It was quite an eventful day.
I watched the City Council hearings on changing Administrative Code 12-126 all day and into the evening. I testified on paper but couldn't get to a computer when I had a chance to go live but I did see and heard Norm Scott, Bennett Fisher, Ibeth Mejia, and many others testify live. The overwhelming majority of retirees and active city workers at the hearing told the City Council to leave Administrative Code 12-126 alone and not allow the City and the Municipal Labor Committee to force retirees onto Medicare Advantage or face premiums.
Members of Mayor Adams’ administration faced jeers and hours of critical questioning during a Monday City Council hearing on his controversial attempt to make retired municipal workers pay for some forms of health insurance.
The complicated matter before the Council centers on an insurance plan called Medicare Advantage that Adams wants to enroll the municipal government’s roughly 250,000 retired workers in because he says it could save the city hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Courts have for over a year blocked the administration from implementing the plan due to a provision that would slap $191 monthly premiums on retirees who want to stay on traditional Medicare instead of accepting the free Advantage coverage. As a result, Adams has turned to the Council, asking its members to pass a bill that would roll back the underlying law that prompted courts to block the plan’s financial penalty in the first place.
But the proposal did not get a warm reception at a marathon Council Labor Committee hearing Monday.
Dozens of retired workers — who have maintained that Advantage would dilute their benefits and put them at risk of being denied care — packed into the chamber for the session and repeatedly interrupted City Hall officials during their testimony.
When Claire Levitt, Adams’ deputy commissioner of labor relations, said retirees do not “need to be concerned about” Advantage plans requiring some medical procedures to be preauthorized by a private health insurance provider, retirees in the room burst out in derisive laughter.
Michael Mulgrew showed up on Zoom.
The only other UFTers I heard testify were two retired officers and two other Unity stalwarts. Norm, Bennett, Ibeth, Marianne Pizzitola, Professional Staff Congress President James Davis, and so many others made the best presentations in urging the City Council to find savings outside of Medicare Advantage. Retirees want to keep traditional public Medicare. That was made abundantly clear.
We will see where this goes next but we didn't lose a thing today or this evening in our battle to preserve traditional public medicare.
Back to the Daily News piece:
Eight hours into the hearing, a senior Democratic Council member told the Daily News it’d be surprising for Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) to even schedule a vote on the bill, considering the internal pushback. “I’d be shocked if there was a vote,” the member said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
NEW YORK, N.Y. – AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel issued the following statement today ahead of AARP New York’s testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor in opposition to Intro 0874, which would weaken health insurance coverage for city employees, city retirees, and their dependents:
“Retired City workers are the very people who built this city and made it great. They deserve what they were promised, and, above all, they deserve the assurance of good health care in their later years.
“These retirees were promised solid health plans at no cost, and that is what they should be guaranteed.
“The City’s Medicare Advantage scheme could instead saddle retirees with higher costs, smaller networks, and greater administrative obstacles to accessing health care and preferred doctors. No retiree should be forced to pay more to get the same coverage or to lose the coverage they currently have. A promise made should be a promise kept.”
Meanwhile, uptown the New York State Nurses Association is on strike.
Thousands of nurses at two of New York City's largest hospitals went on strike Monday morning after a weekend of negotiations over pay and staffing failed to produce a deal for a new contract.
More than 7,000 nurses at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan were expected to participate in the walkout, the New York State Nurses Association, the largest union representing registered nurses in the state, said in a news release Monday.
Nurses at two facilities within Mount Sinai's health care system tentatively agreed to contracts Sunday, according to an announcement from the union, but negotiations continued at its flagship hospital.
“Nurses don’t want to strike," the union said in a statement late Sunday. "Bosses have pushed us to strike by refusing to seriously consider our proposals to address the desperate crisis of unsafe staffing that harms our patients."
Montefiore and Mount Sinai were among a number of hospitals with contracts with the union that expired. The New York State Nurses Association had threatened to strike at all of the affected hospitals at the same time, but other hospitals reached agreements with the union ahead of the deadline.
We fully support the strike.
Back downtown, the UFT Executive Board met. While Unity turned down a resolution calling for time to read agreements before they are voted on, they also surprised me as Unity did not oppose United for Change's candidate to fill a vacant high school seat, ICE-Solidarity's Luli Rodriguez.
Here is Aviation High School Chapter Leader and High School Executive Board member Ibeth Mejia's speech nominating Luli:
I nominate Luli Rodriguez from the High School for Economics and Finance for the vacant High School Executive Board position.
Luli is a leader who received the votes of the majority of high school teachers who voted in the 2022 UFT election in her campaign for UFT Treasurer. Luli was tapped to run for Treasurer in part because of her extensive experience in accounting. She is known for her detail-oriented analytical skills when examining school budgets. She can follow the money. Luli was working in accounting at the World Trade Center on 9-11. As a fire warden, she helped lead the successful evacuation of her office on that tragic day.
Luli has not shied away from leading when she became a special education teacher in NYC. She is a staunch advocate for students with disabilities. We used to call her the IEP maven when we worked together. Because she worked so diligently to make sure every student with disabilities received all of the services they were entitled to, Luli ended up battling two abusive principals who were more interested in dumping students into the mainstream to save money than educating students with disabilities. Luli would not allow any administrator to change IEPs in any unwarranted way so students, teachers, and parents have the utmost respect for her.
Luli fought back and in the process became a UFT activist. She was subsequently elected as a UFT Delegate and in her current school she is actively involved with the union chapter. Her experience and advocacy make her the ideal candidate to sit on this Executive Board to represent the high schools. It is an honor and privilege to nominate Luli Rodriguez for the High School Executive Board position.