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Freedom Day – NYC – February 3, 1964 (repost)

February 3, 2023 am28 10:19 am

(This is a repost of my Freedom Day 2021 blog. I was born the very next day after Freedom Day. I celebrated my birthday the last few years by teaching students about Freedom Day – telling the history, the background, why it is important today. But I am not teaching today. The links in this post are minimal. To learn more see 1) this awkward but well-meaning attempt to link my birthday with Freedom Day, 2) last year’s birthday post that has something in it about Freedom Day, or 3) The Battle Nearer Home – The Persistence of School Segregation in New York City – new book published this summer, by Chris Bonastia, with LOTS of details about what happened)

Freedom Day – NYC – February 3, 1964.

Half a million boycotted school, demanding integration.

How come we don’t know about this? How come we don’t teach it?

I’ve been talking about it. Now let’s have some others do the talking:

From Time Magazine, September 2020:

(that’s an 8 minute video. There’s also a print story)

Image result for wnyc logo

From WNYC Radio, story by Yasmeen Khan, February 2016:

(that’s a 7 minute audio)

A Healthcare Week

January 13, 2023 pm31 7:38 pm

Medicare Advantage Hearing

On Monday the NYC City Council held a hearing on Medicare Advantage. It was technically a hearing about amending NYC Administrative Code Section 12-126, but everyone knew it was just about forcing retirees off of Medicare into Medicare Advantage. The hearing went on for almost 12 hours. I joined about 15 minutes in (via zoom) and stayed to the bitter end.

Mulgrew and the MLC testified in favor of forcing retirees into Medicare Advantage. So did a panel of UFT/Unity loyalists (including ex-officers). And of course the Office of Labor Relations (OLR) did, too. One of the funniest moments came when OLR Deputy Commissioner Claire Levitt said that retirees did not need to worry about prior authorizations. Chair Carmen de la Rosa issued a warning – not to Levitt for outrageous and insulting lie, but to the audience, who broke into spontaneous laughter.

I probably should have signed up to speak, but I didn’t. I paid attention, listened closely. I texted people in the room to get some clarifications. But I didn’t testify in person or by zoom. So I thought I’d better submit written testimony – which I did.

Nurses Strike

Nurses (NYSNA) at Montefiore and Mount Sinai struck on Monday. Primary issue? Staffing levels. Understaffing compromises patient care, and burns out nurses. Understaffing means nurses can be recruited, but move on – retention is horrible. “Safe staffing – Saves lives!” was the number one chant.

By the way, the need to work at RETENTION (recruitment is important, but it means nothing without retention) has been a massive failure for at least the last two decades in the New York City Department of Education, and has received far too little attention from my union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). In fact, when I started blogging, almost twenty years ago, I wrote about retention, that the nurses are paying such close attention to today. I sensed the Department and the union were focused only on recruitment, and without retention initiatives that would just lead to a revolving door, which remains a problem today, and hurts all of us. Anyway, back to the strike…

I live close enough to one of the Montefiore campuses. Monday I was busy. But Tuesday I walked to the picket line. And Wednesday I went back – agreed with some folks to go at 7, and then shifted to noon. There were bucket loads of politicians. Carmen de la Rosa, Adrienne Adams, Eric Dinowitz – all of whom I’d seen on the zoom on Monday. There were assembly people, other council people, and state senators, including my current – Gustavo Rivera, and my former – Jamaal Bailey. And other union people. And this woman, below, who gave a good speech. Sorry I don’t take a great video, but watch, if you can bear to.

The strike was settled Wednesday night. Nurses won, and returned to work on Thursday.

Other Health

And today I went to the doctor. Dermatologist. Annual visit. Checked out ok.

That makes this a pretty full healthcare week.

Where was Scheinman? Testimony for the 12-126 Hearing

January 12, 2023 pm31 10:15 pm

I did not testify in front of the City Council committee on Monday – so I thought it would be important to submit something in writing – even if it was not brilliant. Here goes:

.

.

.

JANUARY 12, 2023

TESTIMONY SUBMITTED

BY

ME 😀

TO

THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL

COMMITTEE ON CIVIL SERVICE AND LABOR

HON. CARMEN DE LA ROSA, CHAIRPERSON

REGARDING

INT. NO. 874

A LOCAL LAW TO AMEND SECTION 12-126 OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE CODE OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK IN RELATION TO HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR

CITY EMPLOYEES, CITY RETIREES, AND THEIR DEPENDENTS

Thank you for affording me this opportunity to testify.

I am a recently retired New York City teacher, having served over 25 years at Christopher Columbus HS and the HS of American Studies at Lehman College, both in the Bronx. At 58 I am not Medicare-eligible.

I listened to all twelve hours of questions and testimony on Monday, via zoom.

It seems obvious that all parties, except OLR and the MLC, recognize that the Medicare Advantage is inferior to the coverage our Medicare-eligible retirees currently have. Prior authorizations loom large. And we have evidence, in the tens of thousands of opt-outs, that our retirees believe this to be true.

The MLC and OLR and Scheinman, the entire “Tripartite Committee” agreed over a year ago that they wanted Medicare Advantage, with the option for retirees to keep Senior Care, but with a penalty (the $191). They recognize that no one would willingly switch to Medicare Advantage – thus the penalty. They recognized that an insurer would only take the contract if most retirees were part of that contract. They also recognized that not offering Senior Care with the penalty would open them up to a huge a backlash. My union leaders in particular are dependent on retiree votes in union elections, and sought to avoid such a backlash.

Medicare Advantage and Senior Care with a penalty was win-win-win for the Tripartite Committee and the insurer (first, the Alliance. Today, Aetna). The penalty will force the majority of retirees into Medicare Advantage. The Senior Care option with penalty reduces the size of the backlash.

Judge Frank’s decision disrupted the Tripartite Committee’s plan. Without Senior Care with a penalty, the Committee was not willing to move forward.

I should interject, the committee, while named “Tripartite” has been moving in concert for the entire period of this controversy. There is no evidence that OLR, the MLC or Scheinman have disagreed on any aspect of fact or way forward.

Since Judge Frank’s decision, every action the committee, and its separate parts, has taken, has been to enable their original plan – Medicare Advantage along with Senior Care with a penalty – to go forward. To enable that, they have orchestrated a campaign around 12-126.

That campaign includes the claim that Scheinman has ordered Senior Care be eliminated, unless 12-126 is amended. OLR, the MLC and its constituent parts, and Scheinman have made this claim. I ask that you ask the City Council’s own attorneys to examine this claim. They will determine that Scheinman has no such authority.

By claiming Scheinman has that authority, OLR, the MLC and Scheinman himself are hoping to get 12-126 changed. They are bluffing the City Council. They think they can scare you.

Two-thirds of the Tripartite Committee testified Monday. I believe the missing member did not testify to avoid answering questions about his authority – or as the case may be – his lack of authority.

Every major piece of correspondence, Scheinman’s recommendation document, Ms. Campion’s two letters, the letters from the leaders of the large MLC unions, including my own, the UFT, have appeared to be addressed to someone else. But each of these letters has included a threat directed at the City Council.

Council members the members of the tripartite committee are attempting to scare you into amending the administrative code. Do not let them intimidate you.

PLEASE VOTE AGAINST CHANGING NYC ADMINISTRATIVE CODE SECTION 12-126!

Again, I thank you for affording me the opportunity to testify and I very much hope I have convinced you to oppose changing 12-126.

January 3, 2023

January 3, 2023 pm31 1:02 pm

And I’m retired.

That’s it.

From Jamaica. I’m in a tourist port (Falmouth) so it doesn’t really count, but I like the chicken patties on White Plains Road better.

Not a New Years Post (and a hint about grandfathering)

December 31, 2022 pm31 2:36 pm

I have much to write and say:

  • About retirement (here in practice, imminently official)
  • About Medicare advantage (Mulgrew and Adams are gearing up for a big push – next two/three weeks are crucial)
  • About math. Math is always good. I need to read more, and especially write more.
  • About travel – and there will be trips
  • Puzzles (of course! Puzzles are great!)
  • About reading. Much improvement here. And interesting things

The Medicare will be big in the short term. Stopping our union from screwing retirees has to be at the top of the list.

But I might start with grandfathering. I’ve heard talk that current retirees should be protected. That they should be “grandfathered”. Me, I don’t think so. I’ve long opposed separate deals – they divide us. And me personally? A grandfathering ‘compromise’ would leave me screwed. I’m against grandfathering. Always have been.

Now grandfathers? I’m all in favor of grandfathers. Take a look:

New Beginnings

December 23, 2022 am31 10:10 am
tags:

Yesterday was a big day.

I visited with a relative. We had been pretty close. And then there was a “thing” – a disagreement where I should have stepped in, but stayed silent, and we were both angry, and stayed angry – and almost thirty years have passed since that day. I blame myself. But yesterday I visited, and it was so nice. No regrets, just moving forward. I will visit again.

I have been on terminal leave since the day after Labor Day. Yesterday I filed papers to end my terminal leave. Effective January 3, I will be retired. I have been working for New York City since 1986, for the Board of Education since 1997. Not particularly long, as these things go, but long enough.

I told a few stories in the spring, about the beginnings of my career, and events along the way: Beginning. Applause. Union offices. Sailboat Ride. Subbing. Revolt. I will, in time, tell more.

