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.

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