Are there signs the pressure from retirees is having an impact on UFT leaders?
Unity has used retirees as their main instrument of control of the UFT and have received 85% or more of their votes in UFT general elections and about 80% in retiree chapter elections (where most people are not aware of an election so don't vote). They have always made sure retirees are well treated - there are goodies.: Ridiculously cheap classes, refunds, trips and a good healthcare plan. OOPS! It seems risky for them to alienate retirees. Don't think they won't be watching the numbers in the upcoming chapter election. If they saw some serious slippage it might even affect how far they are willing to go in this health care fiasco.
May 4, 2021, 1:30 PM - in the middle of the Mulgrew-retiree fest.
The above is can excerpt from my post below where I argue that pushing back might have an ability to shake the UFT leadership. Alienating UFT retirees? Maybe not a good idea.
A debate broke out on the Retiree Advocate listserve Monday following the amazing webinar RA held on Sunday where 450 registered and 300 showed up. I will post the video when it's available. A key was that we had speakers from every angle and caucus and even had a doctor. But I'll say more about that another time.
I presented at the webinar and had originally supported a rally at the MLC HQ on Water St. (Municipal Labor Committee) which is meeting tomorrow - Wednesday - to possibly vote on the proposal or at least reveal whether Emblem or Aetna won the big money sweepstakes - and believe me, it's BIG MONEY - for them - and LESS MONEY for us. A poll held at Sunday's meeting indicated the majority who voted were not prepared for a rally. We also began to see that an effective rally would require more preparation and that may still happen.
Some people wanted to hold a rally ASAP and one target was a protest of sorts during Mulgrew's event today. I pushed back against holding a rally today in this email to the group and echoed James Eterno's push to flood the meeting with questions.
Monday, May 3, 11PM
Compliments to the many excellent points made so far. People should begin to come together to facilitate areas of common interest. I'm speaking for myself here and not RA/UFT or ICE/UFT.I wanted to address some assumptions being made on the retiree advocate google listserve that attending the Mulgrew info session is a waste of time and we'd be better off having a rally at UFT at the same time.I and others in RA do not agree with that assumption. Here's the link to register but after 9 AM tomorrow it won't work: https://web.cvent.com/event/
a10480ca-ed53-4f25-b669- f8c1b5f4aa56/confirmationOne of the reasons Mulgrew is even holding a town hall is due to the pressure not only by Retiree Advocate but by hundreds if not thousands of retirees as they get informed. RA organizing has been around spreading information and .the webinar was an outgrowth of that organizing. And we only learned of these proposed changes a few weeks ago from people in PSC. The UFT has used stealth to try to sneak this by us.RA was in position to reach out due to the consistent educating and organizing over the past few years - even decades - as the only group in the retiree chapter pushing back against Unity. But this year we were able to meet more often due to zoom -- a pandemic benefit and we have focused on getting a messy email list in order, working on the FB page and expanding outreach for the chapter elections. Fundamentally, RA has been putting out newsletters aimed at retirees over these decades.This year we reached out directly to many retirees who had been active in the UFT to run with us and that has been the basis of getting the word out. When we submitted almost 130 candidates last month - including almost every opposition presidential candidate since the 1970s --- the largest slate ever from what I hear - the Unity machine took notice. I'd bet today, a month later, we'd be able to fill all 300 slots in the election.All indications are that the pressure we have been applying is having an impact. The very fact Mulgrew is holding this meeting is an outgrowth of that pressure. He had people tune in to our webinar and don't think the 450 registrants and 300 attendees goes unnoticed.Rally Confusion -- Retiree votes have been key to keeping Unity in powerI'm not sure how the idea to rally Tuesday at the UFT during the Mulgrew town hall came about.Nor the idea that attending the Mulgrew meeting was meaningless. The very opposite was presented at the webinar by James Eterno.I get the negative history of our dealings with the duplicitous leadership. But this may be new territory for them and the opposition.Unity has used retirees as their main instrument of control of the UFT and have received 85% or more of their votes in UFT general elections and about 80% in retiree chapter elections (where most people are not aware of an election so don't vote). They have always made sure retirees are well treated - there are goodies.: Ridiculously cheap classes, refunds, trips and a good healthcare plan. OOPS! It seems risky for them to alienate retirees. Don't think they won't be watching the numbers in this election. If they saw some serious slippage it might even affect how far they are willing to go in this health