This email from the NYC Organization of Public Sector Retirees came late last night. It looks like the battle to stop Mulgrewcare will take place quickly at the City Council in January.
This email from the NYC Organization of Public Sector Retirees came late last night. It looks like the battle to stop Mulgrewcare will take place quickly at the City Council in January.
This is from the New York City Central Labor Council. We support the nurses.
Nearly 99% of NYC RNs Vote to Authorize Strike
NYSNA nurses have announced the outcome of strike authorization votes at NYC private sector hospitals with union contracts expiring Dec. 31. More than 16,000 out of 17,000 nurses at NYC private sector hospitals have now completed their strike authorization votes, with 98.8 percent citywide voting in support of authorizing a strike.
Voting has completed at BronxCare, Montefiore, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, NewYork-Presbyterian, Richmond University Medical Center, Maimonides, and Flushing Hospital Medical Center. Voting is in progress at the remaining facilities, and NYSNA expects all 17,000 nurses to vote overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike.
Nancy Hagans, RN, BSN, CCRN, NYSNA President and frontline nurse at Maimonides Medical Center, said: “We don’t take striking lightly. Striking is always a last resort. But we are prepared to strike if our bosses give us no other option. Nurses have been to hell and back, risking our lives to save our patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes without the PPE we needed to keep ourselves safe, and too often without enough staff for safe patient care. Instead of supporting us and acknowledging our work, hospital executives have been fighting against COVID nurse heroes. They’ve left us with no other choice but to move forward with voting to authorize a strike for better patient care.”
RNs have been speaking out and sounding the alarm about the short-staffing crisis puts patients at risk, especially during a tripledemic of COVID, RSV and flu. Nurses say hospitals aren’t doing enough to keep caregivers at the bedside, and instead of working with COVID nurse heroes, in some cases, are even threatening to cut their healthcare benefits. Learn more here, at PIX11, CBS New York, the Chief, and follow the Nurses on Twitter for more updates.
This study concerns me as a parent, a teacher, and human being.
It seems strange that Michael Mulgrew continues to attempt to ram through Medicare Advantage (Mulgrewcare) after two courts with six judges ruled that it is illegal to charge premiums to NYC municipal retirees who want to stay on traditional public Medicare. Daniel Alicea over at Educators of NYC has done some research along with Illinois retired teacher unionist Fred Klonsky to show that privatizing Medicare to get the insurance companies richer is not just a local issue but NYC is up against a huge, national Medicare privatization push that the AFT endorses.
From Fred's Substack:
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers is among those pushing for New York public employees, including retired public school teachers, into the for-profit private insurance plan that is supposed to cover what regular Medicare does not.
Medicare Advantage plans have come under greater scrutiny and criticism in recent years for over-charging the government and denying coverage for medically necessary treatments.
When MA programs came on the market they were sold as a way to save government money. Now they do just the opposite.
But is Mulgrew and the UFT leadership acting alone or are they pursuing a large agenda of their parent union, the American Federation of Teachers and its president, Randi Weingarten?
Daniel Alicea has looked up Randi's 2019 position and noticed a change came about by 2020.
Randi in Politico, August 2019 endorsing single-payer Medicare for All:
“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a single, universal access point for health care and we could instead spend our time bargaining for lower class sizes and wrap around services and increases to people’s pay?” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, which endorsed Medicare for All earlier this year. “Wouldn’t it be great it if it wasn’t always dominated by health care fights?”
Randi then flip-flops and this is the AFT's 2020 position:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will work to achieve universal coverage by the year 2025, whether through single payer or private insurance with a public option, so that all patients have coverage for timely access to the care they need, treating healthcare as a public good, and will consider a different payment system model that promotes value and coordination in care delivery; and...
Notice how private insurance is part of the AFT mix now. I don't think Randi was ever passionate about Medicare for All but the 2020 resolution mixing in public and private fits right in with what the Municipal Labor Committee is attempting to do here in NYC by privatizing retiree Medicare.
To move this up two years, this is from libertarian Mike Antonucci's report on the 2022 AFT Convention:
A committee did not concur with a resolution to oppose the privatization of Medicare, for reasons I can only assume are related to the UFT’s involvement in moving retired New York City teachers into Medicare Advantage plans.
A major problem with this policy is there is a major inconsistency when it comes to privatizing healthcare but not schools. How are the unions going to oppose the privatization of public education through charter schools and vouchers when we are supporting privatization in retiree healthcare through Medicare Advantage?
UFTers have been asked by President Michael Mulgrew to pressure the City Council to change Administrative Code 12-126. The change would permit the Municipal Labor Committee (umbrella group of municipal unions) and Mayor Adams to privatize Medicare for retirees age 65 and above by lowering the benchmark rate the City has to pay for healthcare so retirees would have to pay premiums for GHI Senior Care that is now premium free if they don't want privatized Aetna Medicare Advantage (Mulgrewcare).