And I will do something – not just write something – to mark the milestone. But later. When it is warmer.

For today? I did not want the event to pass without mentioning it. Walking out of school for the last time in July felt like a big deal. Filing the papers yesterday did, too.

Another Dice Question

December 22, 2022 pm31 10:39 pm
tags:

The die with the fewest number of sides is the tetrahedron. People often think of it as a pyramid with a triangular base. The three sides are triangles, and so is the base. So there are four identical sides.

Two tetrahedral dice

How many ways can a tetrahedral die be numbered, using the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 exactly one time each?

Same Dice

Two dice are “the same” if they can be rotated until their numbers match up exactly. For example, if you take a tetrahedral die, and place it with the 1 on the base, the and the 3 to your left, the 4 to your right, and the 2 behind, that’s the same as a die with 1 on the base, 4 on the left, 3 behind, and 2 on the right (it’s just been rotated).

Different numberings

How many different numberings are possible?

The way mentioned above is one possibility. How many altogether.

Previous

The same question, but for a cube, with 6 square faces, is here. And some solutions for the cube are here.

UFT Retired Teachers Chapter meeting erupts

December 21, 2022 pm31 11:57 pm

UFT Retired Teachers Chapter Meeting December 13, 2022 (last Tuesday, 8 days ago)

This meeting, which went a bit out of control, has not yet been reported on. So that’s what I’ll do.

First, I was not there. I am not a retiree (though on my way). I spoke to or corresponded with seven people who attended – some Retiree Advocate (RA) people who played a big role, RA people who played smaller roles, and some people who do not belong to RA. That being said, all who spoke with me, including those who are not RA members, are opposed to the changes in healthcare the union leadership (Unity caucus, Mulgrew) are trying to push on the retirees; they are opposed to moving to Medicare Advantage (MA).

Second, there are two Unity people mentioned by name. I know both of them. I like both of them. Nothing here is personal. Even in their roles as Unity members, they kind of did what they were supposed to do. I’m not going to edit out the frustration that retirees felt, but understand, they were playing a role, it’s not them personally.

On the other hand, I’m not sympathizing with their politics. Both are wrong on this very important issue (preserving real Medicare for retirees). And they’ve both done stuff – I’ve seen John Soldini (former High School VP) shut down voices he disagreed with at high school meetings, and I’ve seen Vinny Gaglione (former Bronx Borough Rep) get up at Delegate Assemblies (more than once) and turn a 30 second motivation into a 7 minute speech in order to run out the clock and prevent voices he disagreed with from speaking. When they do things that I think are wrong, I say so. But I don’t think that happened last Tuesday.

Quick Story

I’m going to delay my telling of the events, to tell a story about Vinny Gaglione (who chaired the meeting). This is not about his character, or about his politics, it’s just a story I like.

Almost twenty years ago I was working for Lehman College, teaching Teaching Fellows who were going to become math teachers, but did not have math or allied degrees, and needed some brush up. Now, I wasn’t working for the Fellows directly, which gave me a little extra freedom. I used it, near the end of the term, to bring in a guest, who would tell them a little about surviving in the system. What good is it to train someone in pedagogy if we are not going to give them the tools to keep teaching more than a year or two? The person I invited was my District Rep, Lynne Winderbaum. And Lynne brought with her Vinny Gaglione. (The year before I brought in David Shulman, my previous DR, who sadly passed away over a year ago.)  At some point one of my students, a young man in his twenties, looked at Vinny and asked “Did you teach at PS__? “  I’m not putting in a __ to keep the school anonymous. I don’t remember. But I do remember Vinny’s response: “Noel?” – he remembered his student from 1st or 2nd grade from two decades earlier. Anyway, not related to the topic at hand, but I like the story.

The meeting

Retired Teachers Chapter (RTC) meetings this year have all involved some degree of conflict over the Medicare Advantage (MA) proposal. The union leadership (Unity) has been pushing to 1) negotiate a Medicare Advantage program, first with “the Alliance” (Emblem + someone else) and now with Aetna, 2) force retirees to join said program, 3) make retirees pay to opt out of MA, 4) to change the law so they can force retirees to pay to opt out. Understandably, retirees are not happy with this.

There have been disagreements over facts and over intent at each RTC meeting. And while Unity “wins” the debates (Unity controls the microphone), the number of retirees who have followed this has alarmed Unity. They know they lost a lot of retiree votes in the last RTC election, and the last UFT-wide elections. And they know their arguments do not have a lot of resonance. They lose support each time they debate.

But this meeting, they thought, would be different. December. Holiday Season. They lined up a number of festive events and presentations. Tom Murphy was not there.

But the Medicare Advantage push was still going on. It did not stop for the holidays. Retiree Advocate (RA) leaders asked to bring forward a resolution. Vinny said no, there was no mechanism for remote voting, but the RA people could speak to it during the open mike.

As you will see, it took a long time to get to the question period. But when they got there, all of the comments were about Medicare, nothing else. Vinny tried to direct conversation elsewhere – he did not succeed. He had sent out a notice in advance that this meeting was not about health care. No matter. He called on people who were not RA – and they surprised him by speaking against the Unity healthcare scheme. He called on a longtime Unity member, who got heckled. And cornered, he abruptly ended the meeting, half an hour early, without bothering with a motion to adjourn.

Eyewitness Accounts:

These are all direct quotes from written and oral accounts of people who participated, in person or via zoom.

Before the Meeting

My group, Retiree Advocate/UFT, gave out our literature, as always

We gave out the literature before they went in. They had the resolution on the back.

They agreed to let us bring up the resolution during the open forum, but no way to hold a vote.

The written resolution was apparently given out to the attendees.

We approached Vinny before the meeting.  We gave him a copy of the reso that we would introduce, and we wanted to place it on the table. He agreed (since it was a reso). We would like to motivate it. Vinny said ok, but since there is no motion period it would have to be during open mike.  We would hand it out. Motivate it. Little discussion. He agreed. I stood by the table to make sure they didn’t throw anything out.

Holiday presentations – various takes

I enjoyed seeing the videos or the knitting group from Si Beagle, as well as Marty Raskin’s fascinating school memorabilia

The whole time I was like “they are just wasting our time” they did not want anything substantial to happen at that meeting.

The rest of the meeting was a holiday kind of meeting. UFT chorus. Si Beagle. Art teachers.

They filibustered the meeting. They had a former teacher give a history of artifacts he had about the history of the board of education. For about 45 minutes. I wanted to shoot myself. And a few people spoke. And the UFT Chorus. Holiday songs.

The first part of the meeting was a holiday presentation, with caroling and arts and crafts presentations.

The meeting for the first 75 minutes – I think it was literally designed to kill retirees with boredom so the City no longer had to pay for our health care.  There was a looong video presentation by a quilling instructor. Next there was a presentation with slides of some guy’s collection of NYC public school memorabilia – it went on, and on, with two lengthy introductions. There was a talk about UFT professional committees. Then they moved up the chorus – once cute old people start caroling, I mean, how can you stop them?

Question Period: RA Speaks

At very end of meeting, Gloria gave an intro and Bobby was allowed to motivate the resolution, although he was rushed by Vinny Gaglione, who chaired the meeting

Gloria spoke. She was very good. Laid out some of the arguments for passing this resolution. Bennett wrote a summary, and I read it out.  “Don’t Amend 12-126” with some reasons. I finished. Gloria sat down. I sat down. And all hell broke loose.

When I got to the end there were people cheering me – I’ve never had that happen before. My main point was that a campaign has been underway by our union leadership – but no one in our union has ever had any say – we never voted on this at the DA, at an RTC, at an Executive Board. We didn’t have a democratic process.  When I got to the ending I got dramatic “never have we voted on this. Not at an exec board. Not at a delegate assembly. Not at an RTC. And certainly not the entire membership” And there was cheering. People I did not know were supporting us.

But he did offer us a chance to speak about the resolution during the open-mic question period, and two Retiree Advocate members, Gloria and Bobby, did just that.

Question Period: Retiree Comments

Five speakers. All on this. All very upset at the leadership. Very angry. Some of our people shouted out, and I tried to calm them down. Let the people speak. Everyone calmed down, and we all sat and watched.

Then he called on somebody from Zoom – but also supported us.

They asked questions. It got raucus. I’ve been paying dues all my life. And this is what you do now with the copays we’re getting? People were yelling out.  Soldini got up. That damned guy keeps going with this bullshit, making excuses. Choice, choice.  These were people I didn’t know. They weren’t Retiree Advocate. Just regular people from the audience.

Virtually watching Retiree mtg. Vince G just told attendees that since “we” had heard from both sides of health care issue that remainder of comments CANNOT be on health care. He is getting push back.

Then John Soldini raised his hand and of course was recognized. He gave the elected spiel (We must pass this amendment to preserve “choice”, negotiating on health-care is only a “tradition”, blah blah blah”. I couldn’t control myself and yelled out “That’s not true”. I was immediately censured by Vinny for “calling out”

People began raising their hands, calling out questions about healthcare, and accusing union leadership of withholding information and lying to us. It was rather like those British House of Commons debates that CSPAN carries. John Soldini spoke in favor of union leadership, but was interrupted many times. The chairman tried to stop it. He told us that we had already debated healthcare at past meetings. Many outbursts followed, and not from members of any political group, but from random, angry, scared, and pissed-off seniors who know bullshit when they hear it and were letting Vinny know it.

