UFT Leadership’s Plan B? Let Our Healthcare Implode, Then Scapegoat Opposition.

Yesterday, 11/22/2022, the City and MLC Leadership lost their appeal against a brave group of retirees who sued to protect the right to premium-free traditional Medicare. This was a huge win for labor activists, but far from the end of a saga that began almost a decade ago when UFT ratified its first contract that included a promise to find millions of dollars in ‘healthcare savings.’ In 2018, UFT leadership went even further, when it lied to membership about our new contract, telling us all that there were no givebacks, only to sneak in a backroom deal to annually find hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare savings. Even with an expired contract, we are obligated to find these savings for the City. In the plethora of propaganda that has been shoved down our members throats, nowhere has it been explained why UFT would ever agree to reduce the City’s healthcare spending in the midst of record inflation. Something just doesn’t add up.

New Action member, Ed Calamia, elected to the UFT Executive Board (high schools) as part of the UFC ‘7,’ raised an important question at the 11/21/2022 Executive Board meeting, shown below with Geof Sorkin’s answer:

Ed Calamia: What is our exit strategy if the amendment to 12-126 does not pass?

Geof Sorkin: Cannot give you answer right now. MLC is working on it. Right now our focus is on changing the administrative code.

It doesn’t bode well that Sorkin, Director of the UFT Welfare Fund, doesn’t have an answer for what is plan B. And as Ed later said when speaking in favor of UFC’s resolution to advocate for outside healthcare funding methods (like a stock transfer tax), “I asked earlier what plan B was if the code isn’t amended. This reso is a good plan B. There are actual solutions to funding our healthcare in this reso.” Sorkin and Mulgrew’s caucus voted down this resolution (see the minutes for a full copy of the reso and debate). They never did end up giving us a Plan B of their own, though they did refuse to answer Lydia Howrilka’s question on who exactly is answering our RFP to replace HIP with new (probably worse) healthcare for in-service members.

But, Sorkin is right that right now UFT’s sole focus seems to be on changing the administrative code that protects retirees from being forced onto Medicare Advantage and that protects in-service members from having premium-free HIP. District Reps have been sending chapter leaders loads of misinformation, begging them to get their members to lobby the city to get their protections taken away. Last night, I saw several Unity Caucus members sharing the same such plea to ‘amend city code 12-126’, so I made my way to the original post and added an innocuous comment–a “minority report”–if you will, stating “

I was surprised, when a few moments later, Geof Sorkin himself responded to the comment (he was not the original poster).

We’ve suspected for a while that UFT Leadership’s ‘strategy’ is to let healthcare implode and scapegoat opposition when it does, an absurd act that would put millions of members and their families at risk all for political gain. But what options do they have? After all, our union is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual healthcare savings, and grassroots retiree organizations have blocked the specific ways that the UFT/MLC tried to make those savings on the backs of our most vulnerable members. Any solution, like taxing the rich, is too radical for UFT leadership.

To be clear, I responded to Sorkin. So did many others in the opposition. Sorkin had no real response, other than name calling. Let’s hope the people in charge of our union and the MLC wise up and fix this before it’s too late. The lifeline we gave on stock transfers and corporate taxes is still on the table. Please use that, Mr. Sorkin. Don’t let healthcare fail, then falsely scapegoat opposition for political gain.


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