Below is part of a question and answer from High School Executive Board member Nick Bacon and President Mulgrew from Wednesday's Delegate Assembly concerning healthcare changes.
Question: Nick Bacon: Why didn't we vote on such a big campaign here at DA and at exec bd?
Answer: You elect me to make decisions. We will be here 15 years without a contract if we adopted such a practice of voting on everything.
We also elect Delegates and Chapter Leaders to represent members in making UFT policy. I guess what often is just a rubber stamp Delegate Assembly might not be so eager to put their stamp of approval on privatized Medicare for our retirees (Mulgrewcare) so Mulgrew has just decreed UFT policy the last few months. He decided by fiat that we are going to try to push the City Council to change Administrative Code 12-126 which has protected our premium free health benefits for over fifty years.
The attempt to privatize Medicare again illustrates how there are no functioning checks or balances in the UFT presidential system. Mulgrew is just getting away with more of his long-time practice of bullying democracy into oblivion in this union.
Mulgrew seems to fancy himself as the next George W Bush: "The Decider".
I still wonder why the ruling Unity caucus allows this one-person rule of the UFT to continue. Retirees, traditionally Unity's most loyal constituency, are not happy as they showed at a meeting last week.
Just a thought, if the Delegates and Executive Board can't vote on Mulgrewcare, would UFTers favor putting privatized Mulgrewcare up for a vote in a member referendum? We have that right if 10% of the membership asks for it.
Article V, SECTION 10 of the UFT Constitution: At the written request of one-third (1/3) of the entire membership of the Executive Board or of ten percent (10%) of the membership of this organization, the Executive Board shall submit to a referendum vote any matter except a proposed amendment to this Constitution and matters relating to the admission, suspension or expulsion of members.
We really should take our union democracy back, somehow.
We are starting a little early this month as we are hearing there are over 100 retirees making noise outside of 52 Broadway. Lawyer Steve Cohen, who won the case to protect our healtcare, just spoke.
I got on the call at around 4:18. Michael Mulgrew had already started his report.
The federal government wants to do a massive increase in Title I, Pell Grants, and Career and Technical Education. Mulgrew in DC last week with Randi and other advocates talking about expanding CTE. Putting forward a plan. NYC has the most quality and CTE programs. NYS opening up large chip facility in Syracuse. Projected to need 50,000 workers. Need 15,000 engineers. Happy about this advocacy. Thanks Secretary of Commerce, Education and Labor. Over 10,000 migrant children in our school system. We don't have enough support for them. Need guidance counselors, social workers, and people with bilingual certificates. School system is suffering from national school staff shortage. Poll to ask if schools have sufficient substitutes? We don't have enough people even if DOE fixed everything. Locals nationally have class sizes of 60 because they don't have teachers. We must work with national government, state level and city level. We need housing in the city. We need a contract.
CTE plan. Utilize $50 million a year for the next two years. We get it done but it shouldn't be this hard with SED
Groups of teacher subcommittees have been formed. We may need to reach out on certain issues. DOE moving forward on general provisions. Need to have the whole negotiating committee in on February 1. DOE needs to respond to demands of 28 subcommittees from functional chapters. We need to build momentum to get this contract. DC 37, Sanitation, and UFT actively negotiating. PBA arbitration also going on. Colocation fight in D 22. Success is the only charter chain looking for space all over the system. DOE says hands are tied. This didn't happen in de Blasio years. Someone is working with Eva Moskowitz to get space in our schools. First 100 speakers at Queens meeting were from Success. We had many there. We are fighting with Ms. Moskowitz. One school up for colocation has only 1 extra room now. Large d75 site in one building. We may be at war footing with mayor over charters when a pattern is set. We have to educate members in the school on how we arrive at a contract. We will do teach-ins on January 30. We have to educate members on what we want. Stop micromanagement, etc. We have been left out of a round of negotiations with Michael Bloomberg. We have to prepare. We will work with parents. We must educate our own folks. Negotiating committee wants to get this done. We need the chapter leaders. 800 members on the list to do this. We need more. Get on there if you are a chapter leader. We need everyone to be part of this. We have to do the hard work to get to a contract. Training virtually on Jan 17 and 19 and an in-person training after DA on January 18 for CLs and Delegates. We need to prepare but this could be getting ugly with the City Hall because of the charter schools. We will get to a contract one way or another. Are you ready to get this done? (Chants of Yes.)
We are getting migrants children from Texas. Federal and state governments sending money. DOE says everything is fine. Number of children is growing. Must make sure these kids get supports.
It is a hub for every one of our members. Must have a UFT account. Member hub will go live in January. 10,000 batches at a time for UFTers who already have accounts online. This will be the first iteration. We will be putting in more as this goes on. The 10,000 are randomly selected. Chapters outside of DOE and retirees will be included. Big piece.