 I was disturbed by the brusque & haughty attitude shown by those bureaucrats monopolizing what is billed as a ” general membership” meeting. I thought it was more important to deal with the valid concerns a vast number of retirees have about the way the UFT brass continues to sidestep/ minimize the huge issue of the union forcing members to accept privatization of our Medicare!. I realize they forewarned attendees that the issue was already dealt with at the Dec 7 Delegate Meeting- but that is just another lame excuse to avoid criticism! 

The chairman tried to stop it. He told us that we had already debated healthcare at past meetings and that the remainder of the question period must be reserved for talk about the holidays. This, naturally, drew more derisive comments from the crowd. No one was having it. It was condescending. We were being treated as if we were in a nursing home and had been wheeled into the sunroom for the holiday entertainment.

Vince was actively trying to silence those in the room who were appropriately addressing their concerns with current health care direction. There was one person who spoke then after her turn raised her voice over others BUT that was only one person. Other speakers were recognized and spoke their piece and then sat. Vince literally told us that after the first couple of questions/statements that he would not call on anyone who would address health care. He was dictating parameters of member questions. It was atrocious and did not respect the members, the retired members who literally are the backbone of this union.

Adjournment

Vinny didn’t know what to do. Finally called on John Soldini. Unions’ position. People started shouting him down. John got very upset. And they called the meeting and left.

He didn’t make it to the end of the meeting. It fell short of the two hour mark. (which is what had been scheduled)

The virtual meeting was suddenly ended. It just wasn’t there anymore. In my opinion it seemed as if discussion, questions and opinions opposing “UFT” position based on Mulgrew’s statements during Town Hall are not welcome.

After a few more raucous minutes the chairman adjourned the meeting, a full twenty minutes before the automatic adjournment time (and without anyone having offered a motion to adjourn)

But Vinny immediately cut off discussion and that’s when the ruckus started. People calling out all manner of things, Democracy now, You don’t have to protect us from political speech, Let them speak, others can probably fill in more shouts.

The Agenda

My Conclusion

My thoughts: except for adjourning early, I see no major fault with Vinny, except for the huge political error – being wrong on Medicare. The Retiree Advocate people dealt with Vinny in advance, got an agreement, and abided by the agreement. With just one exception, none of the heckling or shouting out was RA.

The real story here is retirees, regular retirees, mad as hell, not going to take it anymore.

More on the Scheinman Recommendations

December 17, 2022 am31 1:57 am

Conversation today has focused on what role Martin Scheinman was playing when he produced the unusual document we received yesterday.

Mulgrew called it a “ruling,” DC37 called it an “award,” the UFT Press Office called it a “decision,” the NY Daily News called it a “ruling,” Unity Caucus said Scheinman “ordered” the City to conclude a deal with Aetna, and Crains says he “ruled.”

Who thinks this was not a “ruling”? Just me and Scheinman

I don’t think it was a ruling. But I don’t count.

Scheinman doesn’t think it was a ruling. Scheinman knows it is not a ruling. Scheinman counts.

Scheinman doesn’t call this a ruling or a decision

Where we expect Scheinman to describe the positions of the parties, he says nothing. When we expect Scheinman to write “this is my award” he instead writes “this is my opinion” (p. 31)

Compare that to what Scheinman writes when he is writing a real arbitration decision (from the Spring Break arbitration):

And of course, those positions:

Me, I don’t think this is a ruling or a decision

Short version – the June 28, 2018 letter Robert Linn, then Commissioner of the Office of Labor Relations (OLR) to Harry Nespoli for the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) has 7 points.

Points 1 – 4 are about 2018 – 2021 “savings” (those are cuts and increases for regular people – savings for Mulgrew, the Commissioners, and Insurance Executives). Those savings were met – as reported by new OLR Commissioner Renee Campion in this memo.

Point 5 calls for a “Tripartite Committee” to look at longterm “savings.” The committee is charged with – wait for this – making a recommendation. Scheinman is not arbitrating. He has not made a mistake. He is making a recommendation – as he is supposed to do – under Point 5.

What about his role as the arbitrator? The last point is point 7 – and it makes Scheinman the arbitrator – but only under specific circumstances: “In the event of any dispute under sections 1 – 4 of this Agreement…” It is quite clear. His role as arbitrator is NOT for Point 5. And Points 1 – 4 have already been satisfied.

And this means?

There are two elements to this.

First: Why tell the world that a recommendation is an arbitration decision? Mulgrew, Scheinman, Nespoli, OLR, the insurance people, the whole cabal – all they seem to want is for the City Council to amend 12-126. In fact, in Scheinman’s recommendation he suggests changing the code. A recommendation would not intimidate members and retirees and City Council members. But an arbitration decision would.

Second: If this is a recommendation, not an award, then it is up to the “parties” what to do with it. But know this – if they follow Scheinman’s suggestions – it will be because the parties agreed to them. If we get Aetna, if we get premiums, if retirees lose Senior Care – it will mean that Mulgrew has agreed to do those things to you.

Back to Scheinman

If Scheinman knows that he issued a recommendation, but he sees that the other members of the committee (they are not parties) and the press are reporting it is a “ruling” or a “decision” does he have an ethical obligation to clarify? Or can the Tripartite Committee choose to withhold information from the public, in the interest of misleading union members, retirees, to better lobby the City Council? And as part of the Tripartite Committee, could Scheinman be obliged not to reveal the deceptive tactic? I can read the ethical guidelines for arbitrators, but if he wasn’t acting as an arbitrator, would those guidelines hold?

And maybe Mulgrew does know?

This is from the Mulgrew email:

“As we expected, an independent arbitrator today ruled that the city and the Municipal Labor Committee should create a new Medicare Advantage plan for Medicare-eligible city retirees.”

Why do they say that the MLC SHOULD create a MA plan, and not that “the MLC is ordered to…” or “the MLC MUST create…”? Maybe this is not such a big discovery. Do you think Mulgrew knows this was a recommendation and not a decision?

Collusion and Bullying by OLR/UFT/MLC (Mulgrew et al)

December 15, 2022 pm31 10:15 pm

Mulgrew is still working from the same playbook.

In October he used a letter from the Office of Labor Relations (OLR) to the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) to scare United Federation of Teachers (UFT) members and retirees. He wants us to support amending Section 12-126 of the New York City Administrative Code.

Today he used an “Opinion and Award” from the Tripartite Committee Chair (and arbitrator), Martin Scheinman, to do the same thing. Mulgrew linked to the UFT “Campaign Page” which campaigns to….? You guessed it. Amend Section 12-126 of the New York City Administrative Code.

Both in October and now the form was the same. Horrible things were about to happen to in-service members, or retirees – unless the City Council agrees to amend Section 12-126 of the New York City Administrative Code.

Mulgrew and his allies are consistent in their messaging.

Collusion

I have made the case before: Mulgrew, Nespoli, Garrido, the whole MLC, Scheinman, Adams, and the City’s financial administration, starting with the OLR, plus the insurance companies – they are all working in concert. They are colluding. And they leave the evidence all over the place

In today’s Mulgrew letter we have some creative use of language. Take a look:

Notice it? “we expected” “we see an opportunity” “we will use the time” “we are committed.” Who’s the “we”? It’s not me. It’s not you. It’s UFT/MLC/OLR/Scheinman/Aetna.

In Scheinman’s “Opinion and Award” there is some language that, while not creative, is strangely familiar. Starting on page 3 where he discusses what happened, he writes “a small group of retirees” – which phrase we have seen before.

To be sure, if it were a small group, that’s what you’d expect it might be called. But with 18,000 facebook followers and 60,000 opt-outs (that’s 10% and a 33% of NYC Medicare retirees, hardly small groups) – one person calling it a “small group” would be a mistake. But when several people share language… Were you copying each other? Or did you work on your letters together?

And then, reading Scheinman’s “Opinion and Award” more closely, I noticed more language that I’d previously seen on UFT emails and pages, or heard during Mulgrew’s reports at DAs and Town Halls. I wasn’t certain that Mulgrew’s people and other MLC people participated with Renee Campion in the production of Ms. Campion’s October 28 scary letter; I am absolutely convinced that Scheinman worked with the City and the leadership of the MLC unions, including Mulgrew’s people, in creating his 12/15/22 “Opinion and Award.”

I would run the Scheinman document and a UFT Town Hall transcript through a plagiarism checker – but the UFT has not made the Town Hall transcript available. And Scheinman’s document, although plainly produced on a computer, was released as a print copy, and reproduced crooked on the page to make it hard to convert to a format that a word processor could recognize.

Some questions about this “decision”

First of all, it’s not a decision. It is an “Opinion and Award.” That’s odd. More at the end of this post.

So if there is an award, there should be an issue, and parties to that issue. The first page names the parties. But… There are no “positions of the parties” – that’s what we expect from an arbitration. What is the MLC asking for? What is the City asking for? Scheinman doesn’t mention this.

I wrote “Scheinman doesn’t mention this” not “Scheinman fails to mention this” because I don’t know if the City and MLC actually approached him trying to decide between different courses of action.

