OSA Newsline - March 27, 2011

We had hoped for some startling good news to emerge over the horizon before we updated the newsline, but we've given up. On the other hand, we're heartened by the fact that we have no bad news to report. As the cartoon character Pogo used to say, no wins, no losses...a clear cut victory.

OSA’s membership meeting was held last week, at which members were updated on the current union situation. The next meeting will be scheduled for May.

On the demonstration front, the May Day 2011 demonstration is shaping up a bit. OSA’s chairperson Bob Croghan is working with the organizing committee for that event, and hopes that many members will join him at the rally. May Day will be on a Sunday this year. Assembly will be in Foley Square. More details to follow. In the meantime, you can download a flyer in English and Spanish by clicking this link. Circulate it among your friends, relatives and colleagues. As you can see, quite a few unions are endorsing this one and a huge turnout would be spectacular.

Within a shorter time horizon, next Monday (April 4, 2011), there will be a number of events pegged to the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King in Memphis in 1968 and the current fight back against attacks on public sector workers in Wisconsin and other states. As many know, at the time of his assassination, King was engaged in supporting the right of public workers (the sanitation workers of Memphis, specifically) to dignity on the job and the right to bargain collectively.

Events are being organized across the country under the slogan "We Are One." In New York City, there are a few of them:

  • There will be a rally organized by the Communication Workers of America at City Hall Park from 5pm to 7:15pm. Gather along Broadway between Park Row and Chambers Street. The theme of the rally: Unite and Win: Stand Up for Workers' Rights. Information can be found at this link.

  • The United Federation of Teachers is organizing a candlelight vigil in Battery Park from 7pm to 8:30pm with the theme of Workers' Rights Are Civil Rights. Enter Battery Park at the globe statue entrance in lower Manhattan.Information can be found by clicking this link. Or you can download this flyer.

  • For those who work in Brooklyn, a feeder march to the City Hall rally will feature a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall Park– with assembly at Cadman Plaza – at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. For information visit this site.

    These demonstrations will be labor-oriented and a chance to express disappointment with current political leadership.

    Then, on April 9, the following Saturday, the New York State AFL-CIO will be hosting a rally in Times Square at 7th Avenue and 42nd Street starting at 12. You can download a flyer by clicking this link.

    Same day and time and different location, a wide range of community groups will be staging a "Bring the Troops Home Now" march and rally at Union Square.

    OSA's retiree organization will be going to the Brooklyn Museum on April 13, a Wednesday. Due to the casual arrangements, you will be able to sign up late by simply meeting the group at the Museum entrance at 11:30AM. Bring a bit of cash – admission is $13 for seniors, cash only. The notice of the trip, with further details is posted here.

    We will update the newsline if anything momentous occurs. Otherwise, check back after April 10th.

  • OSA Newsline - March 21, 2011

    A reminder that this Thursday night, March 24th, is the general membership meeting at the union office (220 East 23rd Street Suite 707) starting promptly at 6pm.

    At virtually the same time, downtown, there will be a rally against Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget cuts. Organizers are labeling it a "Day Of Rage Against The Cuts" and say they are uniting students, labor and community to fight back. The rally at City Hall begins at 5pm and will be followed at 6pm by a march to Wall Street.

    You can read more about the rally at this link

    OSA Newsline - March 19, 2011

    Last week, we neglected to mention the successful Labor “voice training” held at OSA headquarters on Wednesday March 9, 2011. A significant number of activists were coached to sing hearty union marching songs in preparation for the rallies that are sure to come this spring – which seems to have broken out yesterday. We hope to repeat the session sometime in the future, but suggest in the meantime that perhaps members might meet on or near location to raucously practice by themselves at lunchtime.

    The pro-corruption Bloomberg administration wants to eliminate civil service, period. It is inconvenient to the Republican machine he has adopted, and the “right-sort-of-people” who believe taxes are for the little people also believe civil service jobs should be theirs to allocate.

    As you know, the Municipal Labor Committee is about to finalize a response. The long and the short of the response is that New York City does not need to make the civil service system any more corrupt than it has already become thanks to the Koch, Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations. The citizenry would even be thankful for honest government that did not waste a half billion here and a half billion there on political cronies as they have done with CityTime, Maximus, and other contracts.

    Now, about those longevity increases. A table can be downloaded by clicking this link so that you can see exactly how it affects you. The payment date is now set for April 29. The increases work out to $38 per longevity level for each worker. Except for a very few titles, they apply to all OSA-represented workers. The money is retroactive. Remember, do not spend it til you get it.

