OSA Newsline - May 26, 2014

This is Memorial Day, a day for us to take off, but also for us to remember those who served on our behalf.

Members will have received the general membership mailing by now. If not, call George at the union office and he will send you a copy.

Our general membership meeting is this Thursday evening at 6:15pm. Refreshments will be provided before the meeting.

OSA Newsline - May 19, 2014

Our mailing, due out early last week, did not go out until midweek, so you may not have received it yet. If it doesn’t come before Thursday, call George at the union office at 212-686-1229. He will check your address and send you out a copy.

The only union news going on now is the UFT contract and discussions related to it. The accepted wisdom is that it does set a pattern but how it is interpreted is at issue. At one extreme, the uniformed forces are very dissatisfied with it. And at the other, most believe that the contract will meet with UFT membership approval.

OSA Newsline - May 12, 2014

Our mailing is going out this week and if you do not receive it by the weekend, call George Morgan at the union office so he can check your address and send you a copy. Meantime, the content is already posted as the May 2014 OSA Newsletter.

The mailing largely addresses the pattern setting UFT contract. However, the letter points out that large parts of that contract do not exactly translate easily for other sets of workers. We might be willing to accept monies for analysts who are working in hard-to-recruit agencies or “ambassador analysts” who go off and help out in other agencies or especially for “master analysts” except, of course, none of these titles do exist nor is the city anxious to create them.

Therefore, if pattern bargaining is to mean anything, we will need monies equivalent to that expended on UFT teachers in those various roles, to be available to the civilian unions in some other formation, perhaps increased longevity or, possibly, larger raises.

In any case, the Chief newspaper was accurate last week as we expected. The other news media, not so much.

The one that topped it for a silly season article was the one in the Daily News that quoted a number of anti-union pundits as concluding the contract did not do enough for the children.

Wait a minute, are we wrong or was it the UFT that first broke ground in the 1960's and 70's arguing about class size and such stuff. Now, the anti-union people who opposed the union and especially opposed the union challenging management prerogative on class room size and such stuff who are now faulting the union contract on not doing enough for the kids.

It is kind of a cool example of critics trying to have it both ways.

OSA Newsline - May 5, 2014

As most members are already aware from the newspapers, radio and television, the leadership of the United Federation of Teachers struck a deal with the city on May 1st. The new contract will be submitted to the members for a vote. The contract does have a number of aspects that will please UFT members.

One major issue is the agreement to pay the 4% and 4% owed to that union under pattern bargaining for the first two years of an unprecedented nine year contract.

In normal years, there would never have been any question of payment of retroactive monies due, but for four years, the prior administration, and much of the media, insisted that it would never be paid.

Our union has always insisted that, short of an unforeseen giant fiscal crisis, the money could be and would be paid. The only reality behind the issue was that Mayor Bloomberg had spent the money on his own pet projects and it was agreed that Mayor de Blasio would have trouble finding that much money.

Money was found in part due to health benefit savings, although the continued prosperity of the City of New York was the main factor.

The terms of the later years, where there was no already established pattern, are not as generous, especially if only the percentage of raises is considered.

Translating the contract into how it would apply to OSA members, for 2011 and 12 there seems to be no percentage raise but, instead, a $1,000 bonus.

Most OSA members will be dissatisfied with a two year period of no raises, even if those raises are retroactive. The $1,000 bonus for that period will not be in any way equivalent to the loss of a percentage raise.

Going forward, in terms of OSA’s contract dates, there would be three years of 1% in a row and then 1.5%, 2.5% and 3%.

It must be noted that the teachers did get some extremely nice financial benefits that could not be mirrored in non-teacher jobs. The provision for a $5,000 annual increment for teaching in one of the 150 schools set in impoverished neighborhoods will be a very costly benefit to the city, as will the $20,000 annual bonus given to others for outstanding work or special assignments.

The UFT contract will be studied by every other City union to discover the details and to find the value of the benefits awarded to city teachers.

The civilian, non-pedagogical, unions will expect to receive the cost equivalent for their members translated into extra monies potentially being used to either increase their percentages beyond that of the UFT contract or, perhaps, to avoid there being any years of no percentage raises.

On the issue of givebacks, nothing in the UFT contract is similar to non-teacher employees. Therefore, there are no obvious givebacks confronting other unions.

The savings on the health benefits for employees would impact all employees, but it is not clear what, if any, of the $3.4 billion in savings would constitute a give back.

To cite one example. There was an audit of city employees’ dependents receiving health coverage. The unions wanted to go along with Bloomberg in doing the audit, but he made it impossible. As far as we could tell, out of sheer whimsical spite, Bloomberg refused to agree to amnesty for any civil servant who had not dropped a dependent from health coverage when a change in status occurred. In other words, he wanted to charge you for your former wife’s open heart surgery and also fire you for fraud at the same time.

On that – and other related issues – the MLC went to court and won over and over. Now, with the help of a sane mayor, the unions will agree to removing from health benefits folks who should have been off long ago. That will save the city at least $15 million a year through labor and management cooperating, but it is not a giveback in any sense of the word.

The one giveback protested by some, but not all, of the uniformed unions had to do with the Health Stabilization Fund. Their position was that since some of the money to fund the contract would come from that Fund, each union local should have a right to say how it was spent. This alleged issue was voted down by 20 to 2 at the MLC’s Steering Committee meeting Friday morning. When the full membership convenes this Monday morning, it is expected it will again be voted down.

Health benefits have been, for as far back as we know, the same for all city employees and their dependents. All the city unions decide as a group what benefits to demand and proceeding otherwise would be a very bad idea.

Most of the health benefit savings were worked out by the MLC’s Health Technical Subcommitee. There are, on that committee, very able representatives from the uniformed forces unions.

This message is already very long, so check out the details of the agreement in the newspapers and one particularly. Richard Steier in the Civil Service Chief usually does a fine job of explaining significant contracts and his paper comes out on Tuesday.

Finally, at least 25 OSA members, activists, delegates and staff turned out for the May Day rally for immigrants rights, labor rights and jobs for all. Thank you to all those who attended.