In fact, Scheinman’s decision-making power as the arbitrator for the Tripartite Health Insurance Policy Committee arises in the case of a dispute

(From the 2018 letter referred to within the UFT as Appendix B)

Where is the dispute? Does Scheinman actually have any authority here? There are no positions for the parties, because the parties appear to be not in dispute. Everyone agrees about who needs to get screwed (me, and you).

It is normal for arbitrators to lay out in their decisions the source of their authority. It is curious that Scheinman does no such thing.

How do arbitrators normally write up awards? Look at how Scheinman does it (he knows how) in the Spring Break Arbitration.

Scheinman NOT designated arbitrator for Medicare Advantage issue

Oh, and oh no. Scheinman has been named to resolve disputes on items 1-4 in Appendix B. But the current issue, Medicare Advantage, comes from item 5. The agreement doesn’t cover point 5. Maybe that’s why Scheinman does not begin by establishing his authority? Point 5 only calls for recommendations.

Other oddities in Scheinman’s write-up

Here’s Scheinman talking about supporting the Stabilization Fund. It is fairly clear that Mulgrew’s negotiations have been all about protecting the health – not of our members and retirees – but of this fund (p.16):

To keep the fund safe, Mulgrew and Scheinman (and the other parts of this club) need to raise copays, limit doctors, require preauthorizations (to limit healthcare, etc. Look at that paragraphs again.

Expertise

And in the whole of the document, Scheinman strangely claims knowledge of what the impacts of health care changes are on people who need health care. When he writes “I was persuaded that the Aetna program would meet the needs of the City retiree population” (p.24) he is appealing to an unqualified authority: himself.

Self-defeating Award

The “award” is strange. Ordering the City to conclude negotiations with Aetna in 25 days – well – Aetna is looking to maximize profit. And if Scheinman’s “award” holds, then the City is negotiating with a for-profit company that knows it is required to reach a deal. Dumb, right?

Someone’s not been honest

At one point (p.25) Scheinman defends against a charge that he’s screwing retirees, by pointing out how hard he’s worked to screw in-service members over these last eight years. I like this part, not because I like the copays (I DO NOT), but because it gives the lie to Mulgrew claiming that the loans from the Stabilization Fund were paid back with no give backs. (It is, as Scheinman reveals, a lie. We paid. And the”we” means in-service and pre-Medicare retired members).

Not a Decision?

The whole thing is called an “Opinion and Award” right? That’s weird. But what’s weirder – take a look, page 31:

What does that look like to you? He writes that “this instrument” (means the document) “is my Recommendation.”

Is that what he always writes? Nope. Here’s the end of the Spring Break Arbitration:

All this noise and fuss. Is there a difference between a “recommendation” and an “award”? What do you think?

And of course, 12-126

From page 30. Of course Scheinman wants us to amend the Administrative Code – so it is easier to go after retirees.

Why is this happening?

The UFT’s Unity leadership is used to getting exactly what it wants. And it can control every vote, win every vote, WITHIN the UFT. It can even prevent votes it doesn’t want from being taken.

But this is beyond the UFT. And the Retirees (UFT and other municipal workers) are pushing back hard. They have out-mobilized the UFT leaders. They have out-lobbied the UFT, badly, at the City Council.

Even in the UFT, Unity is having trouble with an unhappy membership. There have been rumors, lots of them, about disquiet in the Unity ranks. And Tuesday, in an unprecedented turn, a UFT Retired Teachers Chapter meeting was shut down early because members insisted on discussing healthcare. (I will cover this event soon, and place a link here when I do).

But the bottom line is, while Unity still controls all the levers of power within the UFT, its credibility has never been lower. Their opponents are active. Their own supporters are whispering. And people who usually don’t care, some of them are starting to, and find Mulgrew’s people untrustworthy.

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.

The United Federation of Teachers, DC37, the Municipal Labor Committee – their leaderships have formed an unholy alliance
with New York City’s financial managers, the insurance companies, and
the “independent arbitrator” –
and this evil alliance is pulling out all stops to defeat the members and retirees. Scheinman’s “Opinion and Award” is their latest.

Now Mulgrew is jammed up. He needs to amend 12-126 so he can force retirees into Medicare Advantage – while leaving them a Senior Care option. But retirees don’t want that to happen. No one wants the upcharge on their current insurance. So Mulgrew has pulled out every threat – including threats he has no intention of following through on.

By having Mulgrew and Nespoli, and Scheinman, and Campion, and Adams all working together, but making it look like they are working separately – each can blame the other for the outcome that each of them has privately agreed to. Don’t miss it – they are all on the same page. They are doing this to us, as a group, as conspirators, together – but in public they don’t say so. Mulgrew’s not to blame for what Scheinman recommends? Even if Mulgrew helped write the recommendation?

Pay attention. Every communication from Campion, from Scheinman, from Mulgrew – they all talk about amending 12-126. Every UFT webpage on healthcare either asks you to change your position on 12-126, or links you to a page that makes that ask. Every not from your District Rep – same. They want you scared – so they can flip you on 12-126. So…

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.

This is a today story. There has been some quick response. See also

New Action: https://newaction.org/2022/12/15/uft-members-take-note-medicare-advantage-is-a-consequence-of-backroom-bargaining/

ICE: http://iceuftblog.blogspot.com/2022/12/arbitrator-scheinman-imposeses.html

EdNotes: https://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2022/12/there-will-be-blood-er-lawsuits-uft.html

Was 2018 the Worst Bad Deal Ever?

December 14, 2022 am31 5:47 am

No one should be putting health care cuts into contracts. This is bad negotiating by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) leadership (Unity Caucus). Nick calls it a bad deal. He’s right. But there was something much worse about the 2018 contract than most people realize. Read on.

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.

This fight has its roots in previous Unity schemes and deals – some of which were hidden from UFT members and retirees. Perhaps the worst, most dangerous lines were hidden in “Appendix B” – permanent, annual cuts in health care – with no end to the cutting.

The 2018 contract ratified an earlier agreement that was not shared with the UFT membership. The memorandum of agreement has a health care heading, but it just says to see Appendix B.

Here’s the link to the MOA: https://www.uft.org/files/attachments/secure/moa-2018.pdf

Appendix B, as you might guess, is not attached.

In fact, when Unity was hard-selling this deal, in an unexplained rush, they clearly said there were no health care give backs. And then they did not provide Appendix B. James found it. But because the leadership hid it, and most members rely on the leadership for their information, there is no way of knowing how many of those who voted yes on the contract knew there were givebacks. Probably very few, in light of Unity’s brazen lies. Arthur provides a good summary of the Unity rush to get the 2018 contract passed without revealing the health care give backs.

Appendix B is a letter. Here’s a link to the whole of Appendix B (4 pages). And here’s the first page:

So, we already know, agreeing to cutting health care is a bad deal. But worst deal ever? Let’s look at 1.a, and focus on 1.a.iv

First, a reminder: “savings” are savings for the City of New York and the Stabilization Fund. “Savings” for you and me mean less health care, harder to access health care, or more costly health care.

Mulgrew Savings = Member/Retiree Cuts and Higher Costs

So Appendix B is about health care cuts.

Let’s focus on line iv. $600 million per yer – on a recurring basis. That means, even though that contract is over, the health care cuts need to continue forward. And worse. Any fool knows, health care costs are going up. So whatever cuts were good enough to amount to $600 mil a year ago, they are not enough today. Unity has put us on the hook for never ending cuts in health care. That’s what makes this perhaps the worst negotiated deal, ever.

Our contract is expired. But the health care cuts continue.

The health care cuts are permanent.

And Appendix B promises more cuts every year that health care costs rise.

Our job right now

Stop the OLR/MLC/UFT / Adams / Mulgrew / Nespoli plan in its tracks.

Do Not Amend 12-126 (keep calling / writing / texting your city council member)

Do Not accept Medicare Advantage.

Demand our unions to negotiate ON OUR BEHALF – instead of on behalf of the stabilization fund that they seem more anxious to represent than their own members.

Seek alternate funding sources (read down for resolution on stock transfer tax and billionaires tax).

Battle Against Medicare Advantage – Updates

December 13, 2022 pm31 12:19 pm

A summary of recent work by UFT activists.

Collusion

I made the case that United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Mulgrew and the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) colluded with NYC – the mayor and the Office of Labor Relations (OLR) to force retirees into Medicare Advantage last year (the retirees stopped them) and to change Section 12-126 of the City’s Administrative Code this fall (so that they might succeed in ambushing the retirees. Here’s my piece. And James published some photographic evidence.

UFT Leadership Contempt for Membership

Unity’s leader displayed really bad attitude at last week’s town hall – Arthur describes how Mulgrew belittles members and retirees, instead of working with those who have been out-organizing the leadership. And I remind readers that instead of trying to work together, Unity leadership silences people who disagree with them. And there’s a lot of us.

A bad deal from 2018

Nick Bacon reviews the deal that set the stage for the Medicare fiasco. Arthur talks about it, too.

Alternatives exist…

Nick’s Exec Board minutes cover a resolution (scroll down) to raise funding via billionaire taxes and reinstating thestock transfer tax – not on retiree’s backs. And James is right – we can negotiate with our current rights, and without screwing over any members or retirees.

