Saturday, December 03, 2022

UFT Leadership Establishes New Negotiating Policy

I'm increasingly impressed with what UFT caucus Retiree Advocate did. They got together with other city union members and supported the lawsuit that put a halt to the "savings" program so revered by our union leadership. 

Retiree Advocate did precisely what union does. Union organizes. Union fights. Union demands better working conditions. Union sets examples to improve its lot, and thus pull up other working people as well.

Our leadership, on the other hand, berates Retiree Advocate, calls them troublemakers, says they screwed up everything, and follows up by demanding absolute fealty.  Rather than organize against the city, the union demands we get on board with the "savings" program.

We now know said savings are entirely for the city, entirely at our expense, to the tune of 600 million a year (so far, until our brilliant leadership makes yet another deal). The way the city chose to save this money was by dumping all retirees into a Medicare Advantage plan OR charging $191 a month to keep the program they had. 

Of course, the city got a lot of help from the Municipal Labor Committee, a group of various union leaders, including ours. These leaders decided to mortgage our futures in exchange for modest salary gains, at or near cost of living. Somehow, they muster the audacity to call that a good deal.

These people are the worst negotiators I've ever encountered.  How do you trade something of such great value for salary increases that are just okay, but no big deal? While I'm sure these negotiators are highly compensated and can afford better drugs than say, working teachers, they ought not to take them while on the job.

I might retire soon. I was at first open to trying this plan. It sounded okay. All doctors who accepted Medicare would take it. And Emblem Health, my provider for decades, would run it. However, all of the above turned out to be untrue. Not all doctors would take it. And Emblem, viewing the gross ineptitude we see more of each and every day, dropped out.

Like many, I was left with even less faith in the people negotiating this program. 

The other day I had an MRI. Emblem Health approved it pretty quickly. I made it a point to select a RadNet facility, because I'd gotten an email stating the copay there would be $50. It was $100 everywhere else, due to the "savings" program. However, the RadNet facility charged me $100.

I contacted friends in UFT, who put me in touch with someone from the Welfare Fund. I may get my 50 bucks back. Regardless, this further underlines the incompetence of the people asking for our trust. They should have made sure RadNet knew about and acted on this deal, if indeed there was one (just like they should have made sure all doctors accepted that Advantage plan).

The thing that irrevocably pushed me over the edge was the email from Mulgrew stating we needed to support changing the code setting minimum health care costs for city workers. If we didn't allow that, he said, in-service members would be charged $1500 a year for health care. Let's set aside the fact that health care needs to be negotiated, and Eric Adams cannot unilaterally impose charges. The fact is, that email pitted one faction of our union against another. That's absolutely unacceptable. That's not what union is or does. 

Union leaders ought not to be threatening their members. They ought to be threatening our employers. Instead of that, they're acting as shills for our employers and demanding we tow the line. They're lecturing us, saying we ought not to protest. They warn us of the consequences of disobedience, as though we're recalcitrant children.  In fact, we're organized labor. Protest should be in our DNA.

There are a number of things that can happen here. Absolutely none of them are good for membership. We're looking at diminished health care for the most vulnerable among us, those who can least afford having fewer options. We're looking at exploding copays and possibly premiums for Emblem/ GHI. Every possible solution will be loathed by some, if not all, of membership.

It is disgraceful that our leadership, faced with the consequences of a poorly conceived health deal they ought never to have made, would determine to simply sell out any faction of membership, let alone those who can least afford it. The fact is, even if they succeed, we have no guarantee they won't sell out some other faction in the very near future. Again, I marvel that anyone could negotiate so poorly.

Of course, UFT leadership cannot conceive, ever, that they may have done something wrong. That's why they ridicule those who dare suggest they're wrong. That's why they know better than Retiree Advocate. What, ORGANIZE? Why would anyone do that when you could simply CAPITULATE?

And we, the membership, are forced into the position of having to negotiate against leadership, rather than management. What we desperately need is leadership that will fight for us, rather than Eric Adams. Leadership does not, will not, cannot see that. As a result, its long unchallenged Unity Caucus may finally have issued itself a mortal wound.

They just don't see it. They can't and won't see anything. That, evidently, would violate policy.

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