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Q: Can Retirees Vote on Their Health Care? Mulgrew: No
Jonathan Halabi, veteran educator, unionist and recent retiree, shares an exchange between a retiree and UFT president, Michael Mulgrew, about the decision to force them into a Medicare Advantage plan
Originally posted at Jonathan’s blog: https://jd2718.org/2023/03/08/q-can-retirees-vote-on-their-health-care-mulgrew-no/
Tom Murphy: We have two more questions, and then we’re going to go back and forth. So a member of our diverse health committee, Gloria Brandman. Gloria. [pause locating for Gloria] Remember while she’s getting ready that the rules are: Two minutes, my colleague Christina will hold up a 10 second sign if necessary, and no passing the microphone to anyone else. Ok, Gloria.
Gloria Brandman: Ok. Hi. Thank you. Thank you, Thank you for the presentation Michael,
Michal Mulgrew: You’re welcome.
GB: it was very thorough. And this proposed change for healthcare, moving us into the Aetna/CVS PPO Medicare Advantage plan is really significant to our lives, and to our health especially. And I just heard that it would end the end the subsidies and reimbursements…
Michael Mulgrew: no.
MM: No. It’s if you choose to go to traditional Medicare route
GB: If you choose to remain in the…
MM: If you choose to opt out [hard to hear]
GB: Yes, exactly, right. So my understanding is the vote is going to be taking place this Thursday by the Municipal Labor Committee
GB: where the UFT has one of the largest weighted votes right now. And my question is this: since the UFT is designed to be a democratic union, and generally we are, often, why can’t retirees vote on this change? (emphasis mine – jd] [applause and cheers] We are the ones, we are the ones to be affected. And our rep, our rep on the UFT is yourself I think, and you have a very big weighted vote on it.
MM: Let me answer your question. You asked a question.
GB: That’s my question. But I also just heard – and I just had another question. If you’re going to make a decision after this vote to allow for possibly some Medigap plan for us to buy, how can we even vote now, how can we make a decision to opt out now, if we don’t know that we will even have that possibility.? So it’s really two questions, thank you.
MM: Ok. SO the first question is, we make changes in health care constantly. We negotiate health care on a daily basis, all the time. Let’s just… I’m giving you the answer. We do this all the time. We did all of those changes on in-service. We did them all. OK. That was part of supplementing senior care. We’re not going to move forward – we do it – and this is what – this is what you need – I don’t know how else to say this. This union only moves forward if it is sure it’s protecting everyone and taking care of them. Change is not easy. You could say – do whatever you want in terms of that. But I take that very seriously. And when people say – like right now there are people at the MLC who would have gone along with this plan before we got all of these things put into it, and we were the ones who stopped it. It was the UFT who said they would continually vote no. It was me who was called into City Hall because I was sabotaging the plan. I said “I’m not sabotaging anything. I’m not going to move forward unless it’s as good as or better than what currently have.” And I’m still not done, as I just iterated. There’s still more to go. There’s still small issues that I feel very strongly about. So that has been our process throughout.
MM: Now of course if I go to in-service today – we’re going to increase one copay because it’s a bad actor, they would vote no – what they don’t understand is the bad actor is causing us millions and millions of dollars, which is going to hurt us in the long run and we’re trying to avoid premium healthcare for anyone.
MM: And in terms of the Medigap plan, you know, we tried very hard to keep the Senior Care option. We were not able to get City Council to change the Administrative Code.
[shouts from crowd]
MM: Very simple thing. Stop it. Listen folks. You can. No no no no. Because this is really simple. I’ve told you this from the beginning. The court ruling saying that the City only has to offer one option.
MM: One. Yes it does. Alright. We are going…We have too many people on line. It said you can offer multiples, but they only have the responsibility to offer one, but they can offer multiples. It does say that. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I actually sit and read it, and sit with our lawyers, and I don’t get it off the internet. So I’m sorry if we are going to agree to disagree.
Voice: You are talking to reading teachers.
MM: OK. Agree to disagree.
MM: So, in terms of the – let me finish the answer – I just said. We are following all of our past practices on how we change our [medical? – unclear – either “medical” or “medical care”]. And we do not bring those things to a vote. [emphasis mine – jd] We present it to our folks. If we feel it is not in the best interest of the members we would never even bring it forward.