…to Unity’s and the MLC’s and OLR’s and Scheinman’s plans

Nick lays out Mulgrew’s general game plan – agree to something that sucks, and blame the retirees. And yesterday James went into some detail about what Mulgrew may be working on next.

This is Not Over

We are still fighting. We are currently, strange as it seems, winning.

Keep making those calls to City Council – Do Not Amend 12-126.

Retiree Advocate explains why:

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.

An email I will not answer (Part 2 of 2)

December 12, 2022 pm31 12:37 pm

I got an email from a federal investigator. He asked to talk about the UFT. November 16. I will not respond.

Part 2

(Part 1 is here)

Spring UFT Elections

Back in the spring, my coalition ran against the entrenched UFT leadership. I was the United for Change candidate for High School Vice President.

Spring 2022 Complaint

In this spring’s campaign Unity pulled its usually stuff. And members of my coalition began to assemble a complaint, or a group of complaints. But these were not just about staffers campaigning on union time (a big no-no). This complaint also included things about UFT reps discussing the election on Facebook. I was not comfortable with that sort of complaint – we all talk on Facebook.

A UFC complaint was drawn up that included the kitchen sink. Marginal violations. Even things that UFC candidates had done too, all were in there. And the complaint rested largely on violations of federal law, rather than on the union’s own rules and norms.

In the end, after UFC has lost the election (but won high schools) the complaint was submitted to the UFT. Most of it was rejected.

Appeals

And then the complaint was appealed to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, our parent union). That’s an understandable next step.

And then there was a proposal to appeal beyond the AFT, to the federal government, to the Department of Labor. Here’s where the original complaint resting so heavily on federal law comes into play. It was designed from the start, it seems to me, to go to the feds.

UFC – structure?

The United For Change coalition was formed to contest the spring 2022 United Federation of Teachers election. It is a coalition of several groups and caucuses within the union. Some, but not all, have defined membership. Also there are independents, like me.

During the election we made decisions using some sort of consensus. It was not perfect, but it functioned ok for the election period – platform, candidates, literature were the main issues.

So when the proposal to go to the Department of Labor came up, there were discussions between UFC members, but also in the groups/caucuses. And two of the membership caucuses said no. And a third was only willing to go ahead if there were consensus, which there was not.

As an individual, independent part of the coalition, I argued against appealing to the Department of Labor. Let me explain.

I am opposed to involving the government in union affairs.

I am opposed to government interference in unions. Even where something has gone wrong (and yes, I believe that Unity abuses its power), it is up to us, internally, to address. The government is not a friend of the unions. Look at what just happened to the rail workers.

The government restricts unions. It restricts organizing. It routinely decides disputes against workers. It makes it hard to create a union. It limits what unions are allowed to do. It decides cases against unions and workers. And the few cases it decides in favor of workers, most are overturned on appeal. Appeal to the government. The government also restricts how unions can fight strikes. It restricts how we can get others to join unions. In New York, the state curtails our right to strike.

There’s also a history of internal interference in unions. Sometimes well meaning opposition people have looked to the government to fix unions, but ended up with a mess. The Teamsters is the first example that comes to mind (president leading a national strike, removed by the government). And I will add, I don’t care how good your intentions were, when you brought the Department of Labor into the union, you set the stage for the government interfering, at a fairly high cost to the union members. And when leaders appeal to the government to fix union problems, they are telling the rank and file that the government is a neutral arbiter, that they should trust the Department of Labor, NLRB, courts, etc. And that is a lie.

We need to warn workers that the feds are not our friends. That in matters of labor against bosses, the federal government has a side, and it is not ours. We cannot do that while we appeal to the feds to investigate our unions internal affairs.

UFC Decision – not to appeal to the Department of Labor – so what happened?

So several caucuses that had participated in the election under the UFC umbrella did not support going to the Department of Labor. Another group, which was nominally in favor, did not support going forward without consensus. I argued fairly strongly against appealing to the government. There was not a UFC decision to make this last appeal.

But the appeal happened. The Department of Labor (not the UFC) says that individuals may make complaints about an election for union officers. And five individuals signed a complaint addressed to the Department of Labor.

Interestingly (or frustratingly, for at least me), they did not restrict their complaint to how they were treated in the election, but felt empowered (in the absence of an affirmative UFC decision) to complain about how the UFC was treated. When the Department of Labor called this a “UFC Complaint” the five individuals did not feel the need to clarify that the complaint was not originating from UFC.

No one signed who was speaking for a caucus with membership. None of the people elected to the Exec Board signed. I did not sign.

The email

I don’t know who gave the feds my email. I only have guesses. I certainly did not give my permission to share my email. And I had already made clear that I was adamantly opposed to this complaint. And I will not talk to federal investigators about my union. Hell, I doubt I would speak to feds about anything.

The Department of Labor guy wanted me to call him, to speak about last spring’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) election. From the Department of Labor. I didn’t say no. I just won’t respond.

But now it is clear to me that the five individuals took a non-UFC decision and acted as if they were acting on behalf of UFC. So just to clarify. No.

An email I will not answer (Part 1 of 2)

December 10, 2022 pm31 7:22 pm

From a federal investigator. To talk about the UFT. It was a few weeks ago. I will not respond.

He wanted me to call him, to speak about last spring’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) election. From the Department of Labor. I didn’t say no. I just won’t respond.

(Part 2 is here)

Spring UFT Elections

Back in the spring, my coalition ran against the entrenched UFT leadership. I was the United for Change candidate for High School Vice President.

In lots of ways the election was rigged against us. Unity (the entrenched leadership’s “caucus”) holds all the levers of power. Every union staffer a regular member encounters – at the welfare fund, in the borough offices, in grievance, or our own district reps and special reps, belong to Unity. Plus the rules have been rigged over the years. I was running for HS VP, won the majority of the high school votes, but was defeated in a system where retirees and elementary teachers cast more votes for HS VP than actual high school teachers do.

Unity uses its advantages. It uses the unfair rules. And it uses its staff. And it crosses the line into territory that’s clearly not allowed. They do it every election. In the past I’ve been part of campaigns that has called them on flagrant violations. And they usually draw back.

Spring 2022 Complaint

In this spring’s campaign Unity pulled its usually stuff. And members of my coalition began to assemble a complaint, or a group of complaints. But these were not just about staffers campaigning on union time (a big no-no). This complaint also included things about UFT reps discussing the election on Facebook. I was not comfortable with that sort of complaint – we all talk on Facebook.

In the end a UFC complaint was drawn up that included the kitchen sink. Pages of items included Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, generally insubstantial. Every time a Unity candidate appeared in the New York Teacher – complaint. Conflict at the Delegate Assembly? In the complaint. There were 31 pages with 32 points and 29 subpoints, plus over 40 pages of appendices.

I was quite uncomfortable with the complaint resting on violations of federal law and chancellors regs, rather than on the union’s own rules and norms. As we will see, that discomfort was not ill-founded.

Some of the violations were clearly violations. I contributed three items (people brought them to me). I believe the UFT, which dismissed most of the UFC complaint, did find merit in two of the three items I added (and the third was dismissed because the violation had been committed orally, and not reduced to writing).

Some of the complaint was not just trivial, but wrong. A host of complaints about chapter leaders (not employees) made me very uncomfortable. In some instances CLs were being cited for telling their members which caucus they preferred. I am glad this group of complaints was rejected – they would have a chilling effect on all chapter leaders, regardless of caucus, who need to speak openly and freely with their members. I objected, pointing out that I as a chapter leader had engaged in practices that were being complained about, to no avail.

We have bad precedent here. In 2016 both sides, Unity on one, MORE/New Action on the other, had actively encouraged voting. This is important in a union with horribly low turnout. Several chapter leaders offered cookies or a bottle of water to any member who brought in and filled out their ballots on a specific date. (Members filled out their own ballots as they saw fit – the prize was for voting, not for voting the “right” way). Several chapters organized a ballot “drop off” where one member collected SEALED ballots and dropped them in a mail, or where a group from the chapter walked together to the mailbox, and made a show of casting the chapter’s ballots. What a cool way to build camaraderie. But in 2016 Portelos (sore loser) complained about these practices. I voted against his complaint. But in the aftermath the union in an overabundance of caution banned “cookies for ballots” and “walks to the mailbox.”

In the end the complaint was submitted to the UFT. Most of it was rejected – but a few items (Mostly reps mixing union business with Unity campaigning) were found to have occurred and be violations of our practices. I think the reps were admonished not to do so again – not much of a consequence, but still, public. And there was no question in my mind, in most of our minds, that the sum total of the violations did not change the result of the election. (UFC won the high schools, Unity won the other divisions, and overall).

Appeals

And then the complaint was appealed to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, our parent union). That’s an understandable next step.

And then there was a proposal to appeal beyond the AFT, to the federal government, to the Department of Labor. Here’s where the original complaint resting so heavily on federal law comes into play. It was designed from the start, it seems to me, to go to the feds.

The Federal Government and Unions

I am opposed to government interference in unions. Even where something has gone wrong (and yes, I believe that Unity abuses its power), it is up to us, internally, to address. I’m not a fan of the approach of organizing a new union where an old one is decrepit, but that doesn’t involve the government, and things could reach that point.

