Monday, February 13, 2023

UFT Leadership Chooses Sacred Cows Over Member Health

It's been a very rough year for Michael Mulgrew and all the folks sitting around 52 Broadway. This is largely due to the shitstorm they stirred up when they tried to dump all our retirees into an inferior health plan (except those sufficiently privileged to buy their way out). 

They thought it would be a cakewalk. They failed to anticipate the backlash, the losing lawsuits, or the City Council stepping up to protect those who served this city. 

They are not used to losing, and smelling loss, Mulgrew threatened rank and file with a $1500 premium if we didn't screw the retirees. That's still a possibility if they don't find another solution.

They need to satisfy the debt they incurred in 2018, when they made an idiotic deal with MLC behind our backs to cut health care. And there are ways to do that without tossing retirees into the briny deep. One way would be to consolidate city welfare funds. Why do we need a separate organization for each union, especially when each is in the same business, providing the same benefits?

An argument I get is that the UFT Welfare Fund does a great job. They administrate, overseeing reimbursement for eyeglasses and dental work. As far as I can tell, though, much of this work is outsourced. There is an actual insurance company negotiating our dental insurance, and some online entity now doing eyeglasses. I'm still awaiting reimbursement for glasses I got in January. I'm also waiting for the 50 bucks I overpaid when taking an MRI at a supposedly cheaper provider. These are minor issues.

But how good is the Welfare Fund if you have a major issue? My daughter went to an orthodontist who prescribed night braces, for months, that she did not need. I went for a second opinion, and the other orthodontist said it was a waste of time and energy. (And money.) I went to the second one. The first then put in a claim that the night braces were the actual braces. I complained to the Welfare Fund. They said they were sorry, did nothing, gave the first orthodontist full payment, and I had to pay the full cost of real braces, thousands of dollars out of pocket, for my daughter. 

I had an oral cancer, and my mouth was treated with radiation. Consequently, I have dire dental issues. Recently a UFT periodontist prescribed a cleaning procedure that was supposed to cost me $70 per quadrant. I went to get the first half my mouth done, and they charged me $300, 160 more than UFT agreed upon. The extra charge, they said, was for an oral rinse. I said if I'd wanted an oral rinse, I'd have gone to CVS and bought a bottle of Scope for 10 dollars. 

I called the Welfare Fund, who said they'd give this dentist a strong talking-to. The dental office was unmoved. I was able to protest this fee via my credit card, and was successful. (Thanks for nothing, UFT Welfare Fund.) The periodontist charged for three quadrants rather than two, and I didn't bother calling my good friends at the Welfare Fund again. How many strong talkings-to could this periodontist take? And whose welfare, exactly, is our Welfare Fund representing?

I don't believe a consolidated Welfare Fund would be any less efficient than the one we already have. It would surely be a hell of an improvement over screwing our retirees. However, patronage is what keeps UFT leadership ticking. It is, in fact, what keeps their Unity Caucus in perpetual control. They aren't going to give up a bunch of high-paying union jobs, and whatever power they deem associated with them. The highly-paid, dual-pensioned elites who run the welfare fund contend otherwise, and suggest consolidation would result in mismanagement.

The fact is we have already consolidated health care, via the MLC, which negotiates it for us. Now on this point I agree they're doing a terrible job, but that's only because they make dumbass decisions without consulting rank and file. That can and must be fixed.  That doesn't seem to cross the minds of those in leadership. Of course, who wants to surrender highly-paid, dual-pensioned gigs just to protect the health care of thousands upon thousands of men and women who spent their lives working for New York City?

This may very well be why Michael Mulgrew, despite a UFT resolution proclaiming otherwise, virulently opposes the New York Health Act, which would grant all New Yorkers premium-free health care, maintain Medicare for all our retirees, and actually eliminate the need for the GHI senior care plan that has Mulgrew and Adams freaking out all over creation. 

If Michael Mulgrew wants to represent the interests of working teachers, he needs to embrace cost-cutting measures that don't debase the health care of retired or working teachers. At the very least, he needs to give up our proprietary Welfare Fund. At best, he'd not only do that, but also embrace the health and well-being of all our NY State brothers and sisters by a. negotiating with the sponsors of the NY Health Act, and b. publicly supporting and embracing it.

Thanks to Daniel Alicea.

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