Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sleep With One Eye Open

That may be good advice for working people in New York City. GHI and HIP are embroiled in a project to merge and adopt "for-profit" status. It's hard for any objective soul to imagine privatization will benefit those of us, 90% of city employees, who utilize these services.

When Americans can't get insurance because of pre-existing conditions, when the number one cause of bankruptcy is catastrophic medical emergency, and when people are literally dying because they are uninsured, more "for-profit" entities are hardly the answer.

You'd think that union leaders would be looking out for their members. But you'd be sorely mistaken. There's a huge windfall here in the form of an IPO, and union leaders have an eye on precisely who will be reaping the considerable profits:
The municipal unions are also looking to share in what has been estimated as up to a $5 billion windfall from an IPO if the new company becomes a for-profit. There was actually some internal friction a couple of years ago after a group of uniformed union presidents led by Sergeants' Benevolent Association head Edward Mullins supported a bill in Albany that would have allowed Service Employees International Union Local 1199 to share in a significant piece of the windfall if HIP became a for-profit. While Local 1199 is one of the state's largest unions and a political powerhouse in Albany, it represents only about 2,000 city workers, and there were concerns expressed by Ms. Weingarten and others that it might wind up with a disproportionate share of the IPO money.

The amount of money the unions receive is not remotely as important as maintaining affordable and adequate coverage for working people. I see precious little evidence Ms. Weingarten and other union leaders are giving this adequate consideration. It's true Ms. Weingarten has written tepid missives hoping that the company would not be sold (at least not immediately):

...rumors persist that upon conversion there will be a “flip” of both the management and control of the converted entity. That is unacceptable. At a minimum, a multi-year “freeze” must be imposed as a condition to the grant of any approval.

Once again, though, Ms. Weingarten's chronic myopia fails to protect working people. Not to belabor the obvious, but what happens after this "freeze?" Ms. Weingarten brought us the ATR mess, and endorsed an entirely ineffectual "hold harmless" clause which failed to help the hundreds of teachers now caught in this unnecessary limbo. She also declared victory on the class size issue on the basis of a nebulous unenforceable law that proved 100% ineffectual.

And here's a little more of Ms. Weingarten's letter, looking to enrich union coffers:

As I noted in my February 8 letter, our initial concern remains that if the state, through your agency, approves conversion, both New York City and its unions must share in the proceeds since it was their assets and business that made possible the current financial viability of HIP-GHI. Any approval, therefore, must make provision therefore.

There is certainly monetary benefit for shareholders in "for-profit" status. But it doesn't take a genius to know who will pay so others may benefit. Now Ms. Weingarten, who makes many times the salary of any teacher, has little reason for concern. But you and I had better keep an eye on her.

Ms. Weingarten is much admired by Rod "The NEA is a terrorist organization" Paige because she gave Mayor Bloomberg everything but the kitchen sink in 2005 (She's saving the sink for his successor). Whether or not she worries about the welfare of those she ostensibly represents, her complete and utter lack of foresight is ignored at our peril.

And, no kidding, our very lives are at stake.
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