Friday, November 04, 2022

Beware The Zero-Sum Game

When Michael Mulgrew writes to say we have to make retirees pay more, or in-service members will pay more, he's engaging in a zero-sum game. 

Make no mistake--this is a desperate move. He's pitting us against other union members to try and dig himself out of the quicksand he secretly inserted in the 2018 contract. We were never notified of the health saving promised in that contract, and it's unconscionable that it was buried somewhere in there as we voted for what appeared a plain vanilla contract.

I wasn't actually sure what a zero-sum game was until I read The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. In a zero-sum game, every time one person gains something, another loses. The illustration at left shows only one person gets ice cream, when of course there could be more, or it could be shared. 

In the United States, zero-sum games cost us a lot more than an ice-cream cone. Whenever things like civil rights are promoted, opponents suggest if those people get rights, you will lose yours. And somehow, people buy it. 

This is why you get absurd movements like "defense of marriage." In fact, no one's marriage is threatened if we allow people to marry who they choose. If a man marries another man, that won't end Marjorie Taylor Greene's marriage. It turned out her adultery had a lot more to do with that than two guys somewhere who chose to share their lives together. 

On a more basic level, we're the only industrialized country on earth that doesn't offer health care for all. You'll read all sorts of nonsense, calling it "socialized medicine," but I've seen people die as a result of our miserable health care system. My father fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and toward the end of his life he was scrambling to unload everything he ever worked for. He could not afford appropriate elder care, and needed to qualify for Medicaid so his wife wouldn't lose their home once he passed. 

Job-related health care was a great benefit to people who could get decent jobs. Who do you suppose got better jobs after WWII? Here's a clue--my dad was able to buy a home due to the GI Bill. But people of color were largely denied this benefit.  In fact, people of color were denied standard mortgages and were largely cut out of the middle class boom that followed the war. Read The Sum of Us for chapter and verse. 

Remember when Obamacare started, and they vilified him for saying he lied when he said you'd get to keep your health care? It turned out the program set minimum standards for health care, and those companies that didn't meet them didn't make it. People would have to sign into Obamacare and get better policies. No one really lost, but you wouldn't know that from watching Fox News. The GOP tried very hard to kill it.

Of course Obama didn't get to offer a public option. That would've been dangerous. There would be no corporate profits to worry about and such an option would prove more than competitive. Perish forbid some rich guy sitting around in his mansion were deprived of a paycheck. Better people you and I pay more, so the rich guy can construct another chateau in the south of France.

Now, of course, we receive email from the President of the UFT saying if we don't change a law, so the city can pay less for our health care, in-service members would pay more. That makes our health care a zero-sum game. And it's not only Mulgrew doing this.

She's right about that. Still, I don't much love the implication that our salaries are the problem here. She's also been quoted as saying,  “The unions shouldn’t be taking this out on current retirees. Their changes should be effectuated on active employees or future retirees."

Zero-sum games hold us back and need to stop. Neither retirees nor in-service members should be penalized for wanting to be as healthy as possible. We need to hold together and draw a line in the sand here. 

Full disclosure--I supported the 2018 contract, and it's the only one I voted for in my living memory. It looked fairly innocuous, with raises that were at or near cost of living. Like most, I had no idea that UFT leadership had agreed to massive health care savings and kept it from us. As far as I'm concerned, none of us voted for this. Along with the overwhelming majority of UFT members, I was duped.

Unless I see the fine print, I will never vote yes on another contract. I'm sorely disappointed to see my trust broken. I won't let it happen again, and you shouldn't either. 

Contact your city council member and urge a NO vote on any changes to Administrative Code 12-126.

blog comments powered by Disqus