    Snowstorm grievances. As noted previously, the December 26 storm is now the subject of both a citywide and an OSA union grievance to cover all bases, and the January 27th storm is being handled by the agencies in what, so far, appears to be an adult fashion. Thank heaven for the civil service workers who make this City function.

    In December, the union had a 40th Anniversary at the Grand Propect Hall in Brooklyn. Guest speakers included State Senator Diane Savino, Department for the Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios Paoli, and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. The Union honored all of its prior chairpersons back to the inception of the Council of Personnel Examiners in 1970. You can view the photos of the event taken by OSA's Director of Media Services Rob Spencer below. Enjoy.

    OSA Newsline - March 14, 2011

    The annual test of the membership’s use of the OSA phone hotline was successfully conducted this weekend as members called to complain about the failure to update the news - proving that it is used by members.

    The news for this week has several interesting items.

    Tim Collins notes that the union has signed the agreement for the disposition of the 1/10th of one percent in equity money from the last contract which expired on August 24, 2010. This will take the shape of an increase of $38 in all of the equity levels for all of titles that OSA represents in our main contract. Transit Authority and School Safety/Traffic Enforcement titles are covered by separate agreements.

    The date for the increases is not set, but that clarification is expected soon. The amount will include retroactivity, of course. The hotline message and the newsline page of this website will be updated promptly as soon as a date is established.

    The grievance department wants you to know that a citywide grievance on the December 26th snowstorm has been filed. Tim says that we are covered by the citywide group grievance, but have submitted a separate one of our own to cover all bases. As you may recall, there was virtually no way to get to work, and no planning by the City for that day.

    On the other hand, the appeals on January 27th’s snowstorm (which required employees to file an appeal form in most agencies) have been for the most part successful. If you encounter rejection, talk to one of our representatives.

    The New York City Comptroller issued a report last Wednesday, which very clearly indicated that NYC civil servants almost universally have a lower total compensation package than their counterparts in private industry. John Liu expressed his desire to keep the conversation about Civil Service employees factual, rather than predjudicial. The Mayor, reportedly, was not pleased by the factual approach of the Comptroller. You can read the summary by clicking on this link and the full report by clicking on this link.

    In the meantime, Bloomberg and Cuomo are attacking the teachers particularly, and everyone’s pensions, with well funded lies. You have seen the ads on TV no doubt. We do not need experienced teachers who have decent salaries due to labor contracts. What we do need are inexperienced kids who are too dumb to realize that they will have no chance of a decent life as they get older in the service of our society.

    Vice-Chair Tom Anderson reports that a conversation with a former "teacher of the year" revealed he is working on his very own "5-year plan" to get out of the teaching business, because he feels that the right wing is working to destroy any dignity for teachers and students in the public schools.

    Teachers are on the front line right now. The legislature has just eliminated preferred-list protections for laid off teachers, and the right Wing money (read Bloomberg, Koch Brothers, et. al.) is pushing for the destruction of labor unions and contracts.

    The Municipal Labor Committee has prepared a detailed response to the Bloomberg pro-corruption plan for Civil Service. It will be made public soon.

    We hope you are mentally committing yourself to fighting back. April and May will require considerable efforts.

    If you can get to Union Square on Tuesday, March 15th at 5:30pm, the same coalition that organized the February 26th demonstration at City Hall has announced a "Draw A Line In The Sand" rally to support Wisconsin public workers and express our displeasure with the attacks on public sector workers, our benefits and our union rights. If you can bring a sign so much the better. The rally should be over by 7pm.

    OSA Newsline - March 10, 2011

    The March issue of the OSA Newsletter is now up on this website. Click on the button for the OSA Newsletter on the left side of the page.

    Also, check out our new 40th Anniversary Video, "OSA: The Story Of Our Union." It's neat. It is viewable at the button marked "OSA Intro Video" on the first page of this website. It's the bottom button.

    In Wisconsin, the State Senate Republicans, perhaps in violation of their state's open meetings law, convened a conference committee and then passed a stripped down version of the budget bill that had been the point of contention in the state for nearly three weeks. What, you may ask, was stripped out of the bill? Any budgetary material. What was left? Only the provisions depriving virtually all public workers of collective bargaining rights. Why did it happen this way? Turns out Wisconsin requires a super-majority of 20 out of 33 Senators to vote on any budget bills but only a simple majority to vote on any non-budget matters. So, by reducing the bill to what it really was about all along - an attack on public worker rights - the Republicans had enough votes to pass the measure.

