News From OSA - January, 2010

Negotiations. Our next contract is not due for our main City unit until this summer. Even so, there are small units represented by OSA which still have old business outstanding.

OTB. Negotiations with the Off Track Betting Corporation were complicated by OTB going bankrupt during the contract period. Also, since the State took over OTB from the City; a question arose as to whether a State "pattern" or a City "pattern" would be followed.

It all worked out as well as it could have (maybe…). OTB has offered 4% for 8/25/08 and 4% for 8/25/09 as well as a reasonably generous Early Retirement Incentive. The ERI offers either a $15,000 bonus for quitting or a one month per year service bonus for retiring.

Unfortunately, the entire agreement is contingent on the sale of $250,000,000 in bonds to pay for a restructuring of OTB.

The plan is for OTB to handle betting at video terminals in neighborhood groceries or at news and candy stores. Since the plan would recreate the pattern of (the then illegal) bookmaking that existed prior to OTB, it might work.

In the 1960’s, every neighborhood had "bookies" known to the local police precinct. These "known gamblers" frequented particular candy stores and bars and a social milieu developed around the practice. Working men would traditionally gather in the evenings after dinner to "schmooze" (talk to each other) and await the racing results or to learn the "number."

We hope the OTB plan succeeds, since gambling will inevitably go on, and legal gambling is better then the illegal variety.

TA. Negotiations on the 2008-2010 contract have not yet been completed with the Transit Authority. As a result, our members at the TA are still waiting for raises due a year and half ago.

From the start, the TA delayed negotiations while awaiting the results of the Transport Workers Union arbitration. The TWU won the arbitration and the MTA board went "bonkers" over the decision. According to the rules we live by, arbitration is the final word. The MTA, however, chose to go to court. The court, as expected, upheld the arbitration award of 4%, 4%, and 3% for a three year contract.

In spite of the finality of the decision, the MTA has not yet returned to the bargaining table, not for OSA nor for any other union awaiting last year's contract. Instead, the MTA, having lost in arbitration and in court, appears to have gone off the deep end. They can’t afford free transportation for school children; can’t afford to run the trains and buses. Their investments are way down. Their real estate is no longer as valuable as it once was and the sky is falling.

At least one well heeled MTA board member blamed Mike Bloomberg for the 4% and 4% raise to City workers. It is sad when the rich fall out into dispute over the cost of us. The truth is that while transit workers do receive a fair wage (thanks to eighty years of union solidarity), no one gets rich driving a bus or cleaning subway cars.

Tim Collins has requested a return to the bargaining table but, at present, it is not clear if the MTA knows where it is going next.

There is a long history of transit strikes in New York City. The very first large one was in 1918 or 1919. That first strike was by the "company" union seeking to get the city officials to agree to increase the 5 cent fare to 8 cents. It was a brief strike and it did not work.

Michael Quill, legendary president of the Transport Workers Union, called a few more successful strikes. The result was that the children of transport workers ate well, lived in decent housing, and were warmly clothed in winter. (I know, I was one of those kids).

Mike Quill was called "Red Mike" by the NY Daily News because he proposed that public transport be free to the public, paid for out of City business taxes. The current problem with the MTA is due to no transit strike at all, and it is a sad moment in time when service cutbacks are blamed on the workers who run the system.

Meanwhile, the TA refused to ask DCAS to hold a Transit Management Analyst exam this year. Instead, they prefer to do it themselves at some future date and at far greater cost. So much for saving money.

Holiday Party. The holiday party went off well this year, although it almost did not occur at all. The story begins with our first party ten years ago. The union had expanded to more than ten thousand square feet of office space as our numbers grew over the years. It was a neat idea to decorate the office and open it for a holiday party and it worked… the first year.

In the next couple of years, as word of the party spread, the numbers arriving could not be comfortably accommodated so it was decided to rent a space to handle the crowd. The 67th St Armory worked well its first year, but by the second year it became overcrowded and, eventually, we had to go elsewhere. Overcrowded in each place as we went, we finally reached the ballroom of the Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn.

What had started as a "neat" idea had turned into a "problem." So many people wanted to come to the party. Also, while for the first year the attendance was largely our own members and their families, after a while we were hosting hundreds of members from other local unions and even complete strangers.

Two years ago, our first effort at limiting attendance was both too severe and also did not work. We held down attendance by discouraging family attendance, but still hundreds of members of other unions arrived holding free tickets originally sent to our OSA members.

This year, we decided to charge $39 for each ticket. The proposed charge was told to over fifty members at the 2008 holiday party. Only two objected. The proposed charge was discussed at length in the January 2009 mailing as well as the reasons for the proposed charge. The proposed charge was approved by the union executive board and discussed at the January 2009 general membership meeting. At the meeting, some members thought $39 was too much and other members were angry that the union was subsidizing the party in the first place.

This Fall, as soon as the mailing went out actually charging for the party, there were two reactions. First, a small number of very aggrieved members called to denounce the leadership for any charge at all. Second, most members simply failed to send for tickets.

We came very close to canceling the party, but the Executive Board finally decided to try a "two for one sale" on tickets. The "sale" worked and hundreds of tickets were sold. On the night of the party, 535 members and family attended the event. Noticeably absent was the large number of members of other unions and complete strangers who had attended in recent years.

There was no overcrowding, plenty of food for all and the overall cost, instead of increasing once again, went down for the first time in ten years. Some members, it is clear, are furious because they believe the union owes them the annual party, and at no cost. In response, it must be noted that many fine unions have never held a union holiday party at all. A survey of all City unions to find which ones do or do not have holiday parties (free or otherwise) would be of interest.

Want To Be A Manager?The recent story of raises for managers at the Department of Education is dismal. Whereas unionized employees have, in most cases, obtained 4% and 4% for the current two year period, managers at the Department of Education have just been rewarded with 2% a year for four years.

The current campaign for representation of all Education Analysts by the UFT could not come at a better time. At present, hundreds of Analysts at the Department of Education have been improperly designated as managerial. Their raises are smaller, vacation days less and grievance rights are non existent. OSA is very pleased to be working with the AFT/UFT to bring these managers the right to collective bargaining.

Exam Preparation. The union training for the upcoming Analyst exams has gone well so far. Hundreds of members were assisted on the proper filing of the Education and Experience papers. Counselors were available seven days or evenings a week at the union office and, except for a rush at the last minute, there was little crowding and very short waits for service.

The classroom training is even more extensive. There are hundreds of pages of study materials online, a score of experienced instructors, over a dozen support personnel and the use of 335 Adams Street classrooms of the UFT.

Although scores of folks are involved in providing the service, two individuals stand out. First, George Morgan is the recipient of all those phone calls, faxes, and letters. Second, Sheila Gorsky, our Civil Service "maven" keeps the three ring circus running smoothly for the most part and is responsible for the cookies and juice as well. The UFT has been kind enough to provide us with coffee. Thank you, UFT.

General Membership Meeting. The general membership meeting is scheduled for January 28, 2010 at the union office at 220 East 23rd St, Suite 707, between Second and Third Avenues, starting promptly at 6pm.

You may download a flyer here to remind you of the date and time of the meeting or to post at your location.