Arbitrator came out with award. Two things are happening simultaneously. Arbitration on Medicare Advantage and RFP for in-service members. Arbitrator gave MLC 25 days to negotiate with Aetna. If there is no agreement, then arbitrator will find a remedy for monies that are owed. Premiums will be on the table. We don't pit members against each other at UFT. No retirees against active members. We have always been a target of other unions. We won't agree to anything unless it meets our criteria. Mulgrew has had many conversations with Aetna. We are in a different position. We embrace people who retire. Most unions should model this. Arbitrator said do this or this might happen. We want everything we had plus more. Must have accountability to see that it is real and enforceable. We want language that no insurance company has ever agreed to. No loopholes. Contract has to be adhered to. MLC people including us must see the data. Want expedited outside arbitration. The second piece is prior authorizations. Guidelines on what is appropriate and must have 1-2 days to get to arbitration. Data looks fine on prior authorizations. We don't trust data or insurance companies. If we don't get what we want, we don't move foward. Mulgrew can take attacks. He is confident in work he is doing. Bills in NYC and Albany on transparency in hospital billing. We have a right to know what hospitals are charging. Hospitals ripping us off. We jack up copays to stop overcharging. This will continue over the holidays. This is something that has never been done before.
Tier VI reform
7,000 members have contribution level going down because of the law we got through. Some are getting refunds. This is step 1 of Tier VI reform.
2022 a little better than 2021. It's a D that got to E with MOSL. Two years before this were horrible.
Wishes all a happy holiday and happy new year
Recommend people wear a mask. Cases of RSV and COVID have leveled this week. Flu is a nasty strain. In January it can get sticky. Leroy Barr is out ill. DA wishes him well. Mike Sill gives Secretary's Report.
We gave out many coats, particularly for migrant children. Teacher training Jan 17 19 virtually, Jan 18 in-person for delegates and chapter leaders. Jan 28 CL training number 2. Nominations for academic high school awards. Award is 5-5-23. Registration open for early childhood conference April 1. Middle School Scavenger Hunt at Grand Central. Al Shanker scholarship link available. Next DA is January 18. Wishes all happy holidays.
Question: Phone calls on administrative code, what is the status?
Mulgrew answer: Much misinformation around from other unions. Should read award. We are creating savings with healthcare. The arbitrator pointed out that if an agreement is reached with Aetna and there is no change in administrative code, first deal lets us pay a premium to keep Senior Care. Retirees wanted that option. Original lawsuit was about the RFP process. Judge found that was okay but litigants put in other issues. City had the ability to move forward. He also said that any plan under the HIP rate had to be offered for free. Judge said those plans couldn't go forward. Judge said we couldn't pay for those plans. Asked City Council to change the Administrative code. City council members are afraid. Allowed fear to take away their choice. Want option in final plan. City Council is looking at it differently. Enough with the politics. We need the administrative code changed. Meeting with council members again. Thank you for doing that work.
Question: D 75 CL, Major para shortage. Can we convince DOE to have hiring fairs?
Answer: DOE had to fix glitch in hiring system. We should be reaching out to CUNY. DOE needs to figure out how to nominate subs even if they didn't go through sub central. On paras, we have to reinvigorate to get people inside the para position. We have more paras than ever in the system but not enough. Meetings on Friday. We were out of compliance before we had a para shortage. DOE using this as a shield. Saying there is nobody out there. We have to do something.
Question: Nick Bacon: Read Sheinman recommendation. It is non-binding. Campaign on 12-126, other unions like PSC oppose this. Why didn't we vote on such a big campaign here at DA and at exec bd?
Answer: It is nonbinding. We can say no to a lot of things. We have to discuss ramifications of not changing 12-126. Understand the emotion of just saying no. We can stop harm by being smart. Responsibly reporting on what is going on. Never seen a union saying no to taking away 50 years of collective bargaining rights. You elect me to make decisions. We will be here 15 years without a contract if we adopted such a practice of voting on everything.
From Nick's own account:
(1) Martin Scheinman phrases his so-called ‘award’ not as a ‘decision’ but as a ‘recommendation.’ He calls other awards ‘decisions.’ Councilwoman Gale Brewer also commented that the arbitrator decision is non-binding. Why are you calling it a decision? To this question, Michael Mulgrew admitted that the decision is not binding, despite having spoken about it as if it was before my question. Of course, if it’s non-binding, that begs the question of why we’re even talking about it. It literally can’t be enforced.
