Thursday, March 16, 2023

Ethics-Shmethics--The Mike Mulgrew Story

Chapter 21--I Scuttle Health Care for Members

It isn't easy making contract agreements.  You have to sit through all kinds of meetings, and the city reps are all, "I don't want to give you this," and, "I don't want to give you that." So you have to be willing to compromise. 

Now in 2014, we made a really clever agreement with the city. We were overdue raises for years. Now we could have gone to arbitration and demanded that we immediately get what the cops and firefighters got, but where's the romance in that? 

We'd probably just have won, and then we'd have to negotiate a new contract again. Jeez, a guy gets tired, you know? I had vacations to take, and gala luncheons to go to! Who has time for all that boring contract stuff?

So we did something creative. We let them pay us what everyone else got years ago, and we also accepted a really total crap pattern going forward, which we managed to impose on the rest of the city. Also, we let them pay us out over 5 or ten years (Who remembers?), with no interest whatsoever. We had all our lackeys tell everyone what a fantastic deal it was. (Fortunately, it was so complicated no one understood it well enough to explain what a terrible deal it really was.)

Not only that, but in addition to waiting forever for our pay, we agreed to health savings. We agreed that all new employees would be in HIP for a year, and basically have very little choice in doctors. That worked out fine, so in 2018 we agreed to save the city 600 million a year in health care, forever. For that, we got a contract that was, maybe, cost of living for only three years, but I make three times what the duespayers do, so what the hell did I care?

I told the members there would be no additional copays, and there weren't! Sure, I doubled and tripled some here and there, and where it used to cost $15 to go to an urgent care, it could now run 100. I wanted to make it 400, but the bastards in MLC wouldn't agree to it. Anyhoo, even then, it was tougher to make those savings forever than we'd anticipated. Forever, it turns out, is a lot longer than three years. Who knew?

There were a lot of ideas to save money. One was consolidating all the Welfare Funds. That would mean there would be one Welfare Fund for the whole city, and we would lose the UFT Welfare Fund. Frankly, that was unacceptable. The only way, really, that my caucus has held onto power all these years has been our tremendous patronage machine. 

Everybody wants my job, but they have to work their way up. It's not easy to do that. Not everyone has the constitution to agree with absolutely every decision I make, no matter how boneheaded it may be. Still, there are plenty of people willing to lick my boots all day and all night, and if they're really good at it, we give them jobs. Now sure, that doesn't mean we always get competent people, but there were usually enough of them to keep the lights on, more or less. 

Competent or not, these are people who are willing to work and campaign for us 24/7 if need be. They know damn well if they lose these jobs they'll have to go back to some frigging classroom fighting the paper airplanes and what have you. 

See, with all those loyalists running around, almost everyone else was passive, going along with whatever. If this group every started looking or acting like a real union, they'd vote our asses out in a New York minute. We were never gonna allow that to happen. 

Same thing with that NY Health Act. Sure, we could get better health care for not only our members, but everyone in our state. But that would mean we lose even MORE patronage gigs. Totally unacceptable.

Anyway, we decided not to touch the union gigs, so first we went after the retirees. Now sure, this was gonna hurt our rep, but I was gonna retire in just a few years with two pretty hefty pensions, so it was no skin off my apple. We'd just put up someone else who could say, "Hey, Mulgrew did that. I had nothing to do with it." That would work. So we killed our Medigap plan, the one that everyone loved, and replaced it with one of those Advantage plans that Joe Namath was always advertising. They squawked, and are still in court trying to repeal it. We'll see about that.

Then, I managed to find a plan for the in-service people. It really was awful, but I was able to envision a clever workaround,  so again, what did I care? Fortunately, most of rank and file was asleep as usual, and we didn't really start to get complaints until doctors began bellyaching about working for less than minimum wage. Finally, those idiots at MLC allowed me to enact $400 copays, and that solved it. The doctors were happy, and members could see just about any one they wanted, if they had the cash.

You should have heard those duespayers bitching. It went on and on and on. But hey, what's $400 if you really need a doctor? Are you gonna put a price on your health? Where are the values for these duespayers? They elected me, and that meant I made all the decisions. Like I told them, duespayers, I said, if I gave you a vote you'd just vote NO. That's why you don't get one.

Now sure, when I DID get elected, almost 75% didn't bother to vote. It really paid off spending all those decades building apathy! And yeah, we won by a much lower margin than ever before, but I've never said word one about it in public. 

Now here's the thing....

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