    Fourteen Wisconsin Senate Democrats had fled the state a couple of weeks back to prevent the passage of the provision when it was part of the budget bill. The stripped bill passed the Senate by 18 votes to 1. There was one lone Republican who voted his agreement with the more than 70% of Wisconsinites who said in a recent poll the legislature should not remove public workers' collective bargaining rights.

    The Wisconsin Assembly was expected to pass the legislation on Thursday. Legal and other challenges are expected. Thousands of workers had massed at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison on Thursday. We provide a link to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow's coverage below (excuse the commercial ad that begins the clip):

    Finally, March 25 marks the 100th anniversary of one of the worst industrial disaster in US history, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The fire took the lives of 146 workers, most of them young immigrant women. The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition is organizing and compiling commemorative events - education, arts, activist. A complete calendar and background information can be reached at Remember the Triangle Fire.

    On Friday March 25 from 11am-1:30pm, Workers United/SEIU will host a central commemoration ceremony at the site of the fire at Washington Place and Greene Street in the Village. There are two great books about the Triangle Fire that you might want to read, The Triangle Fire by Leon Stein, first published in 1962 and recently reissued, and Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David Von Drehle, published in 2003 by Grove Press

    More information about the fire can also be found at Cornell University's Triangle Fire website.

    OSA Newsline - March 7, 2011

    It was a good week for OSA members. Last week, the Mayor was so occupied with the teachers that he forgot all about us (for at least one week).

    Instead, he went on television to insist that an objective teacher rating system being created by the State was of no help to him at all. Perhaps so.

    The proposed system would use objective factors like test scores, attendance, and seniority, but the Mayor apparently objects to considering length of service at all. He said, on TV, that experience does not by itself make a great teacher. He has a point. He’s had nine years as Mayor and it hasn’t helped him at all.

    Anyway, on the assumption that he will get back to us eventually, we are looking forward to this Wednesday evening. At present, it looks like a lot of members will be arriving for dinner, followed by a sing-along with a professional folk singer, Bev Grant. We will learn and practice a half dozen simple, but melodic, songs appropriate for demonstrations and the picket line. Should be fun.

    Also, check out our new 40th Anniversary Video, "OSA: The Story Of Our Union." It's neat. It is viewable at the button marked "OSA Intro Video" on the first page of this website. It's the bottom button.

    Finally, mail will be due out this week, so it should be received by you early next week at the latest. The same material will be up on this website shortly as the March 2011 OSA Newsletter.

    OSA Newsline - March 1, 2011

    On Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations met with the Municipal Labor Committee Steering Committee. We learned that the City is spending $4 billion on our basic health care and $1 billion more on our Welfare Funds. In return, health coverage is being provided for 345,000 active employees, 225,000 retired employees and, if you add dependents, a total of 1.1 million persons.

    The Mayor would like us to put a co-pay on HIP visits, add a premium that we would pay for basic health, eliminate Medicare Part B reimbursement for all retirees, eliminate the City’s annual $35 million contribution to the Health Stabilization Fund and to require employees to work at least twenty years in order to be covered for health benefits in retirement.

    Harry Nespoli, Chairperson of the MLC, instructed the Health Technical Subcommittee to examine these demands and get back to us.

    Meanwhile, he told OLR that some workers were still due the last contractual settlement and negotiations were going nowhere at present.

    Actually, this latest round of givebacks being demanded pales to insignificance compared to the current war against public sector workers nationally. We have provided links below to a few of the documents that speak to this topic. Included is the transcript of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s phone conversation with a person he thought was billionaire David Koch.

  • Discover the Network Out to Crush Our Public Workers

  • Billionaire Brothers'Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute

  • What Conservatives Really Want

  • Transcript of Prank Koch-Walker Conversation

  • New York State is Broke, But Gov Cuomo Joins GOP Push to Spare Wealthy

  • It's the Inequality, Stupid

  • As Income Gap Widens, New York Grows Apart

  • Make Wall Street Pay

    There is some good news. Two dozen members have already signed up for training in songs appropriate for picket lines. Since we may all be on picket lines or at demonstrations for the rest of the year, knowing a few nice songs will make the time go faster.

    The evening of Wednesday, March 9 will start with dinner from 5:30 to 6:30pm and at 6:30pm a professional singer/songwriter and teacher of protest songs will teach us all the old (but now somewhat forgotten) favorites. If you are willing, call Carol at the union office to respond so we will know how much food to order.