News From OSA - October, 2006

Leap Frog. Recently, DC37 members and original jurisdiction employees received pay increases of 3.15% (retroactive to 7/1/05) and 2% (retroactive to 8/1/06) plus notice that a further raise of 4% or more* is due (as of 2/1/07).

[* There were two different numbers announced. The Transit Authority non-represented employees are promised a 4.0% increase next year, but City original jurisdiction and managerial employees and HHC Group II employees are due 4.392%. Around the same time, Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, was asked to take over leadership of the Municipal Labor Committee. This was needed because Stanley Hill of DC37 was no longer able to serve as chair. President Weingarten agreed to take on the new role, a bit reluctantly at first, but soon she acted to great effect. As the MLC chairperson, Randi won major improvements in our pension rules, including an end to contributions by workers covered by Tier IV after the completion of 10 years of payments and various other goodies affecting older workers. Thereafter, Randi negotiated the PICA program, which greatly helped on the cost of prescription drugs - and when Mayor Bloomberg sought to kill the program, she kept it alive.]

This recent payment is the latest step in the Mayor Bloomberg style of contract negotiations. Previously, DC37 had signed a three year contract that ended in June of 2005. Soon thereafter, Randi Weingarten's UFT contract followed the DC37 pattern for three years, but added a fourth year and twelve days for an extra 3.25%. At that point, DC37 fell one year behind the UFT, but now they have caught up and pulled ahead.

This style of bargaining may resemble a children's game of leap frog, but actually there is a great deal going on beneath the surface.

Background. In the period from the 1970s through the mid-1990s, DC37, as the largest union (or group of unions) within the Municipal Labor Committee, led negotiations for all the civilian, non-pedagogical unions. All of the unions negotiated as a team and the results of those negotiations created the pattern for each contract. DC37, it should be noted, was the main player, but all of us were involved in the negotiations.

Unfortunately, subsequent to DC37 being put under trusteeship in the late 1990s, the practice changed. One of the DC37 trustees explained that, for internal political reasons, it was felt that DC37 should, at that time, bargain alone. Thereafter, other unions were not invited to the negotiating sessions.

The Problem. However, a problem arose three years ago. DC37 settled on a contract without reference to or consideration of the needs of the other unions that would be affected by the pattern being set. Not only were there givebacks that offended many union members, but the first year raise was a flat-figure, one-time bonus with no ongoing raise at all, and the third year called for a final 1% to be awarded if and when the unions came up with nebulous and undefined productivity savings. The result was a "Procrustean Bed"** of a contract with grave results.

[** Procrustes was a bandit who operated near the ancient Greek city of Attica. He forced his victims to lie upon an iron bed. If they were too long, he cut them to size, if too short, he stretched them to fit. Mayor Bloomberg played the part of Procrustes in the 7/1/02 contract. To note one result, there seems to be a dramatic drop in the number of candidates for Police Officer and Fire Fighter this year.]

DC37 eventually was awarded the final 1% for the third year of that contract in return for an alleged increase in civilianizing of the Police Department and alleged, but unspecified, contracting-in of work previously contracted-out. OSA offered to accept the same terms immediately. The City's response was to seek further givebacks from us instead.

Some unions gave up on ever getting the 1%. We did not. Other unions "gave back" further days of vacation time or extra minutes of work daily. Some unions agreed to as much as a 10 month delay in their next raise. We did not.

We are, in fact, furious that we would be asked for real givebacks when the pattern-setter is given a no-cost (to them) 1%. That is not pattern bargaining by the City; it is cheating.

In concert with Teamsters Local 237 and CWA Local 1180, OSA will be pushing hard to win that 1% on the same terms offered DC37, no more and no less.

Meanwhile, by the past summer, it became clear that Lillian Roberts, stung by criticism over the old contract, was determined to go it alone once more in order to get a better contract. Initially, the city offered the same old "pay for your own raise" nonsense, and their (almost) final, final offer was an absurd three year contract with 3.15% for the first year (set by Randi's contract) and 2% and 2%.

At that point, Randi Weingarten and Harry Nespoli of the Sanitationmen's Union formed a joint bargaining coalition and unions representing 175,000 workers joined. Immediately, the Mayor responded by dramatically improving the offer to DC37 in order to secure their agreement.

OSA is, of course, a member of the new bargaining coalition and we expect to do at least as well as DC37 and, if we can somehow manage it, perhaps just a little bit better. The coalition's bargaining demands can be downloaded here.

OSA would have preferred that Lillian and DC37 had chosen to be a part of the coalition since, united, we would be far stronger. It did not happen this time, but OSA will keep hoping and lobbying for a unified labor movement to bargain with the City.

School Days. The information you can download here discusses the upcoming exams for Staff Analyst Trainee and Associate Staff Analyst. Members of our union and OSART are offered training (at no cost) for the exams. Our Executive Director, Sheila Gorsky will be in charge of this fairly massive operation which starts as soon as the Notice of Examination is issued. A course must be designed, teachers recruited and literature prepared - and yet none of this can be done until we learn the contents of the test from the NOE.

The one thing we could and did do, in advance, was to have central air conditioning installed for our large meeting room. The result is a quieter and more effective air cooling system. We hope you will find it comfortable.

Growing. OSA recently added both Senior Management Consultant and Systems Project Leader to the list of job titles covered by our union for collective bargaining purposes. Many of our newly covered sisters and brothers were pleased with the fact that they would now be paid for their overtime work and enjoy the increase in job security that comes with non-competitive civil service status. Prior to unionization, both titles were classified as "hire at will, fire at will" positions within the Health and Hospitals Corporation.

One major problem that did arise was that a few of our newly-enrolled members were hit with a loss of annual leave due to the change in status. Managerial and Original Jurisdiction employees were not affected by the 2002-2005 contract givebacks. However, the HHC has just now unilaterally reduced leave accumulation rates for newer employees. This was done, allegedly, due to the OSA "schedule."

Actually, for new employees hired after 7/1/04, the leave accumulation rate did drop to 17 days (instead of 20) a year for the first year of service. However, we do not believe that this should affect newly reclassified employees and the HHC used the wrong schedule anyway. HHC dropped the affected workers to only 15 vacation days a year for the first year or two instead of OSA's 17 days in the first year and 18 days in the second year.

Our attorneys are preparing legal action against HHC to correct the matter.