But the government is not a friend of the unions. Imagine an overseer telling me, a chapter leader, how I can communicate with my members. Imagine that we won the election – and we wanted to consider breaking the Taylor Law, and a federal overseer forbidding us from discussing that with the membership. That’s pretty easy to imagine. The government does NOT have any interest in a strong union. To the extent that they see violations of union democracy, they see them as an opportunity to interfere in the day to day functioning of the union.

I did not need early December’s events to convince me. But they should be a wake up call to all of us. Rail workers have been pounded since the pandemic began. They need sick days. They have none, wanted seven. (Seven over twelve months. New York City teachers, whose jobs do not take us out of town, get ten in ten months). Bargaining broke down.

But before they could strike, Biden and congress got into the act. The House passed a bill on November 30 imposing a contract. The weasels, Democrat and Republican, passed a separate resolution calling for more sick days. They knew by dividing the measures they could look like they supported sick days, but that the Senate and president would safely remove them. On December 1 the Senate passed a bill making a strike illegal. And December 2 Biden signed it all. Rail workers had been sucker-punched – by the feds. They had a government-imposed contract. Without the sick days they desperately need.

We need to warn workers that the feds are not our friends. That in matters of labor against bosses, the federal government has a side, and it is not ours. We can’t do that while we appeal to the feds to investigate our unions internal affairs.

The email

I don’t know who gave the feds my email. When I got the email November 16 I asked a blogger – who clearly had not given them my info. So I am left with only guesses. I certainly did not give my permission to share my email. And I will not talk to federal investigators about my union.

(Continued in Part 2)

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.

UFT policies are decided by a vote. But not when Mulgrew’s losing?

December 7, 2022 pm31 11:44 pm

Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus controls the UFT. What they want, they vote yes on. What they don’t want, they vote no on. Or, as they are commonly doing these days, what they don’t want, they prevent from even being mentioned.

But why hasn’t Mulgrew gotten a rubber stamp vote on the leadership’s current healthcare scheme?

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.

Mulgrew and Unity are so deeply engaged in fighting against our retirees,
and so shocked not to be winning,
that they have forgotten to bother with a vote.

Sometimes UFT votes seem like shams. Unity Caucus holds all of the spots on the Administrative Committee, a 95-7 majority on the Executive Board, and a working majority in the Delegate Assembly. What the UFT leadership (run by Unity) wants, they put up for a vote, and it passes.

The fact that they have to put things up for a vote means there is some feedback. They may not usually listen, but it’s there. There’s a chance for opponents to point out big problems. There’s a chance for their supporters (occasionally) to point out weaknesses to be addressed. I’m not pretending it’s a good democratic process – it’s not. But there’s a chance to talk, to engage, before Mulgrew’s thought becomes policy. Unity is usually especially careful when organizational resources are going to be committed.

High Stakes

But it’s different this time. UFT leadership was stymied by the retirees when they tried to force them into Medicare Advantage. So they looked to amend Section 12-126 of the City Administrative Code (once that’s done Unity will resume pushing Medicare Advantage – but they’ll need to finish lining up a new company in the interim). Amending 12-126 is crucial to their plans. And they were in a rush.

Normally a Vote, Followed by a Campaign

If it were any other issue, any other year, with any other president, Unity would have brought the new policy to a vote. First the Exec Board. Then the Delegate Assembly. Once it passed the Exec and the DA, Unity would have run a full court press, using the Borough Reps and especially the District Reps to push the policy into the schools, and push chapter leaders to get members to make phone calls. That’s how they usually play things.

Nope. A Campaign. With No Vote

But no. Losing. Desperate. In a rush. Couldn’t be bothered.

October 28 (Friday) Renee Campion, NYC Commissioner of Labor Relations, wrote a threatening letter about what she would do if 12-126 was not amended, with first steps by an early deadline. (That deadline came and went. Nothing happened. We should think more about that letter). (Every bone in my body says Unity helped write that letter. I have no proof. Just years of instinct).

October 29 (Saturday) Michael Mulgrew started an email campaign to get members to support the amend 12-126 position. (It had very little impact).

And then, boom, it was more than an email. District Reps started pushing chapter leaders. Borough Reps held zoom meetings (using lots of staff time). The organization was all-in. That’s time. That’s money.

But no vote to set amending 12-126 as policy. And so they were allocating resources without a vote.

Aha! Gotcha? Nope.

This is slop. The vote would be Unity-controlled. They still might go back and retroactively “fix” this, if they notice. I did not write this post to get them in trouble for breaking their own very flimsy rules. (although they really should try to follow at least the minimal requirements of internal democracy that they are ok with).

Can’t or won’t follow their own norms, because they are in “a state”

I wrote this because they normally do follow this norm. And the fact that they messed up, or were too rushed to bother, that speaks to the state they are in. Concern. Worry. Panic. This is not normal. As of today, we are winning.

(This isn’t 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)

The retirees and in-service members are up against Mulgrew and the MLC and NYC government. David is taking on Goliath. And it’s not over. But Goliath? Not winning.

How many ways to number a die? (answers)

December 5, 2022 pm31 10:23 pm
tags:

I asked this question a few days ago.

Here are two of my favorite answers. Do you have another way to get to 30? Put it in the comments!

Question

How many ways can a die be numbered, using the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 exactly one time each?

Term: “Same Dice”

Two dice are “the same” if they can be rotated until their numbers match up exactly. For example, if you take a standard die, and place it with the 1 on top, the 6 will be on the bottom. If you rotate it so the 2 is in front, the 5 will be in back. And then you might notice the 4 is on the left, and the 3 is on the right. All standard dice are numbered this way.

Solution 1 – way overcount

Consider one die, with any numbering. There are six sides that could be face down. And then there are four rotations with that face down. Six times four is twenty-four (24) orientations for each numbering.

Now let’s think about a blank die. How many numbers can we put on the bottom? Six. How many are left over to put on the front? Five. How many left to put on the left (ha ha)? Four. How many to place on the right? Three. In the back? Two. On top? Only one number left. That’s 6×5×4×3×2×1=720 ways to put 6 numbers on a die.

But hold on. Each numbering has 24 orientations. So those 720 numberings – 24 of them are the standard die, 24 are the standard but with 3 and 4 swapped, etc. To get the actual number of ways to number a die, divide 720 by 24. That’s 30. (And for each of those 30 ways, there are 24 numberings. 30×24=720)

Solution 2 – constructive

This time we will avoid overcounting.

We will imagine that the “1” has been put on the bottom of the die (and if it hasn’t, flip the die around so the “1” is on the bottom, which is always possible).

What number is on the top? We have five choices.

Now, we have four numbers left to wrap around the middle. How many are there?

Well, to put four things in order we have twenty-four ways. Twenty-four is 4×3×2×1. But that’s not the answer. Let’s look at some letters instead of numbers, for the moment:

  1. ARST
  2. ARTS
  3. ASRT
  4. ASTR
  5. ATRS
  6. ATSR
  7. RAST
  8. RATS
  9. RSAT
  10. RSTA
  11. RTAS
  12. RTSA
  13. SART
  14. SATR
  15. SRAT
  16. SRTA
  17. STAR
  18. STRA
  19. TARS
  20. TASR
  21. TRAS
  22. TRSA
  23. TSAR
  24. TSRA

Looks good, right? 24? Nope. Because these wrap around the middle of the die, ARTS and RTSA are the same. ARTS is really ARTS and then A and then R like this: ARTSARTSARTSAR and as you keep going around there’s not a beginning or an end, just a sequence.

So how many ways are there to wrap four things in a circle? Let’s list them:

  1. ARST RSTA STAR TARS
  2. ARTS RTSA TSAR SART
  3. ASRT SRTA RTAS TASR
  4. ASTR STRA TRAS RAST
  5. ATRS TRSA RSAT SATR
  6. ATSR TSRA SRAT RATS

Six ways. And that kind of makes sense. Each of these ways can be written with four different starting points. So our list of twenty-four including four copies of each arrangement, and twenty-four divided by four is six.

As an aside, arranging objects in a circle I call a “circle permutation” – and if the items are unique, and there are n of them, then there are n×(n-1)×(n-2)×…×2×1 ways to list them, but then we have to divide by n, so we get (n-1)×(n-2)×…×2×1circle permutations.

Let’s get back to our problem.

We place “1” on the bottom face.

We have five choices for the top face.

We have four numbers left to put in a circle, which gives us 3×2×1=6 circle permutations.

1×5×6= 30 ways to number a die.

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.

Dice Question

December 3, 2022 am31 8:45 am
tags:

How many ways can a die be numbered, using the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 exactly one time each?

(Some solutions posted here. Add your own!)

Same Dice

Two dice are “the same” if they can be rotated until their numbers match up exactly. For example, if you take a standard die, and place it with the 1 on top, the 6 will be on the bottom. If you rotate it so the 2 is in front, the 5 will be in back. And then you might notice the 4 is on the left, and the 3 is on the right. All standard dice are numbered this way.

Different numberings

How many different numberings are possible?

The standard die (mentioned above) is one possibility.

You could swap the 4 and the 3, and that would be a second numbering.

How many are there, altogether?

Making Up Work

December 2, 2022 am31 11:03 am

Kid contacts you (might be the parents, but let’s say it’s high school and it’s the kid). They’ve been out two days. It’s a family thing. They will be out for an indefinite period of time – hopefully not too long, but they don’t know. What do you do?

