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Why did Campion write the 10/28 Office of Labor Relations Letter on Health Care?

December 9, 2022 pm31 3:11 pm

Mulgrew called it a “bombshell.” The UFT and DC37 immediately sent horrified letters to their members. They both began lobbying campaigns in reaction.

The UFT leadership (Mulgrew and crew, aka “Unity”) are locked in a desperate fight with the UFT members and the UFT retirees – Mulgrew and company 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.

A major event in this struggle was the letter from NYC OLR Commissioner Renee Campion to Harry Nespoli and the MLC (and by extension Michael Mulgrew.)
It threatened to ask Scheinman to force the retirees into a Medicare Advantage plan.
But Campion, Nespoli, Mulgrew, all already agreed.
Why write a letter when sender and recipients agree?

Renee Campion, Commissioner of the New York City Office of Labor Relations, wrote on October 28 that unless the City Council got moving on amending Section 12-126 of the City’s Administrative Code, that OLR would ask arbitrator Martin Scheinman to intervene and throw all of our retirees onto Medicare Advantage.

Pass the amendment to 12-126, she writes, or I’m bringing this to Scheinman.

Scheinman, for his part, had already weighed in on the matter. In a letter to the Office of Labor Relations on September 30, he wrote:

“Thus, absent the proposed amendment to the Administrative that would redress what the Court found missing in current Code § 12-126, I would determine the City and the MLC shall eliminate Senior Care as an option.”

He goes on to discuss the other option he would consider, to make in-service members pay premiums, and indicates that he does not prefer that option.

So on October 27 we were living in a world where Mulgrew and the UFT leadership wanted to amend 12-126, the rest of the Municipal Labor Committee (Nespoli et al) wanted to amend 12-126, NYC (Adams) and its Office of Labor Relations (Campion) wanted to amend 12-126, the arbitrator who might rule on what to do wanted to amend 12-126.

What was new on October 28?

On October 28 we were living in this same world, but with a “bombshell” letter from Campion. It was addressed to Nespoli and the MLC. DC37 and the UFT responded immediately. But all the players, authors, recipients, and potential arbitrator, all of them already agreed. Why write that letter, if everyone already agreed?

Who did not agree?

Retirees did not agree. They had been fighting against the change to the City’s Administrative Code. They were calling city council members, a lot. And effectively. Some council members went public with their opposition to the change. More made private comments that were leaning against the change. None of them came out in support of the Mulgrew/MLC amendment.

In service members (of the UFT) mostly were not involved. The leadership did not have a strategy to counter the retirees. And some in-service members, mostly opposition, were already on the ball, also contacting city council members, opposing the amendment to 12-126.

The Problem Facing the Conspirators

Mulgrew, Campion, Adams, Nespoli, Garrido, Scheinman, etc all agreed – they wanted to amend 12-126 so that they could impose a (future) Medicare Advantage plan. Future? Yes, because their selected company had pulled out. In any case, they agreed about amending the administrative code. But they’d been beaten to the punch. The City Council had been well-lobbied, by on the ground constituents, retirees, and was not in any mood to consider the MLC/NYC proposal. It was not worth facing hundreds or thousands of angry retired constituents.

The Letter – Possible Purpose 1:

Perhaps New York City was angry at the unions (who NYC was cooperating closely with) for not lobbying well or hard enough? In that context, an angry letter telling them to get a move on might have been in order.

But this letter is not angry. Campion does not disagree with Mulgrew. If they all just needed to lobby harder, they could have agreed in private.

The Letter – Possible Purpose 2:

Mulgrew and Garrido could have reported to Campion and Scheinman that they were so far unable to get their members to engage in favor of their amendment (unable to rally their in-service against their retirees). All sides may have agreed that a scary letter from Campion would be the best way to motivate in-service workers to campaign for amending 12-126, and against the retirees.

More Likely?

The letter feels like a collaborative effort between the City and the MLC to scare the members.

It just does not make sense for Campion to scold Nespoli, Mulgrew, and Garrido, when they have been working hand in hand every step of the way to push retirees into Medicare Advantage.

We cannot know what happens between Mulgrew and the City, since Unity’s policy is to keep all negotiations secret from UFT members.

But we do know the UFT and DC37 had the same response to their memberships the following day.

All sides already agreed. A letter without new information. A coordinated response. If the UFT, DC37, and the MLC were going to coordinate with the City to bully in-service members into lobbying against the retirees, this letter is what that coordination would look like.

Do I have Evidence?

No. I do not have evidence. But this feels like how Unity operates.

How I imagine it:

Back room, darkened, in City Hall. Campion and a few staff members, Mulgrew and some aide who was never a teacher, Nespoli, Garrido. There’s an insurance exec who doesn’t speak.

“Where are we on amending 12-126?”

“City Council isn’t moving. They are scared shitless of the retirees.”

“We can’t move until this amendment passes”

“We have been lobbying the City Council. We have assigned our best full-time staff. We are not getting anywhere.”

“We have been leaning on them. But we can’t withhold neighborhood projects for this one vote.”

“Can you get the retirees to stop calling and telling them not to amend?”

A few silent beats as eyes roll around the table.

“OK, can you get other retirees to call and tell them YES, amend? Then they can claim they were getting mixed messages.”

“Members are afraid of pissing off the retirees in their district. A few calls the other way won’t do it.”

“We could get active members to call?”

“Mine don’t care enough. They think this is all about retirees.”

“You could explain? They know they are next, right?”

“They might get angry, too. We have to be careful about not giving too much detail.”

“There should be something bad that will happen if they don’t help us nail the retirees.”

“That’s it. Renee, can you write a scary letter to the three of us? We will use it to scare the members into lobbying against the retirees.”

Campion nods yes. The insurance exec smiles and walks out.

One last thing – Keep making those calls

This is not over. For now the fight is to STOP Mulgrew/Unity and the Municipal Labor Committee and New York City from amending 12-126. Reach out to your council member – even if you have already done so, do it again – and tell them NOT to amend 12-126.

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