MM: And in terms of the MLC, this union doesn’t have a weighted vote, we have the appropriate vote. We, yah, no, it’s called appropriate, because I’ve also heard throughout this process how certain folks inside of the UFT are working with other unions because they don’t want us to have our authority in terms of our proper vote. We do this by headcount. And we’re not going to diminish the authority of the UFT, because it’s not our authority, it’s actually our size. And we’re going to continue to use that. And I will not to entertain any discussions that we are going to lower the – our actual – say all of our members don’t count we want to lower our authority within the UFT. That’s not going to happen.
A little commentary
So it was a project for me to type up these five and a half minutes, because, well, you know how Mulgrew talks. I cleaned it up some, although I probably could have cleaned it up more.
We make lots of health care changes
I (Mulgrew) make good deals for our members
If we brought a new copay to our in-service they would vote no, because they don’t see the big picture (we need to return to this – he was talking about the CityMD 100% copay increase)
We tried to keep Senior Care. But City Council did not change the Admin Code (I’ve written about this – but UFT leadership did try to keep Senior Care – as an option when Medicare Advantage comes in, if it comes in. They did not attempt to keep Senior Care as is)
We do not bring health care changes to a vote (and essentially says votes aren’t necessary because we know what’s best)
The UFT does not have a “weighted vote” at the MLC, but an “appropriate vote” and we are going to keep it. (In fact, that’s exactly what a “weighted vote” is, and that’s exactly what Gloria meant – which I know because I was emailing with her the evening before and I, ME, I introduced weighting in the context of emphasizing how important the UFT vote at the MLC is.)
Can retirees vote?
The word salad makes it a little challenging to pull out the question and answer:
Gloria: Why can’t retirees vote on this change?
Michael: We do not bring medical care to a vote.
Notice he supplies no reason.
It is hard for a speaker to gain traction, to keep speaking, and be mindful of time (remember, Gloria was limited, Michael was not) while being interrupted by the guy with the microphone. Even his “your welcome” is designed to put the questioner off balance. I see him do it at Delegate Assemblies, where he waits for a speaker to get about two words in, and interrupts with “how are you?” – normally a pleasantry, but it disrupts the rhythm of someone who may actually be quite nervous about speaking. In this case, he interrupted Gloria seven times in two minutes. But Gloria’s a pro.
I wasn’t in the room, so I don’t know how distracting the audience was. But yes, Mulgrew was interrupted, too. But 1) it’s a different power relation and 2) I can’t figure out why he responded.
Gloria mentioned weighted votes at the MLC. But she did not complain about them. Me? I think weighting is fair (though I would consider some minimum number of unions on-side, so that it is more than the three largest – think “50% + 1 of the weighted vote, with at least 25% of the unions voting in favor” – something like that – but that would not affect this vote).
So why did he go after Gloria for something she didn’t say? Either he had this as a prepped line, heard her say “weighted” but did not follow her sentence, or he just threw it in, so that the answer had more stuff in it, making it harder to notice that he said that retires won’t vote on this because we do not allow it.
Resolution that was not introduced, but I wish it was
For a UFT Retired Teachers Chapter Vote on the Proposed Health Benefit Changes
Whereas there is nothing so important to United Federation of Teachers retirees as our pension and healthcare, and
Whereas there is a proposal to significantly change our retirees’ healthcare, moving most of our retirees to an Aetna/CVS PPO Medicare Advantage plan, and
Whereas the proposal would eliminate all traditional Medicare supplemental plans from the NYC Health Benefits Program (such as GHI Senior Care), and
Whereas the proposal would end all NYC subsidies and reimbursements to municipal retirees who choose to, or need to, stay on a traditional Medicare + supplemental plan, and
Whereas a vote will be taken to make this move to an Aetna/CVS PPO Medicare Advantage plan at the Municipal Labor Committee, and
Whereas the votes will be weighted votes, and the UFT has one of the largest weighted votes in the MLC, and
Whereas the UFT is in concept and design a democratic organization, therefore be it
Resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will conduct a secret ballot vote among the UFT Retired Teacher Chapter, in favor of or opposed to the move to this Aetna/CVS PPO Medicare Advantage plan, and be it further
Resolved that the UFT representatives at the MLC will not cast their votes until the result of the RTC vote is announced, and be it further
Resolved that the UFT representatives at the MLC, when the result of the retiree vote is announced, will faithfully vote in accordance with the wishes of our retirees.