(2) There’s been a lot of talk tonight about our fight to change 12-126. You called it ‘our opinion’ that it should be changed. But there was never a decision by the Executive Board or the Delegate Assembly that this was our point of view. Shouldn’t we have been consulted for a vote before we as a union decided it was our decision to invest in resources and campaign to literally change city law? Other unions, don’t even agree with that move. PSC (the CUNY professors union) for instance is campaigning to NOT change the code. Mulgrew’s response was long here. He gaslit a bit about how we ‘can’t vote on EVERYTHING.’ But more importantly he noted that ‘he was voted in’ and thus ‘has the right to make decisions.’ What does that say about our democracy?
Question: Contract is confusing if we don't know what we are asking the city for the next contract. Can more be made public?
Answer: Did you click on QR code? Answer was no. Looking forward to you coming on down to work on educating members. Negotiating committee voted on this. We can talk about getting a significant raise. Things like lack of support are important. Get involved in teach-ins.
New Motion period
Motion for next month:
Motion to oppose Success Academy colocations for next month.
Success trying to get into DOE schools. DOE underestimates building utilizations and class size law means we will need more rooms in campus schools. Put this on next month's agenda.
Nobody wishes to speak against.
569 Vote Yes on line- 33 Vote No; live it is 141-2. It is on next month's agenda.
Motion in support of Railway workers in UK who have been engaging in a series of strikes. They deserve our support.
Nobody speaks against.
Online, 445 yes to 86 no online; 127-9 live. It has 86% approval overall.
Point of information: Jeff Andrusin. 732 for quorum. 667 votes altogether. Do we have a quorum?
936 online. Jeff asks why people aren't voting? Mulgrew supports people voting but they don't have to.
Endorse Victoria Lee for Teachers Retirement Board. Mulgrew takes a point of personal privilege to compliement Debra Penny who will stay as UFT treasurer but is leaving TRS Board. She dealt personally with people who we lost during COVID.
Debra Penny speaks in favor of Victoria Lee. Victoria Lee is up to position. When pandemic came, she came up with Zooms to still educate members. Thanks delegates for support and endorses Victoria.
Tom Brown who is on TRS Board supports Victoria Lee. Wishes Deb Penny good luck. Says Victoria is a defender of defined benefits. She understands fiduciary responsibility to earn the most money possible in system.
David Kazansky, another trustee on the TRS Board speaks next. Deb did a great job. Victoria is a great follow-up.
485 yes to 25 no online to end debate. In room it is 118-3
Vote to endorse Victoria Lee is 538 Yes - 15 no online; it is 123-7 in-person. It carries.
Tier VI benefits resolution:
Amy Bernstein speaks in favor. 51,000 Tier VI members have to work 41 years to age 63 to get an unreduced pension. Members need enhanced benefits. Contribution rates changed to only base pay. We need to continue to make changes to Tier VI law.
Motion to amend: Nick Bacon wants to add a resolved that says the UFT will start an aggressive lobby campaign to get Tier VI equal to Tier IV including having a 25-55 option for Tier VI and UFT will lobby against any future pension tiers that will reduce benefits.
Someone calls a point of order saying it was three amendments but Nick says it is one amendment with 3 resolveds.
David Kazinsky speaks against saying it is too specific and we need leeway.
Point of information on amendment not being more than three lines so it violates the rules that something more than three lines has to be in writing. The amendment is invalid.
Travis from Cardozo speaks in favor of resolution.
Then Victoria Lee rises in support. 9 reforms of Tier IV. Tier VI still in beginning stages. It took 15 years to make improvements to Tier IV.
Motion to call the question
493 Yes to 29 no online, overall it is 612 to 32 to close debate.
Resolution to improve Tier VI has 530 Yes to 22 No online in the room I can't hear but it is 667- to 25 so the resolution passes.
Rich Mantell motivates resolution on social-emotional screening test. 43-question test and services weren't offered after it. Get rid of this DESSA test.
Nobody wants to debate.
Delgates vote to close debate 631-18.
Resolution passes 676-12, it passes.
Resolution to support migrant families, CL from Sunnyside school speaks in favor.
Nobody speaks against.
Resolution passes 559-48.
Mulgrew thanks delegates again and wishes all happy holidays and happy new year.
So much to write about today.
The momentum against Mulgrewcare is starting to make me feel cautiously optimistic. The opposition to forcing retirees into a privatized Medicare Advantage plan (Mulgrewcare) is growing.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew claimed he had an arbitrator's ruling on his side last week. Mulgrew, other union leaders in the Municipal Labor Committee, and the City's Office of Labor Relations paid their favorite arbitrator, Martin Scheinman, to write a "ruling" that upon close scrutiny turned out wasn't a ruling at all but merely an opinion pushing Mulgrewcare.
Mulgrew said this in his last 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. The ruling stated that the unions have 25 days to negotiate with Aetna to make sure the plan is the best it can be.
