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Healthcare Debacle: Mulgrew’s in Trouble, but He Still Owns the Microphone

December 4, 2022 am31 5:55 am

The UFT leadership (Mulgrew and crew, aka “Unity”) are locked in a desperate fight with the UFT members and the UFT retirees – Mulgrew and co are struggling to reduce how much health care we receive, in order to pay a debt they incurred years ago – we are battling to prevent them, to preserve our health care.
Because the politicians and the insurance companies and big business are on Mulgrew’s side, you might think he is a heavy favorite to defeat the members and the retirees.
But so far we have successfully held him off.

In desperation, Mulgrew and Unity are falling back on their tried and true trick #1: denying their opponents the ability to speak with other members.

There is a battle in New York City. A David vs Goliath battle. A battle with a retiree group allied with labor activists on one side, and Mayor Adams, the Municipal Labor Committee, and the United Federation of Teachers leadership under president Michael Mulgrew on the other.

A judge ruled in favor of the retirees, and against Mulgrew (and Nespoli and Garrido and Mayor Adams – ie, against the UFT and the other big city union and against the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC). And against the City of New York.) Mulgrew loss.

A panel of five appeals judges ruled the same way. Another Mulgrew loss.

Fifty city council members seem unwilling to introduce the legislation that Mulgrew wants, to amend section 12-126 of the administrative code so that the UFT/MLC and Adams can force retirees into Medicare Advantage. The retirees have been lobbying against, in advance, good on them, and they seem to have made city council members reluctant to play footsie with Mulgrew, at least for now. Another Mulgrew loss.

Mulgrew’s Court of Last Resort

I guess Mulgrew’s court of last resort is our membership. And Unity, faced with losses in every other venue, had no choice. Armed with weak arguments that few believe, they have been trying to convince our membership. To convince them of what? For now, to support the change to 12-126. No matter how thick Unity is, they are not trying to sell members on Medicare Advantage, not today. That blew up in Unity’s faces when they tried to convince our sharp retirees that “Silver Sneakers” would make up for prior authorizations (and denials). Yeah, right.

Unity has been facing opposition. Even some in their ranks are worried about what they are doing to healthcare. And those opposed to Unity and Mulgrew have been vocal. What do they do?

Stifle Dissent

Mulgrew and company should do some heavy thinking about why their moves to force retirees into Medicare Advantage, and to revise a city law that protects in-service and retired members, have done so poorly with UFT members. Instead, they behave as if they could get their way on the backs of the members, if only independent voices could be silenced. And so that’s what they are doing. Silencing, as best they can, those who disagree.

Through this entire health care mess Mulgrew has assiduously avoided calling on people who might challenge this health care mess at the Delegate Assemblies. And you know how he has calls pre-screened at the Town Halls.

Debate, even within the UFT’s own healthcare committees, is stifled. Committee members aren’t allowed to communicate with each other on the committee mailing lists. When retiree health committee member Bennett Fischer sent an email debating the UFT’s stance on amending the city code, the RTC committee chairman accused Bennett of sending personal emails (the email was about the health care debate, and was political, not personal). “Your email is, to my memory, the first email from a member of the committee to the committee’s members. I had asked when the committee was formed that everyone respect the member’s email addresses and not use them for personal purposes.” Can you imagine – a committee that was formed over eighteen months ago, and only one email sent among the members at large? Meanwhile, the chair himself uses almost every email – including the one where he petulantly chided Bennett – to promulgate his own personal opinions of the debate.

Another Path

There is, of course, another route. Unity could listen to the membership. They could consider other ways to protect the Stabilization Fund, without taking money from members’ pockets. They could remember who they are supposed to represent.

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