Grumble a bit? Maybe. It’s not what you’ve planned for. Little extra work for you. But it’s not the kid’s fault. Maybe they even sounded sad about not being in class. So you do the right thing:

  • Make a plan for the kid to keep up, or partially keep up, if they are able. You give it to the kid.
  • Make a plan for them to catch up when they return. It’s tentative, since you don’t know when that will be. It might be mental, not written – easier as you keep mentally revising it. And you tell the kid “don’t worry – we will have a plan when you get back.”

Where I’ve taught, where friends and colleagues have taught, that is the norm. But there are exceptions. Ugly exceptions.

There are teachers who don’t make a plan for the kid to keep up. Who don’t reassure the kid there will be a plan when they get back. And when the kid does return, there are teachers who don’t make it easy to catch up. These are jerks.

Far worse are the assholes. An asshole blames a kid for having been out. An asshole makes much of how far behind the kid is. And an asshole does not give the kid a chance to make up work.

NYC Remote Year 2020-2021

This was like a big, extended absence. Most of us were remote (or at least not regular in-person) for most of the year. We provided some work for kids. And we were ready to get going as soon as school was normal again. We did what normal teachers do. We did our best to do the right thing.

2020-2021 Jerks

We needed help making remote better. Where was the NYC Department of Education? Where was the United Federation of Teachers? Not helping.

They were focused on getting us back into the classroom. They must have thought that working to improve remote instruction would make them look “bad” – like they would rather have us remote.

We needed to be remote because of the pandemic. It was not our choice. But while we were remote we needed help. Was there professional development? Did the UFT create spaces for teachers to share best remote practices? No.

Kids needed help learning what they could through the remote period. The jerks sat on the side.

(Teachers really tried to teach. It was hard)

Today, Assholes

Starting last September, and continuing through this year, we have students. These students lived through the pandemic. They struggled. Some did not learn anything during that time. Some learned a little. Many learned quite a bit, but less than they would have in a normal school year.

So what did we do?

Did we figure out how to catch the students up? Did we decide that some material could be safely skipped or forgotten? (Math teachers in particular needed to work on this – not having done so we are still facing consequences).

It’s been a real mixed bag.

And that’s a shame, because the schools’ obligation is to serve the kids. Not the kids we wish we were teaching, the imaginary kids who did not live through the height of COVID. The schools need to serve the kids in their buildings.

There should be curricular adjustment. There really hasn’t been. Scope and sequence need modification. Not happening.

But what is happening is vile.

The New York Times, the centrist Democrats, and all and sundry opponents of public education – they are celebrating. They are dancing. They are pointing to lower test scores.

“See!” – they squeal with delight – “Learning Loss!”

(In fact, the phrase “learning loss” is not constructed to understand and improve. It is destructive, by design. I should come back to that.)

A kid misses months of school. How will the kid get back into the swing?

Oster and Shapiro and the Times are too busy congratulating themselves to pay any attention to helping our kids.

Don’t believe me? Go read what they write. Not a word about a plan to move forward.

Assholes.

What the “Stabilization Fund” Stabilizes (and why Mulgrew needs to stop raiding it)

December 1, 2022 pm31 3:43 pm

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.

A key element in this debate is the “Stabilization Fund” – most members have not heard of the Stabilization Fund, and those who have generally do not know much about it. There’s a reason – read on:

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.

The Stabilization Fund is at the heart of the battle. And the stakes: how much health care Mulgrew allows members and retirees to have. (I’m writing “Mulgrew” but really municipal union leaders Nespoli and Garrido along with Mayor Eric Adams are all part of one team).

Administrative Code 12-126 is involved. There’s been plenty written about that.

City agreed to fund healthcare at a specific level

But today we look at the code from a new angle. Section 12-126 of the Administrative Code provides that the City will fund health care at the level of HIP (which is a relatively high bar). If you sign up for a plan that costs more than HIP, you pay the difference. That’s what you look at each fall during the health care transfer period – not the cost of each of the other plans, but the cost above HIP.

But what about the other option? HIP is an HMO. We have a choice of two premium-free plans. The other is not an HMO. It used to be GHI (that’s what I still usually call it, even though I know that’s wrong). Today it is in fact, Emblem.

When HIP costs more than GHI did, there’s no problem. GHI was cheaper, the agreement says the city funds up to the HIP level. We were covered.

But sometimes GHI (now Emblem) costs more than HIP, as is the case today. The Stabilization Fund was designed to smooth over that difference (when GHI cost more).

Stabilize the difference between the cost of HIP and the cost of GHI

The Stabilization Fund “stabilizes” the difference in cost between HIP and GHI (now Emblem) so that we get both premium-free.

It’s a big chunk of money (I’m not sure how big – that seems to be an item of contention, but the UFT says “almost broke” and this guy says $900,000,000 – so in that range), and while it is “sitting there” it is tempting for some to try to dip into it.

What else? (Mulgrew version)

The UFT website says

“the city and its unions have also used the fund in a variety of ways, such as offsetting members’ costs for PICA drugs (such as chemotherapy and injectables), subsidizing the cost of retiree prescription drug riders, shoring up various union welfare funds facing fiscal uncertainties and paying survivors’ benefits to the widows of uniformed officers.”

What else? (What you wanted to know)

This fund sits there. It is a temptation. I do believe that it currently holds $900,000,000 (nine hundred million, if that helps. Almost a billion).

In our 2014 contract, the UFT desperately wanted big raises. They learned the wrong lesson from their one failed contract (1995): they always want to make the “number” look big. So when the City claimed not to have enough money, the UFT offered up our future health care. They took bigger raises, but promised to pay back into the Stabilization Fund. They might have gotten some by reducing administrative costs or getting hospitals not to overcharge. But they also took money from my pocket and yours. Every new copay we paid, that was us repaying Mulgrew’s debt. Every new restriction, that was us limiting how much healthcare we took (leaving more for the Fund).

However, the UFT did make its obligation on the 2014 loan. (in part with our money, but they made it).

In 2018, however, they’d gotten used to the bad habit. Big pool of money. They got permission to borrow from it once before.

Fund or Piggy Bank?

Is it a stabilization fund? Or a piggy bank? Depends on who you ask. Mulgrew thinks it’s a bank, and borrowed from it again. I will talk more about this more extensively in a later post.

Today Mulgrew (and the MLC) are scrambling to pay what they owe. And once again, they want to pay with my money and your money, or by paying out less for our healthcare.

Does Michael Mulgrew care more about the health of his Stabilization Fund or about the health of his members and retirees?

These loans that the MLC (and UFT) took from the Stabilization Fund, they have to be paid back.

The first (2014) was paid back with a variety of sources, but some of the payback came from members’ pockets.

The second (2018) has been partially paid back with a mix, but more this time came from members’ pockets

The second (2018) for really horrible reasons is not close to being paid back. And with a mountain of debt, Mulgrew is looking to pick a new group of pockets (retirees) to replenish the piggy bank.

Question? Answer!

What is the Stabilization Fund? It is money the city and the unions used to use to balance the cost between HIP and GHI. Now it sits there like a slush fund. The MLC unions (including the UFT) borrowed from it, promising to return the money in the form of healthcare cuts. And the current debate was generated by the MLC and UFT and NYC trying to find a quick stream of cash to put into it, and deciding to try to squeeze that cash out of the retirees.

Blame it on Bad Rollout

November 29, 2022 pm30 2:49 pm

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.

Mulgrew and the UFT leadership (Unity) are pursuing a win at all costs – including misleading the membership.
One particular piece of disinformation involves a “bad rollout” – read on:

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.

We are currently sparring over Administrative Code 12-126. There’s been plenty written about that.

Instead, today, let’s look at how this blew up in the first place.

The UFT leadership’s version goes like this:

We tried to do something revolutionary that would protect and preserve robust premium free benefits.

Geofrey Sorkin – director of the UFT Welfare Fund

The New York City Medicare Advantage Plus Plan, negotiated by the MLC, was a totally new, unprecedented version of Medicare Advantage that was ONLY for New York City municipal retirees and their families.

UFT website – https://www.uft.org/your-rights/safety-health/environmental-health-and-safety/disease-information/coronavirus-hub/school-year-2022-23-faq/health-care

But something happened. A bad rollout. Here’s how the UFT describes it:

Poor rollout of information causes delays. The city and the alliance of Empire BlueCross BlueShield and EmblemHealth did a poor job of communicating to both retirees and medical providers how the new NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan would work. They did not make clear that it was not a typical HMO Medicare Advantage plan so many doctors mistakenly told members they would not accept it, even though all doctors would receive the full standard Medicare payments for their services under the new plan.

(I am providing image showing the url, and an image of the section I quoted. Because it turns out to be serious disinformation, I decline to provide a direct link)

What really happened?

The Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) and the United Federation of Teachers leadership (the UFT is one of the two controlling unions in the MLC) were negotiating with New York City over health care, in secret. Not only were the details of the negotiation kept from the members, but the fact that the UFT was even negotiating at all was a secret. Let me repeat that.

