Mulgrew to Members: Prepare for Premiums – Analyzing the 1-18-2023 Delegate Assembly

The UFT’s first delegate assembly of 2023 was an incredibly rich source of disappointing information – particularly Mulgrew’s nonchalant remark that in-service members will likely now pay premiums. The big topic tonight was healthcare. For more exhaustive minutes, including the many resolutions that were passed, such as a twice amended version of an anti-charter reso, check out the ICE-UFT blog.

Mulgrew didn’t seem to want to discuss healthcare tonight. He had given a full report without mentioning anything about it. We had moved onto Barr’s Secretary report. Then, just before the question period, Mulgrew jumped back up to say someone ‘reminded’ him to give the healthcare update. A bit out of custom, the president’s report then resumed with some big information: (1) that the MLC likely won’t agree to the Aetna deal for MAP; (2) that ‘given the arbitrator’s decision’ this will likely mean in-service members will now pay premiums; and (3) that things are looking good for the in-service RFP (for healthcare at 10% a cheaper cost than GHI). Note that point three was strangely divorced from point two. Also, to my recollection, Mulgrew, surprisingly didn’t mention anything on the fact that an amendment to 12-126 likely won’t even be put to a vote. Retirees and others (including myself) appear to have successfully lobbied City Council to keep our healthcare protections in place, despite our own union leadership’s attempt to get rid of it.

These are not your everyday bits of healthcare news. Many of us had questions, and a few of us in the progressive opposition were called on to ask them. One big one (asked by two delegates): what happens to our resolutions after they are passed? Do they have an expiration date? The source of this question was a resolution passed a few years back in support of the New York Health Act, which would have created a state-based universal healthcare system. Despite membership voting in its favor, UFT leadership has since vocalized that it does not want the law to pass. Mulgrew’s response was hostile to one of the delegates (Martina Meijer), implying that she was being anti-democratic for raising a point of information, not that the UFT leadership was being anti-democratic for reversing course on a resolution without democratic consent. He also responded that resolutions can become ‘moot’ over time, although I’m not sure why universal healthcare has less appeal today than yesterday. Unity applauded Mulgrew, despite the flawed logic.

I asked the following question: given that, after my question at the last DA, Mulgrew confirmed that the arbitrator’s decision is not binding, and given that 12-126 is still law and protects members from paying premiums up to the HIP benchmark, how is it possible that we would end up paying premiums? Also, how does all this relate to the announcement that the MLC has an RFP to potentially replace GHI/HIP and reduce our health costs by 10%? Mulgrew responded (in a less hostile, but still annoyed tone) that premiums would not apply to HIP members, only to GHI members. He also responded that the RFP has nothing to with this. This is interesting, but begs several questions:

  • UFT members have had GHI without premiums for decades. Why is Mulgrew blithely saying we’ll have to pay premiums now, and not saying how he plans to fight such a move? Can we assume that UFT leadership won’t be fighting this?
  • If UFT leadership is not organizing against the historic move to force in-service members to pay premiums, why aren’t they doing so? Does it have anything to do with a certain hidden appendix in the last contract that inexplicably committed us to hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare givebacks?
  • If we do end up paying premiums on healthcare, do we see the difference in raises that exceed the rate of inflation by at least the cost of the new premiums? Or do we just take a loss in this time of record inflation?
  • Our premium costs for GHI (or lack thereof) are pegged to HIP via the stabalization fund. Indeed, that is the primary purpose of the stabalization fund. If GHI will no longer have its price pegged to HIP using stabalization money, what does that mean for the stabalization fund?
  • Seriously, we need an answer to what all of this has to do with the apparently ‘promising’ news of an RFP that reduces healthcare costs by 10%. I can’t do justice to the many questions I have here, but for starters: does such a move save us from premiums? At what cost does it do so? Is Emblemhealth the intended provider? If it’s not, what happens to the HIP benchmark? Indeed, if it is what happens to the HIP benchmark?

Retirees and their allies fought healthcare givebacks. So far, they’ve been winning. In the process, they’ve shown that we sometimes need to organize our own ‘wildcat’ actions in moments when our union leadership is working against us. But, in-service members are at a bit of a disadvantage. They have less time to organize, and have everything to lose. Moreover, thanks to half a century of increasingly concessionary unionism, they’ve come to expect less. But, given that we can expect that Mulgrew and co. are not going to fix this healthcare fiasco, what will we do? Because, like the retirees, in-service members can either organize on their own, or watch Mulgrew play his fiddle as our healthcare burns to the ground.


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