Mulgrew thought he really pulled a fast one with this "ruling" he could blame on Scheinman. Mulgrew still doesn't understand that in the battle over retiree healthcare, it is not just United for Change, MORE, ICE-UFT, or some other UFT opposition group or independents. It is well-organized retirees. His mendacity often works on internal critics but Mulgrew is now up against the New York City Organization of Public Sector Retirees, whose leader Marianne Pizzitola, is a one-person rapid response army ready to immediately fact-check every piece of bullshit put out by union leaders, not just Mulgrew.
This video is a brief response to Scheinman's propaganda, where Marianne notes how Scheinman isn't neutral; he is paid by the Municipal Labor Committee and the City. His paid opinion could be used to "line your birdcage" for all that it is worth, according to Marianne.
The good news is that Marianne and others are gaining real momentum. Norm at EdNotes points out some of the most recent reactions to Scheinman from our side, the side that wants to preserve Administrative Code 12-126 which has protected City worker and retiree healthcare rights since 1967.
This is part of a piece from retiree Evie Rich in the Amsterdam News:
It’s time for us — Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) — to stop staying back and to stand up joining our white allies in opposing Mayor Adams and his administration’s efforts to transfer 260,000 municipal retirees (and our dependents) to a privately administered Medicare Advantage Plus program that have been in the works for more than two years now.
Further down, Ms. Rich declares we must oppose changing Administrative Code 12-126. She gives multiple reasons. One of them:
Too many of us accept rejection — in any form. We do not fight back when we’re told “No.” Higher income and higher pensioned retirees and current employees (mostly white) will opt out. We cannot afford to create or sustain such a system, and the times will not tolerate it.
Pensioners with low incomes are being defended by Marianne's retirees who sued to stop copays in Senior Care which is a supplemental Medigap plan that pays only 20% of doctor's office expenses. Mulgrew has defended the copays.
The City Council looks to be sticking with the retirees too. This is from Manhattan Councilmember Gale Brewer:
Meanwhile, in the UK, the workers are fighting back with a wave of strikes. The National Health Service is their government run universal healthcare system.
LONDON — Across the River Thames from Big Ben last Thursday morning, a couple hundred nurses formed a picket line in front of St. Thomas' Hospital. One waved a sign that read, "Can anyone find my friends? They all quit."
"Currently nursing my inadequate pay," read another.
As cars rode past, drivers honked their support.
"I think that nurses need to be given a pay rise that matches inflation because the cost of living [has] shot up so much," said nurse Rosie Woods, referring to the United Kingdom's inflation rate, which is near 11%, its highest level in four decades. "You've literally got nurses visiting food banks."
Woods and tens of thousands of other nurses staged a one-day walkout Thursday, the biggest nursing strike in the history of Britain's National Health Service.
And they're not the only ones walking out. Joining them this month are employees from other essential services including rail workers, mail carriers and airport immigration officers. It's the largest series of labor actions in the United Kingdom in more than a decade, and presents a major challenge to the new government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
But does the public support nurses on strike you ask?
Three fifths (60%) of voters said they support nurses going on strike for two days in December, up three points on the last poll a fortnight ago. Some 29% were opposed, down one point.
Ambulance workers will be next to engage in industrial action.
Labor militancy is so needed in NYC.
We reported yesterday that we didn't think Martin Scheinman was a neutral arbitrator but was a scribe for the City-Municipal Labor Committee trying to force Mulgrewcare (Medicare Advantage) on retirees.
The NYC Public Sector Retirees have studied Sheinman's award and determined it is "fake news".
December 16, 2022
UPDATED Retiree Statement on the Scheinman “Decision”
Martin Scheinman’s “Opinion and Award” is nothing more than his personal opinion; he doesn’t have the legal authority to “award” a victory to the City and MLC by overruling the courts’ decisions. And he certainly doesn’t have the power to end Senior Care. Killing retirees’ access to traditional Medicare and imposing a one-size-fits-all Medicare Advantage plan may be his recommendation, but the representation to the press that this is a “win” or a “ruling” is a desperate example of fake news.
Mr. Scheinman’s report is nothing more than bad theater: a combination of farce and tragedy – with lots of horror thrown in to keep people glued to their seats, waiting to see who will be gored next. Mr. Scheinman’s role as Arbitrator is limited to resolving disputes between the City and the MLC. Except here, there is no dispute: the City and the MLC have been trying for 18 months to force retirees into Medicare Advantage and charge them a penalty if they choose to remain in their current plan – which the courts have prohibited. So, instead of sitting down with retirees and together figuring out how to save on healthcare costs, the City and MLC are resorting to this Kabuki theater: Mr. Scheinman is making us do it!
