Saturday, October 29, 2022

UFT--If We Don't Surrender, We Will Lose

I was pretty shocked to get an email from Michael Mulgrew suggesting I needed to tweet out support for the City Council to change the law. 

The law in question says the city can't charge us for health care. That's why a lawsuit demanding the end of a charge to remain in Medicare with GHI prevailed. No matter how much swagger Adams has, he can't change the law. (To unilaterally change a law in NYC, you have to be Mike Bloomberg and buy everyone off.)

The email contained a passage that surprised me.

The city’s Office of Labor Relations sent a letter to the head of the Municipal Labor Committee giving the unions notice of its intent to enroll all Medicare‑eligible city retirees in a NYC Medicare Advantage plan and eliminate all other retiree health plans, including GHI SeniorCare. If the unions don’t go along with it, the city has threatened annual health care premiums of roughly $1,500 for all in‑service municipal employees.

So let's see if I've got this straight.  If we don't agree that retirees must pay $5,000 a year per couple to retain the care they've had forever, in-service members will have to pay $1500 a year. It's kind of hard to see the union in that. In fact, it appears we're pitting one section of the union against another. 

I just read Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven Greenhouse.  It's a wonderful book detailing the history of union in the United States. Nowhere in the book was there an inspiring tale of a union that gave up and lost rights. Nowhere was there a touching story of a union that pitted retired members against in-service members to prop up a privatized version of health care.

There were stories of inspired leadership facing bosses, sometimes with strikes, and sometimes with other creative actions that precluded them. Personally, I don't remember the last significant boots on the ground UFT action. Maybe someone can remind me. On Facebook, I see small protests that may include some UFT employees, but I don't see rank and file as a whole out doing anything anymore. 

I'm not sure most UFT members even know what a union is. When I was chapter leader and we were facing a strike, a member came up to me and said, "I'm going to be a scab." I reacted angrily, and the member was surprised. This member clearly expected me to laugh it off and say "Okay good buddy, go ahead and cross our picket line."

The MLC is moving us backward. If we are to fight, we must fight for improvements, not inferior health care. And again, it's unconscionable that one faction of our union is being pitted against another. This is not how we create solidarity. This is not how we inspire activism. This is not how we move forward. 

I've been writing for some time about this Medicare Advantage thing. At first I was willing to try it, but the consistent ineptitude of leadership has turned me off to it utterly. First they failed to recruit doctors for the plan. Then they failed to check applicable law and lost in court. Now they send us an email that feels like a gun to our heads--if you don't support a poorly conceived plan that has failed at every juncture for retirees, active members will have to pay.

That's not a particularly persuasive argument. We deserve better from our leadership. No, President Mulgrew, I will not be sending tweets demanding that city council degrade health care for retirees. We should be fighting to improve it. And once again, it's unconscionable that we oppose the NY Health Act

This is a quagmire. There is no victory in that email. It's the job of leadership to better our lot, not march us off a cliff.

MLC and UFT leadership need to work toward a better solution, or stand down for someone who will.

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