OSA Newsline - June 29, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, the city unions were surprised by the acceptance by the upstate civilian civil service unions (CSEA and PEF) of pension tier V.

Last week, the United Federation of Teachers in New York City also accepted a diminished pension for new employees.

The two sets of agreements does put pressure upon the remaining unions that have resisted tier V so far. This was not good news.

On the other hand, the City Council did pass the residency bill, as promised, to allow OSA members to live in the nearby NY suburban counties.

The rest of the by now well-established script goes as follows. The mayor now vetoes the bill because it is not as good as he wanted for us. So, to show us how much he loves us, he vetoes the bill and the Council overrides his veto. Of course, if anything goes wrong and his veto is not overridden, the senseless old law remains in effect and that hurts us.

You know, if the mayor really loves us, he wouldn’t veto the bill in the first place. You know, “if.”

OSA Newsline - June 22, 2009

We have a meeting set with the Transit Authority to visit their new business center at 200 Vesey Street. Good enough, but we would be more interested in sitting down to negotiate their two year contract, now about a year overdue.

As members are aware, the MTA received a partial, short term bailout from Albany and that agency is now grinding forward on overdue negotiations.

As you might imagine, as interested as we may be in the new business center, we will still find the time to ask about our lapsed negotiations.

There were more layoffs last week. Five more provisionals were laid off in three agencies and the union will reach out to the individuals targeted.

So then, two weeks ago, the unions dedicated $20 million to save about 1,000 permanent employees for three months and, still, the City sends us a few more layoffs here, a few more there. It makes you wonder.

OSA Newsline - June 15, 2009

The chaos in Albany has been the most interesting news this past week. The state unions, PEF and CSEA, were willing to trade acceptance of pension tier V for a two year no-layoff pledge, but absent a legislature to pass such legislation, it is hard to see how the deal will be effected.

Meanwhile, the governor’s veto of New York City’s police and fire pensions will, if not overridden, lead to a worsened pension for cops and firefighters hired after July 1st.

All of the city unions, uniformed, civilian and pedagogical oppose pension tier V, although the mayor, the New York Post and all of the other papers favor it.

OSA’s leadership attended the American Federation of Teachers national public employees conference in Washington last week. The AFT lobbying operation was most impressive. Hundreds of volunteers spread out to argue in favor of three key issues.

First, they were in favor of a government operated option to be a part of the proposed health care reform. The private insurance companies want to forbid such an option.

Second, the volunteers argued against taxing our existing health benefits to pay for the health care reform. The proposal to tax our existing benefits could cost members with family coverage as much as $3,000 a year in increased taxes.

Finally, they argued in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act. Under current rules, it is nearly impossible to form a union in the private sector. As a result, less and less private sector workers are in unions. Since wages and benefits of union-represented workers are far better than for non-union workers, the national Chambers of Commerce are spending millions to fight the Employee Free Choice Act.

They like cheap labor. We don’t like to be cheap labor. Click here for more information on the Employee Free Choice Act. And view this video featuring some actors you'll probably recognize:

and this one from the AFL-CIO:

The AFT convention was well organized and efficiently run and our representatives were impressed by the work they are doing on behalf of us all.

Finally, On June 25th, the national AFL-CIO labor federation has organized a National Health Care Reform Rally and Lobby Day in Washington DC. It’s your chance to make your voice heard on health care reform. The New York City Central Labor Council will be sending a bus to DC for the event. The bus will be boarding at 5:30am and arriving back in New York City at 9pm. For details you can download the information by clicking here. Space is limited. If you can commit to a day of rallying and lobbying, call 212-604-9552 xt 241 to reserve your seat.

OSA Newsline - June 8, 2009

At last Tuesday’s Municipal Labor Committee general membership meeting, the vote to accept the health benefits giveback agreement was nearly unanimous. The Sergeant’s Benevolent Association abstained for technical reasons, but all the votes cast were in favor.

A number of members have called the union complaining about any givebacks. We do not like givebacks either, but fiscal conditions are serious and the public would probably not support a flat rejection of the need for savings by the city unions. In this case, we both gave and got back in return.

The key issue is how far the givebacks go. If we left it to the mayor and the New York Post, there is no end to their demands.

The civilian state unions have apparently now agreed to a new pension tier 5.

Harry Nespoli, chair of the New York City Municipal Labor Committee has made it clear we do not plan to negotiate worsened pensions for city workers. Meanwhile, there is an MLC steering committee meeting this Tuesday, so we will see what the City has to say.

In our round of layoff meetings last week, there was a little good news. In just a few cases, the layoffs were cancelled and our members were saved. Meetings go on this week, as well.

Randi Weingarten has invited the OSA leadership to Washington, DC later this week. We will be attending an American Federation of Teachers national convention designed specifically for their non-teacher union locals. It should be interesting. We’ll let you know.

OSA Newsline - June 1, 2009

Last Thursday afternoon, the Municipal Labor Committee Steering Committee met for what turned out to be the final discussion on health benefit givebacks.

A week earlier, discussions had broken off due to the anger of the unions over layoffs, combined with the City’s unwillingness to avert, delay or reduce the coming layoffs.

It took a five hour, somewhat contentious, negotiation to arrive at a deal last week, and that deal will still need to be confirmed by the general membership of the MLC at a special meeting this Tuesday.

Most of the givebacks are technical and will not even be noticed by members. Still, there are a few, newly agreed upon, co-pay situations. These will cost HIP or Senior Care members $50 co-pays for emergency room or ambulatory surgery visits and $100 co-pays for hospital admissions.

In return, the City has agreed to add a $200 per member one-time payment to our union welfare funds and to delay the layoff of permanent employees until September.

This does not qualify as a victory, since provisional employees were not provided any immediate relief and even permanent employees are only being given a few months of breathing space.

For the first time at a citywide negotiation, the MLC demanded and the City agreed to discuss the OSA proposals for the use of voluntary furloughs to avoid the layoffs of provisional employees. In prior years, OSA has offered voluntary furloughs in lieu of layoffs and sometimes it has worked and sometimes it did not. This year, the City has now agreed to at least consider voluntary furloughs as a way of diminishing the numbers due to be laid off citywide and that is a bit hopeful. Just a bit. For more information, see the City's Press Release.

Since OSA Chair Bob Croghan was involved with the citywide negotiations, OSA’s vice-chair Tom Anderson presided at the general membership meeting. One item on that agenda was a presentation by representatives of the Stella D’Oro strikers. Members should be aware that Stella D’Oro cookies are now being made by scab workers and, as a result, are suddenly very distasteful to working class folks like us.

For years, Stella D’Oro was a family run business with union covered workers–a friendly bakery located in our city. Now a major corporation had moved in, seeking to make a fortune by slashing salaries and benefits and killing the union. So, since life is not much without a cookie, for now, buy Nabisco or Keebler.