Retirees have repeatedly offered to sit with the Mayor’s staff and go through the more than $300 million in actual savings that they have already identified. And three times the Mayor’s staff has agreed to meet, and then cancelled the meeting. The meeting this week was cancelled 15 minutes before it was to begin by OMB and then when we were finally able to convene, it was only a brief meeting to begin the conversation where we identified savings and waste in Labor Relation’s management of plan eligibility and hoped these conversations would continue. The proposed path by the City is NOT the only way to savings. Retirees have a proposed a Blue Ribbon Panel to identify additional healthcare savings, but the MLC has adamantly opposed an independent fact-finding investigation, probably because they don’t want anyone turning over rocks that would expose years of collusion and mismanagement, And retirees have identified a way for the City to tap federal funds – from the CMMI Innovation Fund – and yet silence from the City and MLC. What are they afraid of?
Mr. Scheinman’s report is so replete with misrepresentations, lawyerly weasel-words that shade the truth, and outright fantasy that we won’t rebut it here. But his conclusion: that the City Council must gut Administrative Law 12-126 in order to preserve health insurance choices would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. It is akin to the Army’s rationale during the Vietnam War that, “We had to destroy this village in order to save it.”
We understand the lure of a purported $600 million in annual Federal funds. And no one is against finding legitimate healthcare savings. But doing it on the backs of senior citizens and disabled first responders is not just unfair, it is illegal. There are 50 years of promises, collective bargaining agreements, legislation, and past-practice that set a powerful precedent. If the City tries to kill Senior Care, we will see them in Court.
But first, we urge the Mayor to do the right thing: sit with the retirees; understand where $300 million in annual savings can be found now; and how to tap Medicare’s Innovation Fund.
President, NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees
NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees
FDNY EMS Retirees Association
Michael Mulgrew's favorite arbitrator, Martin Scheinman, has released a recommendation saying the City and Municipal Labor Committee can move forward with a privatized Medicare Advantage plan for Medicare eligible retirees. For profit Aetna will get the business.
Scheinman threatens premiums and no healthcare options if we don't agree to Mulgrewcare (Medicare Advantage) in 25 days and we would also have to change Administative Code 12-126 to most likely lower the benchmark rate the City has to pay for health care.
Scheinman is not an independent arbitrator here. He has been chairing the Tripartite City-MLC commission on healthcare. How does he have jurisdiction in this matter as the City and union leaders are basically in agreement?
There needs to be someone who will attempt to resolve a dispute between the City-MLC vs tens of thousands of retirees who want to keep the traditional public Medicare supplemented by GHI Senior Care. Scheinman is basically a scribe for the City-MLC, not an independent arbitrator.
Statement from NYC Retiree Organization
For Immediate Release – Thursday, December 15, 2022
NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees Statement on Arbitrator’s Decision
Mr. Scheinman is voicing the interests of the City and the MLC, neither of whom represent the interests of retirees. Retirees were not part of the arbitration process. But if the City seeks to violate Retirees’ rights again, Retirees will once again have to seek judicial intervention to protect their healthcare rights. Mr. Scheinman himself states, “ implementation was delayed by a lawsuit filed by a small group of unaffiliated retirees.” Since he admits we are unaffiliated, he should not be making decisions for us. Grandfather current retirees in the benefit arrangements we earned and paid for during our years of collective bargaining and accepting reduced wages and benefits to maintain. This frees the current unions to negotiate their own benefit changes for those affiliated with them. Unions are supposed to protect retired labor. Sadly those days are over.
The MLC has argued for over a year that section 12-126 does not require the City to fund all plans, and that Medicare Advantage is just as good as Medicare. Six Supreme Court justices unanimously held that the MLC was wrong on the law, and a slew of reports proves that the MLC and Mr. Scheinman are wrong about Medicare Advantage. If they had any sense of shame, they would not steal from senior citizens, disabled retirees and first responders to save themselves from the UFT using $1 Billion from the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund to pay for raises and other misuse.
We built this City and our former unions. We rebuilt this City after 9/11. Grandfather us, or use our suggestions to find savings including allowing us to assist you in leading the nation in developing a Medigap plan we WANT, and get it federally funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. The MLC needs to think outside the box, and stop boxing us into their schemes.
NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees
FDNY EMS Retirees Association
In Michael Mulgrew's latest email (see below), he has resorted to threatening us. If we don't agree to a retiree privatized healthcare plan he wants, then Mulgrew, Henry Garrido (DC 37 leader), Harry Nespoli (Sanitation union leader and head of the Municipal Labor Committee), and other MLC leaders can just foist on us anything they negotiate with the City whether we like it or not.
The New York City Retirees Organization, the Professional Staff Congress (CUNY union), other unions, and organizations such as Retiree Advocate UFT have so far been successful in convincing the City Council NOT to change Administrative Code 12-126 which has protected premium-free healthcare up to the HIP-HMO rate now around $918 a month for over half a century. Mulgrew has decided that he and other union leaders who control the Municipal Labor Committee can just ram any changes on healthcare down our throats without even asking for our approval.
