OSA Newsline - February 25, 2009

Budget proposals being floated by Albany and City Hall would threaten public sector employment and essential public programs. Tax reforms that would make the wealthiest New Yorkers pay their fair share of taxes would go a long way toward preventing harmful budget cuts. On Thursday, March 5th, starting at 4pm at City Hall, a range of community groups, non profit organizations and labor unions, including the New York City Central Labor Council, the United Federation of Teachers, SEIU 1199, DC37 and the Working Families Party are staging a "Rally for New York." OSA is supporting the rally and will be there with our banner. We encourage OSA members to turn out and take part. A copy of the flyer for the rally can be downloaded by clicking here. Make a copy for yourself and your friends and colleagues. Join us on March 5th in letting our elected officials know there is widespread support for a better, fairer way to ensure fiscal stability in a difficult time. Public sector workers did not create the financial crisis and we should not be asked to bear the overwhelming burden of its solution.

OSA Newsline - February 23, 2009

The mayor has been thundering about layoffs to punish the union leaders unless we all agree to pay for our health insurance. Six years ago, when there was no fiscal crisis, the mayor also used layoffs as a weapon to force give backs of six hundred million dollars, recurring.

It did not work then; it will not work now.

President Obama’s stimulus aid to New York City is a wonderful help. Even so, our mayor and the major New York City newspapers are using the fiscal crisis as an opportunity to decrease the cost of the civil service – us.

In the past two weeks, State Senator Diane Savino, pictured at left, has twice been attacked by The Daily News as the lead item on their editorial page.

Diane, a former city civil service worker, has been arguing our case in Albany and The Daily News’ publisher Mort Zuckerman hates her for it.

For example, the mayor proposed pension tier five would have new employees paying for their pensions beyond the current requirement of three percent of salary for the first ten years. Diane pointed out that the new pension tier would provide no immediate relief to New York City and that it would take ten years before the city would get extra money.

Diane was right, since the state constitution prohibits pension changes affecting current employees. Thus, only persons newly hired would be affected.

In response to Diane, the News editorial ignored the state constitution and fell back on a press release from Bloomberg claiming a $200 million dollars savings immediately and $7 billion over twenty years.

The Daily News, in short, is dead wrong, and probably knows it and does not care.

Diane is our hero. She is fighting for us by fighting for fair and honest treatment for civil servants. We owe Diane a debt of gratitude. The more the rich publishers fume against Diane Savino, the more we know how special she is to us.

The News editorial mockingly termed Diane a “union maid.” They meant to be snide. For those who know the song titled “Union Maid” from singing that brave song on picket lines, “union maid” is a term of honor and respect.

So, take a moment to be gratified. In a time of fiscal crisis that was not caused by the working class, we have found ourselves a Union Maid. God bless her.

OSA Newsline - February 16, 2009

Some years back, Lincoln’s Birthday was turned into a floating holiday for city workers. The OSA leadership never favored that citywide contractual change and our own office is always closed on that day.

As it happened, some of the officers were on duty anyway and at least one phone call that came in was important. Some of our members at the HASA program of HRA, located on 14th Street were at work when a concrete block fell off a nearby building under construction. The falling block damaged the roof above the sixth floor of the HRA building and there was fear of a ceiling collapse. Esther Davis, our delegate at that location, notified the union office and made sure the workers nearby were relocated to safer areas of the building. Good job, Esther.

The officers were on duty because, in the afternoon, the Department of Homeless Services held a meeting to notify us of layoffs. Thirteen workers are affected and three are from our union. We proposed voluntary furloughs as an alternative to layoffs. Out of 1900 staff at DHS, it is very possible that at least thirteen other workers would jump at a chance for a year off, even unpaid. T Edwards of Homeless Services said they would look into that possibility and let us know within two weeks.

Other than that, the only news needing mention is a repeat. The main city contract raise is due payment on March 20th if all goes well. But, don’t spend it before you actually get it.

OSA Newsline - February 9, 2009

Good news and bad news this week. One piece of good news is that the Health and Hospitals Corporation paid the August of 2008 raises early. Members in HHC were due to get the monies in the February 6th payroll and, based on a few sample phone calls, the money did come.

The very bad news is that we are now set to meet with the city on February 12th on layoffs. Contrary to prior experience, the city is sending out layoff notices to the affected workers prior to sharing the list with the unions. Thus, the three members of OSA affected will be notified by the city before the actual meeting on layoffs. We will be given the layoff list on the 12th and not before.

So, therefore, don’t call the union office to ask if your name is on the list, because we don’t have the list yet. By the time we do, Thursday afternoon, you will have already been notified by the agency. Two agencies are being hit, the Department of Homeless Services and the Administration for Children’s Services, but as mentioned, only three analysts are targeted.

We can and will present voluntary furloughs as an alternative to layoffs. If the city is being at all reasonable, they will ccept our offer and we will survey the union membership seeking workers who want a year’s unpaid leave of absence.

Other news. The Municipal Labor Committee met with Christine Quinn last week. She has agreed to seek legislation to allow us all to reside in the nearby suburban New York counties. Good for the MLC, good for Chris and now we wait to see if it all occurs. Getting rid of the entire 1986 residency law is (now going on 23 years) long overdue.

The Civil Service Committee of the MLC sent its leaders to Albany on Tuesday of last week, regarding the DCAS plan to create 3,240 patronage jobs instead of using competitive civil service workers. Both Assemblyman Peter Abbate and Senator Diane Savino found time to meet with our committee. Each legislator is the chair of the civil service and labor committee of their own branch of the state legislature. Peter and Diane were not just receptive, they each were both knowledgeable and supportive. As Diane Savino states, “it’s clear they want a hire at will, fire at will workforce.”

Both legislators promised to do their best to force DCAS to obey the Civil Service Law. Mayor Bloomberg is clearly behind this attempt to destroy the competitive civil service, as he is behind the push for pension tier 5. He may be running for reelection, but neither his proposed reclassification farce nor his proposed pension tier 5 will help him with us.

OSA Newsline - February 2, 2009

There is a lot of bad financial news circulating. We know, as civil servants, that the city tax revenues have fallen and will stay down for a while.

The mayor is calling for cuts, but also for aid from the state and federal governments. The feds may have already come through, but the state is in worse shape than usual.

The Municipal Labor Committee will be meeting this morning with Christine Quinn, head of the City Council. There will be two topics of interest – residency and pensions. We want no change in the pensions, but we do want a change in the residency requirements affecting city workers.

Then, on Tuesday, there will be lobbying at the state capitol on the 3,240 patronage jobs sought by DCAS as their answer to the Civil Service Law.

It starts off as a very busy week.