News From OSA - October, 2012

There are no on-going negotiations with the Mayor over cost of living raises. Each time any of us have met with him, we are handed a list of give-backs he wants, plus no raises for us for three years. Since he will be out of office in a little over a year, he sees no reason to negotiate, and he does not.

Absent negotiations, this is a good time to review other union topics.

Organizing. It took fifteen years from the founding of our group in the‘70s until the first Analyst at the Board of Education was allowed to be represented officially by OSA as a union. Seven years later, all the City Staff and Associate Staff Analysts were in our union, and OSA began its work in the Hospitals.

In 1999, we began to have more than one campaign at a time. OSA won representation for Systems Analysts (HHC) while seeking to represent Senior Health Care Program Planning Analysts. We won the right to represent the Senior HCCPA title while we were preparing our Transit Authority campaign. In 2001, we even won two separate campaigns at once – the Administrative Staff Analysts level MI and the Supervising Systems Analysts.

As always, OSA in 2012 is continuing to organize.We won the right to represent the Administrative Staff Analysts levels MII and MIII in July of 2010, but by September of that year the City and NYCHA were in court, suing the Office of Collective Bargaining, seeking to reverse OCB’s decision. In October of 2011, the judge ruled in our favor. The City vowed to appeal, but eventually did not.

The City entered settlement talks with OSA at that point and began to make progress, but a change in City personnel ended the settlement talks. Now, the matter is again in the hands of the OCB as we seek compliance with their decision of July 2010.

Matters, as noted above, move very slowly. Meanwhile, our union keeps busy on related matters.

Thirty percent of the Senior Consultant (MIS) title at HHC have signed OSA designation cards, and we are petitioning OCB for recognition. At the same time, our organizers have collected over 300 cards from the Associate and Assistant Directors of Hospitals, also at the HHC.

We have a team of volunteer organizers assisting the UFT in securing representation for the Analysts in the Department of Education. So far, 112 Education Analysts were added to the UFT ranks, and the next step is Administrative Education Analysts and Administrative Staff Analysts.

We are moving closer to an agreement to represent Administrative Community Relations Specialists within the NYCHA, and are proceeding with hearings on the issue of Administrative CRS’s with the City.

The Organization of Staff Analysts also has, over the years, added many small groups, and members can be forgiven if few know all the titles represented by OSA. We promise to never stop trying.

Treasurer's Report. At two recent meetings, one of our members requested a Treasurer’s report. We did have Treasurer’s reports at meetings many years ago, before we became a union. In those days, our dues income was tiny, and the report was mostly to reassure us we actually had a treasury.

Our dues went up, in stages, and always with membership approval. We started at $2 per year, went to $1.50 bi-weekly by check-off, or $39 a year, then to $2.50, or $65.00, and later to $3.75, or $97.50.

OSA eventually passed a dues rate of .007 of salary, or seven-tenths of one percent. The need for the money was clear enough. As a certified bargaining unit, we had gained the power to defend our members as well as to negotiate collectively. In return, we also picked up obligations: to run a Welfare Fund, to staff a grievance office, to develop a contract negotiations and enforcement unit, to hire lawyers, and to rent space and equipment.

OSA has the lowest dues in town, and we have managed well in spite of that for a number of reasons. The main reason is that the spirit of voluntary support for our union has never gone away, and thus overhead is kept low. More than half of the workers in the union office each day are volunteers who get their expenses and little or no salary. As it happens, they are highly qualified volunteers who previously held highly responsible and well paid jobs with the City prior to their retirements. We benefit from their belief in the union.

The other reasons are more day to day. Our office is adequate and functional, but not at all luxurious. Our computers are worked to near-death before we buy the next models, and office furniture, when frayed, gets patched, not discarded.

Finally, we are not affiliated, although we are working with the UFT and OPEIU. If we do affiliate, it will be the OSA leadership’s job to make sure the cost is low, but there would be a cost.

In any case, because OSA has been able to manage within the limits of its dues income, there have not been a lot of requests for Treasurer’s reports over the past two decades. We do, however, provide a yearly report by our accountant. The report conforms to generally acceptable accounting principles. The report can be downloaded at this link.

Basically, OSA (the union), OSART (the professional association) and the OSAWF (Welfare Fund) are all doing okay, but there are problems ahead.

Our union’s income depends on our member’s income. Just as our members are starting to hurt from two to four years of no raises, the union also begins to have a problem. Our Welfare Fund again depends on regular small increases in the contribution rate. At our most recent talks with the Mayor, he was insisting he wanted us to give him back $100 per member per year from our fund, since he needs the money more than we do.

We are doing well because our union has a history of adding reserves in good times in order to enable us to endure the lean times. Even so, this “no raise” routine can not go on indefinitely without having an impact, first, upon our union and thereafter upon our benefits.

Grievances. The Organization of Staff Analysts has been resolving grievances even before we had a legal right to do so. Years before OSA won union status, our volunteer grievance representatives were using agency procedures to help members who were facing problems.