Read Mulgrew's own words from his latest email sent last Friday:
At this moment, we see a possible opportunity to use the Medicare Advantage system to create a new plan for Medicare-eligible city retirees that would have the strength and quality our retirees deserve.
He has obviously not heard any of the retirees who in big numbers have been saying loudly that we don't want a privatized Medicare Advantage Plan with its prior authorizations that Mulgrew tried to force on Medicare-eligible retirees last year. Fortunately, Mulgrew and company forgot to follow the law so they were rebuffed by six judges in two courts when the New York City Retirees Organization sued.
Instead of listening to city employees and retirees and looking for healthcare savings that don't come on the backs of workers or retirees, Mulgrew in his email tells us he is now coming back for "Mulgrewcare Round 2". This time it will be a Medicare Advantage plan from Aetna. Mulgrew's latest includes threats that unless we get the City Council to agree to change Administrative Code 12-126 to allow Mulgrewcare to be implemented, there will be no choice for another plan so retirees 65 and over will be stuck with Aetna's Mulgrewcare, take it or leave it.
The City doesn't care about our healthcare and neither do some of the union leaders. I blame the MLC for pushing Medicare Advantage because they agreed to healthcare givebacks in 2018 and haven't done anything to ensure those savings won't come on the backs of City employees and retirees. The unions and City must agree to a privatized Medicare or it is dead.
Prior authorizations are a big concern of retirees from Mulgrewcare as they delay necessary medical care while patients and doctors wait for insurance company approvals. Norm over at Ed Notes called them Mulgrewcare's "death panels" in a recent post. 34% of doctors in this 2021 American Medical Association survey report prior authorizations "has led to a serious adverse effect for a patient in their care." That is frightening.
I could have had a prior authorization nightmare experience myself. Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare disorder. The specialist knew he had to treat me immediately with medicine that is normally used for another disease. He told me there was no time to wait for the insurance company to figure this out. I was lucky he had free samples of a very expensive drug in his other office so he immediately sent me there. Had I waited, it could have had a very disastrous impact on my health.
Prior authorizations are not a good idea in general but are especially risky for seniors who often have more medical needs than younger people. I don't want to wait around for the insurance company to decide if I should be treated and then appeal to Mulgrew's medical arbitration panel if rejected. This is especially true as we age and we are more likely to need medical care.
Mulgrewcare would impact retirees first but you can bet that active people could soon to be forced onto a different Mulgrewcare plan next. Mulgrew in his own words again:
Our decades-long approach to finding creative ways to rein in health care costs without compromising care has pushed us to explore all available options, including putting out an RFP for in-service health care savings.
RFP means Request for Proposal. I would guess the City-MLC are going to get a lowball offer from some for-profit health company for active City workers and non-Medicare-eligible retirees soon. If they can't change 12-126 and the City and MLC threaten to eliminate all of our choices, the only option at that point would be to put us all on HIP-HMO. I say this to Mulgrew et al, go ahead and try it. Eliminate the choices and watch the rank-and-file rebellion that would follow.
As for exploring all available savings options, there are seven from the 2018 giveback agreement that haven't even been considered to our knowledge.
Alternatives to Medicare Advantage (Mulgrewcare) certainly have not been discussed with UFT members. For example, self-insurance means the City would assume the risk and the insurance companies would just administer the health plans. I am no expert and I don't claim to know much here but I can figure out that with a plan covering many hundreds of thousands of City employees and retirees, that group is going to have many healthy young people in it. It might not be very risky to self-insure the City's workers and retirees. Ashland, Oregon's self-insurance plan is described here. In the final analysis, unions should not be allowing any burden of healthcare savings to come down on their active members, their families, or retirees.
Over 90% of active City workers, non-medicare eligible, and Medicare-eligible retirees choose GHI-CBP for healthcare (for Medicare eligible, GHI Senior Care is a supplemental plan that covers 20% of doctor expenses; Medicare covers 80%). The City and MLC want to change 12-126 so they can agree to a low benchmark plan (as low as $7.50 a month compared to the current legal benchmark of around $918 a month) and force all of us to pay high premiums if we want a better (pay up plan). They have been illegally charging premiums to certain retirees for decades and now they are illegally charging co-pays to retirees.
There is nothing the courts have said or in the law that forces the City to offer only one healthcare plan to retirees or in-service members. It is Mulgrew and company that are agreeing to every healthcare giveback and they are attempting to concede even more.
What gets me is why Unity folks put up with this. When will all of you in the majority caucus finally say, "Enough, already!"
Marianne Pizzitola responds to Mulgrew's email. She rapidly and rather easily debunks just about everything Mulgrew puts out.
Last week, the ICEblog explained some of what the UFT in particular has on our side in this healthcare fight. The Contract and law are worthless if the UFT leadership won't enforce them. It is worth repeating some of that earlier piece as it got lost when the Town Hall minutes came out.
UFT members have the law and the Contract with us when it comes to healthcare.
