff Analysts as well.

We made good progress in the HHC and TA and by 2001 we represented Administrative Staff Analysts level M-I.

Our campaign in the HHC goes on “apparently” forever since, as soon we obtain rights for one set of workers, HHC invents a new title without rights or protection and begins to hire into it. (Consider the titles Senior Management Consultant, and Senior Consultant Management (Information Services.) SMCs are represented by OSA, but SCMs are denied permanent status, due process and grievance rights at present. Sometimes, when we review the job titles created by HHC to avoid unionization, we begin to suspect the authorities of having a sense of humor.)

Our victory in 2001, winning the right to represent allegedly managerial employees at level MI, was followed up in 2004 by our starting a campaign to represent levels MII and III of Administrative Staff Analyst titles.

We won that case before the Board of Collective Bargaining two years ago, but the city had finally lost all patience with OSA. Since we have been winning the representation cases we brought before the Board of Collective Bargaining, the city finally challenged, in court, the Board of Collective Bargaining itself. The courts accepted the case and examined the matter carefully and, of course, we won again.

The Supreme Court of New York has now ruled that the Board of Collective Bargaining was right, that the Admin Analyst title levels MII and MIII were properly examined and that, by far, most of them are neither managerial nor confidential. The judge’s decision can be found at this link. It is clear and easy to read.

Now, we expect, the City will appeal to a higher court, spend time and money and lose again.

Why? Why does the City spend so much money to fight so hard against workers being allowed to belong to a union? We keep winning anyway.

The answer is that many unions will not get involved with a fight for representation that takes years to resolve. OSA is a bit different in that we took twenty-two years to completely succeed on our first effort, so we are not dissuaded by subsequent organizing drives that take a mere four to ten years to complete and win.

And Again. Members are aware of the fact that we have been in affiliation discussion with the Teachers. As a part of that discussion, OSA had raised the issue of our disappointment with the Department of Education’s success in removing Education Analysts and Officers from union coverage.

The UFT (with a little help from OSA) has now achieved a major victory and has added 112 more Ed Analysts and Officers to the ranks of union labor. The decision was reached just before the recent Jewish holiday and timing mattered because, under the school-oriented contract of the UFT, their new members gained these days off with pay.

In fact, the 112 new members each gained a total of six more paid holidays annually. Not bad.

We are very pleased with the results so far and are even more cheered by the UFT plan to seek representation rights for Administrative Education Analysts and Officers.

Have You Noticed? In the months since Occupy Wall Street began to dominate the local news, the media has taken time off from bashing civil servants?

We noticed. It’s nice.

Pension Change. John Liu may be attending this month’s membership meeting. John said he wanted to come and explain the recent change in how our pension reserve will be invested. Since it is our money being invested, we were delighted by the offer.

Since Comptroller Liu’s schedule is often very busy, the word “may” is appropriate. We will announce on the newsline on November 14th if he is able to attend in person.

Membership Meeting.The next general membership meeting will be held on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at the OSA office, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 707, between Second and Third Avenues, starting at 6pm sharp. You can find a flyer to remind you of the date and time or to post at your worksite for yourself and colleagues by clicking this link.