The UFT leadership kept secret from the membership and retirees that they were negotiating a Medicare Advantage “deal”. Mulgrew prefers to shake hands in dark alleys, to make deals in backrooms, to bargain reductions in our healthcare far from the prying eyes of the members and retirees whose healthcare he was trying to cut.

Bad Roll Out?

Well.

Not really.

Another union blew up his spot.

The Professional Staff Congress (CUNY union) shared with its members that this “deal” to switch retirees to medicare advantage, to add in prior authorizations, delay treatment, etc, was in the works. We talk to each other. Word reached UFT members and retirees.

Bad rollout? How about retirees finding out from another union that Unity had been messing with their healthcare, without even the decency of letting retirees or members know that this wheeling and dealing was happening.

Members were furious. Retirees were apoplectic.

Were they angry that “The city and the alliance of Empire BlueCross BlueShield and EmblemHealth did a poor job of communicating” to both retirees”? (which is what Mulgrew claims)

Nah. That’s disinformation.

Retirees were angry because someone pulled back the curtain. And we saw. We saw the UFT leadership had been selling our health care to the lowest bidder. In secret.

Busy Tuesday 11/22/22 – Budget Cuts, 12-126

November 22, 2022 pm30 10:22 pm

Budget Cuts Stay. Court Tells City, Don’t Do It Again; Stop Cheating

The New York Court of Appeals released decisions today, including two with impact on United Federation of Teachers members.

Budget cuts. Last Spring the New York City Department of Education did not allow public input on its budget proposal (that was full of cuts). They got around public comment by declaring an “emergency” – the same slimy tactic they used under Bloomberg and de Blasio. Eventually, though, the City Council passed the budget. In a win that was not a win, the court ruled that New York City violated the law. However, reversing the cuts today, the court affirmed, would be disruptive. They ordered the City to stop declaring emergencies to avoid public scrutiny.

Analysis is at Class Size Matters. The decision is here.

NYC, MLC, UFT cannot impose $192/month fee on retirees

New York City, the Municipal Labor Committee, the United Federation of Teachers leadership, and the leaderships of other municipal unions tried to impose a $192/month fee on municipal retirees who opted out of joining “Medicare Advantage Plus.” Retirees fought back, and in a stunning decision, won. But the City appealed. And today the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court was right.

Coverage of the decision on Norm’s and James’s blogs.

In the meantime, the Mulgrew/Nespoli Medicare Advantage Plan collapsed months ago.

Today Mayor Adams, Harry Nespoli (Sanitation), and the UFT’s own lame duck, Michael Mulgrew, are off trying to change the law, as an end-run around the ruling. Section 12-126 of the administrative code protects workers and retirees against exactly the type of scheme these guys are trying to force on us. Call, email, tweet, write – let your city council member know how you feel “Do Not Amend 12-126. Do Not Amend the Code.”

Today Adams, Nespoli, and Mulgrew are trying to smear their opponents – the members, the retirees, us, the people who have so far blocked their plans to cut our healthcare.

Today Adams, Nespoli, and Mulgrew are off trying to find a new vendor for Medicare Advantage. They will eventually find a vendor – the deal is too good – take federal money – and the more procedures you deny, the more $$$ doesn’t get spent on healthcare – the bigger your profits will be.

So, no choice. Keep making those calls.

Weekend in the Shenandoah Valley

November 20, 2022 am30 11:32 am

Weekend getaways are not my usual. This one was sweet.

Cozy cottage, set right into the edge of the Blue Ridge. Visited with a former teaching fellow, now a principal. Hadn’t seen each other in over a decade. She credits me, I didn’t realize, with, well, her words: “I’ve always loved math, but this guy was the one that helped me find my passion and love for teaching math as an NYC fellow.” I was touched.

There wasn’t enough time, but we hiked into and up the Blue Ridge. Climbed 750′ to a breathtaking overlook (on the Appalachian Trail), and then detoured another 800′ down to an impressive little waterfall (81′, but the water wasn’t running heavy). We missed the foliage by a few weeks. I can only imagine.

And then a cute local diner, and a winery for tasting.

There wasn’t enough time for Luray Caverns. I guess there should be a return trip. 😀

View from the cabin

Shenandoah Valley from the top of the ridge

Joining the Appalachian Trail

Tying Their Hands

November 19, 2022 am30 1:27 am

Resolutions to bind their hands

Every few years a United Federation of Teachers (UFT) delegate suggests a resolution that the UFT take up front a position on something that is part of contract negotiations. Resolution to make class size reduction a negotiating priority. Resolution to get raises that at least keep up with inflation. Resolution not to trade more time for money. Resolution not to cut health care.

The leadership typically points out that the item is subject of collective bargaining. They further point out that we have a 50-member or 100-member or 300-member or 500-member negotiating committee. To take a position in advance on what our committee should be negotiating would bind their hands, when we don’t know where negotiations might be going. And then they get the delegate to withdraw the resolution, or they vote it down.

There was an exception. A delegate asked “no more time for money” and Unity approved that one. We voted on it. It is UFT policy. Why was Unity willing to make an exception? Because they had already traded away a huge amount of time for a not-quite commensurate amount of money in the horrible 2005 contract. Unity extended our school day, and then called the extra pay for the extra hours “a raise” – despite it meaning less time with our families – and frustratingly in spite of the fact that the extra time has not been super valuable. Anyway, I’m off track. A delegate stood up with a resolution that we don’t bargain away time for money, and Unity agreed because they’d already traded as much time away for money as they could.

But every other time Unity has said “do not tie the hands of our negotiating committee.”

The negotiating committee

Each contract these committees get larger. And over the years the committee has moved from being just a bunch of observers, to having conversations with the actual UFT negotiators, to actually playing some role in the discussions with the City. Yet most of us get the feeling some of the important dealing is being done out of earshot. Maybe most of it.

The committee members have to sign a confidentiality pledge. I’ve discussed this before. The pledge stops rank and file members from knowing what is going on. But the leadership and the City leak the negotiations to the press. And the Unity leadership lets the City know our demands before we officially give them to them.

Health Care

Arthur Goldstein was on the Negotiating Committee for the last contract. So when he wrote a piece in the Gotham Gazette last week, saying the health care changes were kept secret from us, Unity paid attention.

An officer requested a meeting with Arthur. Five Unity members (or union officials? not sure what capacity they were meeting with him in) met with him and tried to convince him he was wrong about Medicare Advantage. Plus, according to them, they were no longer trying to get retirees onto Medicare Advantage. Also, they pointed out, yes Arthur did know about the health care aspect of the 2018 contract – he wrote about it on his blog.

I checked Arthur’s blog. Yup, he wrote about the health care aspect of the agreement. He had written that Mulgrew said there were no givebacks. The New York Teacher wrote the same thing. Arthur had also written about the Exec Board, where Mulgrew didn’t even mention health care. And Arthur eventually wrote about the appendix where the health care changes were hidden. Arthur (and me) did see the appendix, eventually. But not because Mulgrew/Unity shared it. James Eterno found a source.

It turns out, Unity made a side deal six months before the contract.

  • Unity made a deal outside of contract negotiations (Spring 2018) for health care cuts.
  • The 2018 Negotiating Committee did not negotiate health care – even though health care cuts appeared in the appendix to the proposed contract. (Unity said “Contract negotiated by membership who sat across from DOE.” This omits health care)
  • The cuts were not formally ratified until the October/November 2018 contract vote.
  • Mulgrew did not tell the Executive Board the health care cuts were in the proposed contract.
  • Mulgrew called it a “no giveback contract” (but there were givebacks)
  • Mulgrew told the Delegate Assembly “Healthcare has nothing to do with this agreement”
  • The Executive Board heard about the contract and voted to recommend it in the same meeting, without a chance to read the language, and never having seen Appendix B.
  • The Delegate Assembly was rushed to recommend the contract to the membership without time to review the agreement. Importantly, the leadership hid Appendix B from the delegates,
  • Arthur eventually learned that health care was in the contract, but not from the Unity leadership. It was from another blogger. Unity did not share Appendix B until later, although some sources did leak it before the contract vote.

Because the UFT officials/Unity members correctly pointed out that Arthur knew about health care being in the contract, he wrote a correction in Gotham Gazette (at bottom) and published a correction on his blog.

Here’s Arthur’s Gotham Gazette correction:

Correction: There was a health agreement made by MLC six months before the 2018 Contract, and UFT members were informed if it. Rank and file had not voted on it, and we were not aware of the particulars or implications. It was incorporated into Appendix B of the contract, which was not shared with us before the contract was ratified.

https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/11684-who-blame-nyc-teacher-health-care-debacle

Tying Their Hands

We need an intrepid delegate to offer a resolution:

  • No more healthcare givebacks.
  • Get back the health care we gave up.

A negotiating priority should be to undo the healthcare givebacks. It is very hard to get something back once we’ve given it away. It will take an extraordinary effort. It will take great creativity. And it requires rank and file oversight.

But in order for this to happen, we need to control the process.

  • All health care negotiations must go through the negotiating committee.
  • All health care deals must be completely explained to Exec Board members and Delegates, with time for reflection, research, and conversation with members before any vote.
  • And that means no back door health care negotiations.

We do not need to tie the hands of the Negotiating Committee. They did not do this. But Mulgrew’s free rein to wheel and deal behind our backs? No. In that sense we need to place limits.