UFT Leadership’s Dangerous 2018 Giveback has put us all at Risk

In 2018, Michael Mulgrew rushed out a contract with dangerous givebacks, lying to members that there weren’t any. The most dangerous giveback? That somehow, in a time of record healthcare inflation, we would find a way to save $600 million annually on healthcare. The main way Mulgrew sought to do this was through a Medicare Advantage program, and we all know the story there: retirees fought, and at least temporarily won back premium-free traditional Medicare on the basis of Administrative Code 12-126. But they didn’t fix the issue of our debt, and the UFT is in big trouble there.

That trouble–the trouble of Mulgrew’s 2018 debt commitment–is why we’ve seen so much misdirection from UFT leadership. It’s why we’ve seen a policy set, without any democratic mandate, to convince in-service members to ‘amend the code.’ And it’s why we’ve seen threats sent out to membership, likely coordinated between Mulgrew and the very people with whom he’s supposed to be bargaining. It’s also why we’ve seen Mulgrew’s big lie – that somehow, on the basis of Administrative Code 12-126, we’ve lost our right to collectively bargain on healthcare. That’s nonsense, as I showed in an article earlier this week. Indeed, much in Lyle Frank’s decision substantiates our right (via the MLC) to collectively bargain with the City over healthcare.

There’s only one source which gives any credence to the idea that we might lose collective bargaining rights over healthcare plans. That source is Martin Scheinman’s letter suggesting what he might do if Administrative Code 12-126 isn’t amended. Read this letter carefully. While Scheinman notes that the City is only obligated to provide one health plan, he doesn’t say anything about collective bargaining rights being taken away in Frank’s decision. Rather, he notes that [if the administrative code isn’t amended] he would “determine the City and MLC shall eliminate Senior Care as an option.” What would give him the right to intervene in this way? As he notes early on, it’s the 2018 Contract and our (unmet) promise for healthcare savings. UFT Leadership always leaves out the 2018 contract when it discusses healthcare. It turns out that contract, which UFT leadership tricked members into ratifying, is the entire source of the problem.

Whether or not Scheinman’s decision would stand, one major finding needs restating here. No judge decided we could lose collective bargaining rights over healthcare. Contracts have consequences, and one is arbitration when there’s a question of one party not meeting their obligations. UFT Leadership is unable to meet their obligations of healthcare savings from the 2018 contract. Our arbitrator, Martin Scheinman said he would intervene and enforce MAP as the only healthcare option for retirees (in order to get the City its savings). That’s not the end of collective bargaining, it’s a consequence of collective bargaining. Therefore, if you have anyone to thank for ‘losing our collective bargaining rights’ over healthcare, it’s UFT leadership. It is they, not retirees or opposition activists, who negotiated a secret deal and couldn’t keep their end.


Why is UFT Leadership misleading us about Precedent RE Administrative Code 12-126?

Any UFT member who has tuned into an executive board meeting, DA, town hall, or simply checked their non-DOE email, has heard/seen the propaganda. ‘If we don’t organize to amend City Administrative Code 12-126,’ they say, ‘we will lose both (a) our premium-free healthcare and (b) our right to ‘collectively bargain’ (particularly for more expensive ‘pay up plans’).’ There’s been a lot written about how this is misinformation already – and not just from your usual UFT bloggers, but also from the many official unions, such as PSC, who disagree with Mulgrew’s narrative.

Point A (premiums) is likely the most outlandish argument, given the code literally protects us from paying premiums up to the HIP benchmark. Point B–that somehow Lyle Frank’s original decision took away decades of collective bargaining rights from the UFT–has been a stranger, more nebulous argument to debunk because it’s so out of left field. To be clear, it is not true. I can point to various passages, but one of my favorite is here: “The respondent was well within its right to work with the Municipal Labor Council to change how retirees get their health insurance. As the municipal labor unions are the entities that enter into collective bargaining agreements, those unions, through the umbrella Municipal Labor Council may amend those agreements….” Call me crazy, but I’m just not seeing the judge taking away collective bargaining rights here. Indeed, a 1992 agreement not even directly referenced in this case, sets in stone that the City and MLC must negotiate all healthcare changes.

So, why is UFT leadership announcing to the world–and therefore to the City–that they believe the City can do whatever it wants with our healthcare? Something tells me it has something to do with the $600 million in annual healthcare savings that UFT leadership tricked us into ratifying in our last ‘no giveback’ contract. We ostensibly can’t pay the debt without changing the administrative code and ushering in healthcare givebacks. And since the City Council likely won’t do that and betray municipal workers and retirees, the UFT needs a plan B to pay up. Telling the City they believe there is now a legal precedent that they can do whatever they want with our healthcare is one way of doing that. This move scapegoats the City (and opposition) for the healthcare changes, and obscures the reality that the MLC is signing off on the givebacks. However, some of these changes–such as issuing premiums to in-service workers–would likely fail in court on the basis of City Administrative Code 12-126, so a bit more analysis is needed, specifically on these two final questions:

(1) Why would the UFT let the City force retires onto MAP without the option of paying to opt back into traditional Medicare?

Spite doesn’t seem like a good enough answer here. If the City/MLC actually go through with this, my best bet is it has something to do with anxiety over their MAP plan failing if too many retirees opt out. If all municipal retirees were on the same MAP plan, they might think it less likely that doctors choose to opt out of taking it. After all, Mulgrew is always saying that our biggest strength is the sheer number of people in our contract. ‘What healthcare provider doesn’t want the city workers contract?’ Under that logic, if too many retirees opt out of MAP, it weakens Mulgrew’s ‘bargaining’ ability. Would the MLC completely kill traditional Medicare for this reason? It remains to be seen, but that’s the only reason why I can see Mulgrew making the threat.

(2) How could the City give in-service employees health-care premiums, when we’re protected from them up to the HIP benchmark?

The answer to this question is trickier, in part because a lawsuit filed by grassroots ‘in-service’ advocates, would surely prevail here —- unless something big changed. Our benchmark protects us up to the HIP rate. But what if there was no HIP? If something big were to happen over at Emblem, the administrative code could theoretically become moot. This possibility must be considered, especially in the midst of a new RFP for in-service healthcare (which could be construed as a signal by the MLC that they plan on hiring someone other than Emblem). The course of events required is hopefully unlikely, especially in the short term, but the results for our healthcare (both in-service and retired) could be catastrophic.

Minutes UFT Executive Board of December 5, 2022

Thanks to Mike Shulman for preparing the minutes below. Nick Bacon was unable to attend and take his usual minutes due to illness.

President Mulgrew is not present—so no President’s report.

Staff Director Leroy Barr is not present—so no Staff Director’s report.

The session is chaired by Michael Sill.

Question Period:

Ed Calamia questions why Executive Board members and other UFT members are kept out of the meeting standing in the cold until the doors are opened at 6:00 pm. Up to this point, the doors were opened around 5:40.

Mike Sill replies it’s on him. He should have let security know to let folks in.

Several reports were made from districts. (a few captured here on Norm Scott’s blog).

Mike Sill thanks Alex Jallot and the signatories of the resolution on Discontinued Probationers from the high school division for agreeing to postpone their resolution until the December 12 Exec. Bd. meeting since key members, notably Janella Hines, VP for Academic High Schools were not present.

Special Order of Business:

Rashad Brown motivates the Resolution “Opposition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Policy for Blood Donations from Members of the LGBTQIA + Community”. The resolution passes unanimously.

The meeting ends at 6:26pm with the announcement that the Delegate Assembly of December 14 is postponed until December 21.

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December 2022