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.

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