Administrative Code 12-126 protects healthcare for City workers and retirees up to the HIP-HMO rate ($918 per month). If the City Council amends the law, the City and Municipal Labor Committee (umbrella group of municipal unions) could make the amount the City has to pay as low as the City and MLC agree to. The strong language that goes in our favor:
(1) The city will pay the entire cost of health insurance coverage for city employees, city retirees, and their dependents, not to exceed one hundred percent of the full cost of H.I.P.-H.M.O. on a category basis.
This law does not need to be amended. Tell the City Council to preserve the Code.
We have even more protections as UFT members compared to other City workers and retirees on healthcare. Look at Article 3G1 our UFT Contract.
3G. Health Insurance and Welfare Fund Benefits
1. Choice of Health Plans
The Board agrees to arrange for, and make available to each day school teacher, a choice of health and hospital insurance coverage from among designated plans and the Board agrees to pay the full cost of such coverage.
Choice of plans with the Board paying the full cost of such coverage. That sounds pretty strong to me. The UFT also has appendix E in the back of the Contract that further outlines healthcare benefits.
Healthcare is a mandatory subject of bargaining that is protected by the Taylor Law as well as the 1992 City-MLC letter of agreement on healthcare.
The contract is on our side as is the 1992 letter of agreement. That helps active people.
School district retirees are also protected in that the City's threat to take away all choice of plans for retirees would probably be illegal. Certainly, putting retirees on a Medicare Advantage Plan that requires pre-authorizations and limits choice would be a reduction in benefits. The City can't do that to school district retirees by law unless they do the same to active school district employees which they can't do because of the Taylor Law.
Permanent Health Care Moratorium The permanent health care moratorium ensures that health insurance benefits for K-12 retirees cannot be reduced unless locally negotiated benefits for in-service members are comparably reduced.
Why isn't the Union fighting back?
Update with link to join to make calls to City Council to preserve 22-126
Mulgrew's latest email:
This was on twitter:
Resolution to Demand Tier 6 Reforms
Whereas, retirement benefits are not collectively bargained and are in fact tiered, such that two UFT-represented employees with roughly the same amount of experience can have vastly different benefits to look forward to upon retirement.
Whereas, any UFT member who joined the Teachers Retirement System after March 31, 2012 is entered in the Tier 6 pension system; and, have reduced benefits, significantly higher contribution costs, and more severe penalties for early retirement (before the age of 63), compared to members in Tier 4 (who themselves have reduced benefits compared to those in Tier 1), even as many other city agencies such as police, fire, and sanitation can retire with full pensions after 22 years of service.
Whereas, the result of decreased benefits, inflexible retirement age, and increased payment for receipt of said benefits means that Tier 6 members receive less in net compensation than peers in Tier 4.
Whereas the first group of Tier 6 UFT members will soon reach their 10 year mark and thus begin contributing beyond what was expected of their peers in Tier 4, making action on pension reconciliation urgent.
Whereas, in the past the UFT has previously lobbied for pension improvements with some success (e.g. a 25-55 option for Tier 4 members); and Whereas, legislators in New York State are majority Democrats now, but might not always be in the future.
Whereas, lobbying so far has led to a modest improvement, specifically in vesting time, but otherwise has not even come close to making Tier 6 equitable with Tier 4. And, whereas failure to lobby on behalf of our Tier 6 members now to fix its other deficiencies may not only harm our Tier 6 members, but may result in us being forced into a defensive position in coming years if new inferior tiers are introduced for future UFT members.
Be it resolved: the UFT will begin an immediate and aggressive lobbying campaign to the City and the State to improve Tier 6 to at least the level of Tier 4.
Be it resolved: as part of this campaign, the UFT will lobby to create a 25-55 option for Tier 6 members equal to that previously offered to Tier 4 members.
Be it resolved: as part of this campaign, any politician who blocks or intends to block our efforts to fix Tier 6 must at a minimum be barred from receiving COPE dollars, our endorsement, or any other form of UFT support.
Be it resolved: the UFT will also commit to campaigning against any new proposed tiers for future members that have lower benefits than those of currently active tiers.
Resolution on Ending Disproportionate Impact of Discontinuance for High School Probationary Teachers
Whereas, even the most effective probationary teachers can be discontinued or denied tenure for any non-pedagogical reason, including as retaliation for political or union activity.
Whereas, in elementary and middle schools, discontinuance or denial is limited to geographic districts, at least giving teachers of those grades the option to reapply to nearby schools in other adjoining districts.
Whereas, in high schools, discontinuance and denial extends to all high schools in the city, giving high school teachers no option to reapply to high schools in other districts or even other boroughs.
Be it resolved that the UFT will start a multifaceted campaign to convince the DOE and the City to limit the scope of discontinuance or denial of high school teachers to the geographic district in which they teach.