Our first recorded victory was on behalf of Kathryn Nocerino. She had been recruited by the Administration for Children’s Services for a position as an Administrative Staff Analyst level MI. She left a perfectly good job at HRA as an Associate Staff Analyst, but when she got to ACS the agency asked her to wait a bit. One year later, Kathy was still an Associate and was filing ACS case records for a living. Legally, ACS could continue under-utilizing our member forever, even though they were wasting taxpayer money and driving a worker (who happened to be a published author) to despair with boredom.

Instead, when OSA brought the matter to the attention of Al Bowen, Deputy Director of Labor Relations at HRA, he made a phone call. Immediately thereafter, Kathy’s transfer was reversed, and she returned to her former job at HRA. This grievance was resolved informally more than five years before OSA had the right to grieve.

From that day to this, our volunteer grievance representatives on location or at the union office have been investigating and resolving grievances.

A couple of years ago, our grievance office won a victory that greatly shortened the probation period for Staff Analyst Trainees, and this year we addressed a major problem affecting Administrative Staff Analysts.

The New York City Housing Authority had, a few years back, begun to strangely interpret the Civil Service law as it related to appointments and/or promotions. If you were serving at NYCHA as an Administrative Staff Analyst (provisional), and you passed the Associate Staff Analyst exam, you were appointed, from the list, to the position of Associate Staff Analyst.

That part was normal.

NYCHA also allowed the new appointees to continue serving in their higher, provisional, line as Administrative Staff Analysts.

That, too, was normal practice.

However, NYCHA did not agree to count, towards completion of the probationary period, time served in the higher title. Instead, the candidate was expected to serve in the higher title with the lower, permanent title held in some kind of limbo, probation never completed.

OSA’s grievance operation objected, loudly, to this nonsense. Executive Director Sheila Gorsky first wrote letters, and then called in our legal counsel.

All is now resolved, NYCHA has entered into a stipulation agreeing to count the service in the higher title as time served for satisfaction of the one-year probation requirement. All affected candidates will be notified by NYCHA.

Our grievance office benefits greatly from its workforce of older, experienced union activists mixed with younger labor lawyers learning their trade. Our most senior grievance representative, Hank Mandel, recently retired from union activity citing poor health. (His age wasn’t the problem; he was over ninety years young.) Not to worry. Our next most senior grievance representative, John Ost, handled his first grievance for OSA during the administration of Rochelle Brodsky around 1980. John is still with us, although long retired from his City job at HPD.

One of John’s recent cases involved a member who, having been sent out to do field work, found that the agency had kept poor records and was either charging her for leave without pay, or insisting on submission of annual leave slips. It took John a full six weeks of intermittent phone calls and letters in order to wade through bureaucrats blaming each other (but not correcting the problem) and finally get it all corrected.

John’s comment on the effort was typical of our grievance office’s attitude: “I couldn’t believe they could be so wrong and so irresponsible, and I couldn’t let it rest. Whenever an agency screws up, it gets me so excited, it gives me a burst of energy that lasts until we undo the error.”

Our grievance office also handles disciplinary cases. Those cases are usually not discussed in newsletters or on the newsline. However, we can discuss the many cases that we do not receive because the grievance office exists.

In the late 1980’s, OSA was soon to be a union for 650 members, but not yet. We had a year-long process to go through to get the City to agree as to which Analysts could belong. Then came the election to vote yes or no for the union.

While waiting, about 300 provisional members were without due process. Of these, a full dozen came to OSA for help, since each was being fired for (as the members believed) bad or invalid or corrupt reasons. We helped a few but, since there was no due process, nine were fired.

After the election was won, our new union awaited the next set of firings. None arrived.

Only one disciplinary case came in over the next year, and we won that one. It turned out that a requirement to bring charges against an employee, and to allow for the evidence to be examined by a fair judge, reduced the number of employees being fired from 12 a year to none.

Since then, OSA members have been fired, but now such firings are neither arbitrary nor capricious, nor motivated by corrupt reasons. In the rare case that one of our members is fired, clear violations of the rules must be shown, fair warnings must have been given and a third party must be satisfied that all this is true.

So then, our grievance office defends a small number of members when charges are brought and a far, far larger number of members against whom management does not dare bring charges, because they know our members will be found innocent.

On occasion, a member will protest that the union defends the guilty. In fact, the union must defend any member, but we really do best when defending the innocent, since those cases are easy.

The very existence of due process and an active grievance office probably reduces the chances of a false charge by a factor of 10.

Thank you Tim Collins, John Mazzarella, Nancy Russell, Tomi Smith, Tom Gorse, John Turley, John Ost, Sherman Gould, Steve Gregor, Sydney Goldenberg, Sean Dillon, Adam Orgel, Julia Howell, Julian Medina and Christina Wong. You help us all.

