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Retiree Health Care--The Nuclear Option
Arthur Goldstein, veteran educator and longtime union leader, sounds the alarm for city retirees and active workers about major union healthcare givebacks during this contract season.
Posted with the permission of the author, Arthur Goldstein. Originally posted on Arthur’s blog: http://nyceducator.com/2023/02/retiree-health-care-nuclear-option.html
It's been clear for some time that UFT leadership, along with MLC, will not accept defeat. Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus is always right, and always knows best. Anyone who disagrees is a galoot, a nuisance, a simple-minded contrarian.
So when an army of retirees united and took them to court, they were wrong. When they won the first time, they were wrong. When they won the second time, they were also wrong. When MLC, on our dime, says you will accept inferior health care, the appropriate response is, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"
Soon, MLC will jump up and down and say the CVS/Aetna plan is the bestest thing ever. Perhaps this time, they won't falsely claim that all doctors who accept Medicare will take this plan. Or maybe they will. After all, since they're always right, being wrong is not meaningful. MLC is going to dump all retirees into Medicare Advantage, and any retiree who wants to use Medicare will have to pay all related fees. No more reimbursement for anything, and go find your own frigging Medigap plan at your own expense.
Now sure, this sounds extreme, but there is a bright spot. The former UFT officials who told the City Council that we needed to drop the monthly minimum toward health care will all be able to afford that. After all, they went through their careers earning triple the salary of lowly teachers, and retired with two pensions, the standard DOE pension, plus the UFT pension rubes like us paid for.
Not so great for DC37 employees who worked at or near minimum wage. Not so good for UFT paras who made 20-30K a year. Of course they wouldn't have been able to afford the $191 per person charge the geniuses at MLC originally envisioned. Alas, not so good for teachers like me either. I don't think I'll be able to afford to shoulder the full cost of traditional Medicare for my wife and me. So if I retire and move to, say, Pennsylvania, and get cancer, I'm basically fucked.
Thanks for dramatically reducing my retirement options, MLC!
Of course, Michael Mulgrew, the Unity Caucus, and MLC all have a plan to deal with the pushback. This is what it is--they will blame those who fought to retain our rights for losing them. If only those goshdarn retirees would have sat down and shut up, none of this would have happened. Why, oh why did they insist on fighting for what they'd been promised their entire careers?
Now here's the thing about this union position--it is, not for the first time, fundamentally anti-union. "Sit down and shut up" is not the optimal union stance.
Unions exist, at least theoretically. to improve the lot of working people. A very basic thing that union does is raise wages. Our union, of course, despite an ostentatious 500-member negotiation committee, will have little to no input in that. DC37 has set a pattern that doesn't come close to inflation, and that is that.
Another thing union does is fight to improve working conditions. Union leadership in NYC, though, battles to have the city pay less toward health care. They do that because they want to privatize our health care to save pennies for our employer. Ironically, this year UFT is making a big noise about charter schools. You see, privatization is bad. Unless we're privatizing member health care. Then it's fine, evidently.
That's why there has to be a retiree organization acting in opposition to those who ostensibly represent them. And they know exactly what leadership plans.
Now here's the thing. I don't know exactly what the retirees plan is, but I will tell you what it is not. They are not going to lay down and accept this. They will fight. They will picket. They will go to court. They will try to sway public opinion. There is a UFT faction of this group called Retiree Advocate, and they'll be there every step of the way.
Make no mistake, these people are unionists. They are doing the work union should do.
Our leaders? Not so much. They are demanding we capitulate. They are demanding we sit down, shut up, and give up, just as they have.
Our leaders are not leaders. They are tools of our employers. They represent the interests of our employers. They are not willing to fight for reasonable compensation increases. Worse, they fight for inferior health care so the city can save a relative pittance.
They are not unionists. They don't even know what unionists are.
As a result, a whole lot of our members don't know either. That makes us weak. Pro tip--wearing blue, or green, or whatever a few days a year does not make an active union.
The retirees are taking union actions, and for that, our leaders call them names and fight them at every juncture.
The retirees know what union is. They act union. They are union. They deserve our full support.
Because make no mistake, Mulgrew, the MLC, and all the other tools of our employers are coming for us next.
Arthur Goldstein is an ESL teacher at Francis Lewis High School and a former UFT executive committee member. And plays a dang good fiddle.
Find him on Twitter @TeacherArthurG.
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