Civil (Service Law) Defense. Adam Orgel, one of OSA’s young labor lawyers, recently spoke at a hearing where the Department of Education was seeking to create numerous new exempt or non-competitive jobs. He attacked the agency’s attempt to circumvent Civil Service laws, expressed his amusement at the hollowness of their excuses, and promised swift retribution by way of court if they insisted on proceeding.

Adam was not alone, as there was a full chorus of labor voices raised against DOE’s sneaky move, but we note Adam because he is the latest of the champions of Civil Service from OSA. Our union was started by members of the NYC Department of Personnel and we have always been sensitive to attempts by any administration to undo the civil service law.

Bruce Jager, one of our founders, not only thundered forth on behalf of compliance with that law all through the 70’s and 80’s, but he also helped found the Civil Service Merit Council.

After Bruce, many others joined the fight for honesty in governmental appointments. Mike Schady, Sheila Gorsky and others work steadily, year after year, to ensure that lists are moved, pools run properly, and the law is followed. Tom Anderson, Len Shrier and others respond to each attempt to circumvent, water down or weaken the law.

We, as a union, are so strong in this area that other unions come to us for advice and counsel, and we give it freely.

The Civil Service law ensures that government workers serve the public and not simply those who hire them. Our City tried the “spoils” system for over two hundred years. It led to endless corruption. The Civil Service law is worthy of defense and we are proud of our role as its defenders.

Staffing. OSA’s operations rest on a mixture of volunteer and paid staff. There have been recent changes.

We mourn the loss of Michael Weiss, field organizer for OSA for many years. Michael passed away this Fall, and he will be missed.

In addition, Ida Chin, organizer of many on-location visits to agencies, has suffered a stroke. Ida was at the OSA office, calling a location delegate to arrange a visit and a lunch time meeting when she passed out. The EMS team from Bellevue was quick and efficient, and we are hoping that Ida will recover soon.

Members attending the September membership meeting learned that Lauren Shapiro, one of our young labor lawyers, was offered a four-day week, more money and a job in charge of labor relations for a large agency. Our consolation is that Lauren was well-trained by her years at OSA, and she goes forth to do well on behalf of the workers at her new agency.

Our losses were mitigated by our gains. A year ago we were contacted by Occupy Wall Street’s labor outreach committee. We came to know some young men and women sent to act as liaisons. We were impressed by them, and apparently OSA impressed them as well. Six months ago, a few of them began to volunteer to help OSA in any ways needed, and their help was gratefully accepted. Most came and left after a short time, but some were consistent in their efforts and began to impress us with their work. As of October, OSA’s benefits section is employing Courtney Burke. Our organizing section has hired Stanley Williams.

Stan’s story has a nice turn to it. While he was volunteering for us, he came to the attention of another union, National Nurses United. They called us for a reference, and we praised him for his work for us. They investigated further, and then offered a well-paid job as a union organizer. He was already aware that OSA was considering offering him a far lower paying job of the same sort. To our surprise, Stan turned down the National Nurses United in order to work with OSA. Stan and Courtney were introduced to the members at the same membership meeting where we bid farewell to Lauren.

Elections. The U.S. Presidential election is upon us. We have been as unhappy as any Tea Party conservative or Occupy Wall Street liberal over the mess Congress has made over the past few years, but one major issue seems clear to us.

Barack Obama believes the rich should pay a bit more in taxes so that the cost of government would not fall as heavily as it does on the middle class. Mitt Romney believes we should all (including or especially the rich) pay a bit less in taxes and somehow this will result in prosperity for all and increased tax revenues, etc.

We believe they are both wrong and that the rich should pay their fair share of the taxes. It is a disgrace that Governor Romney pays a lower rate of taxes on his income than is paid by any member of our union.

Why are we being taxed so heavily while the rich, the alleged “job creators” are being taxed so lightly, or not at all?

We also should mention that although Governor Romney has been faulted for flip-flopping, he has been very consistent on unions. He’s against us. In turn the leadership of OSA is against him, and favors his opponent, Barack Obama.

Remember always, vote as you will, but remember to vote.

Nomination Meeting. At this month’s general membership meeting, nominations will be accepted for all OSA/OSART Executive Board positions. Nominations remain open for ten days after the meeting. The elections will be conducted through mail ballot. The elections are held bi-annually.

Holiday Party. The coupon for the 2012 union holiday party can be downloaded at this link. The location is the same as last year. We would prefer a site in Manhattan, preferably in the downtown area, but we have found none that are large enough and affordable in that area. Directions to Grand Prospect Hall can be downloaded at this link.

Women's Committee Meeting. OSA's Women's Committee is presenting a panel on Women's Health & Wellness, featuring traditional and holistic approaches to helping you to take better care of yourself. The event is Thursday evening, November 15, 2012 from 6 to 9pm and light refreshments will be served. You can download a flyer about the event by clicking this link.

General Membership Meeting. The next general membership meeting will be held on Thursday, November 29, 2012 at the union office, 220 East 23rd Street, Suite 707, between Second and Third Avenues, starting at 6pm sharp. You can download a reminder flyer for the meeting by clicking this link.