care fiasco.RA only considered a rally on Wednesday at MLC not UFTRetiree Advocate at no time considered a rally at the UFT on Tuesday. That's why James Eterno was asked to do a presentation at the webinar on why we should flood the Tuesday Mulgrew meeting with attempts to get questions answered. James' presentation pointed to why we should try to be there. Numbers count and leadership notices them. -- flood Mulgrew's meeting and try to get through the screeners to ask a question. There may be thousands of people on the call who are frustrated - I think some may be more willing to come to a rally AFTER being turned back at Mulgrew's meeting. From what we are hearing, Unity will be watching the number of people who sign on tomorrow - they know they have to tread carefully with misinformation because that will come back to bite them.Our man on the Ex Bd Mike Schirtzer asked questions tonight at the meeting about letting people get their questions in. (iI has been incredibly valuable having Mike on the EB because no opposition retirees can get elected due to Unity winner take all.) Mulgrew said it would be open -- we'll see. Mulgrew referenced the upcoming retiree chapter election to try to throw shade on RA: "Not making any decisions yet. If we have to blow it up, we will. [GASLIGHTING] Lots of bad information out there. There are always factions." What bad information since they've given us none?Reports coming in point to the fact they may be in front of thousands of attendees -- which was James' point and we should not miss the opportunity to chime in if we can- and if we can't and questions aren't answered or they are blowing smoke then many people will go away being more pissed and open to our message. And if people try and are shut out we make a big deal about it.Rally? I can only focus on one thing at a time at this time in my life. For the record, in my webinar presentation I put forth the Retiree Advocate fall back position on a rally that since MLC is meeting Wednesday we should hold a rally at noon at their headquarters. Even with a flawed poll it was disappointing to see the outcome. I was hoping for more than 35. And we know that slippage might lead to less actually showing up. It seems most are not ready to venture out to a rally at this point but maybe in a week or so of increasing agitation, they might be. RA is ready to help organize with many of you for a rally that is well thought out and organized.Based on the back and forth so far, especially the email from Jose with some great organizing tactics, a successful rally takes some time. I hope Jose jumps on board to assist with his expertise.I do want to point out that there are activists in the retiree chapter who do not believe in holding protests at any union facility because they feel it feeds into the general anti-unionism we face and if a rally is held at the UFT some will not attend. I've always been willing to demo at UFT but in the interests of small u unity, there seem to be plenty of other targets.A rally idea should be tackled after tomorrow for sometime in the near future if there is enough interest. But consider that numbers actually do count. A weak showing in a union of 70k retirees sends a message we may not want to send.Here is Eterno's blog post tonight about the Mulgrew meeting tomorrow and reports of tonight's ex bd.
I had the privilege of being one of the speakers on Zoom last night as hundreds of retirees attended the UFT Retiree Advocate webinar in advance of Michael Mulgrew's Town Hall with retirees on Tuesday. An invited medical doctor pretty much laid out the pros and cons of Medicare Advantage and then people associated with New Action, Solidarity, MORE and yours truly were able to speak.
I told the Zoom that UFT Town Halls in the age of COVID-19 are basically like call-in radio shows. President Mulgrew gives a lengthy monologue saying whatever the UFT is doing at the present time is the greatest thing ever and then some screened questions are allowed. The questions usually start with something like: "Hi Michael, thank you for the wonderful, amazing job you are doing..." My wife and some friends have tried to get through and have never had a challenging question answered live by Mulgrew. When the UFT dispatches an unprepared part-timer to call to answer the question that was posed, it is rah, rah, UFT essentially.
Tomorrow, I hope the retirees will have an open question and answer session during the Town Hall at 1:00 P.M. One retiree said we don't want a 90-minute UFT "infomercial" but rather a real dialogue on changes possibly coming for Medicare-eligible retirees.
We have reported on what we know about the probable changes coming mostly based on information from my other union, the Professional Staff Congress (CUNY teachers) which along with the UFT is part of the 152 union Municipal Labor Committee negotiating with the city.
Mike Schirtzer, who is pretty much the only independent left on the UFT Executive Board, asked two questions on Medicare and this was his followup from Arthur Goldstein's report:
Retiree town hall--Please take questions on Medicare.
Mulgrew- Not making any decisions yet. If we have to blow it up, we will. Lots of bad information out there. There are always factions. UFT officers get same health care as everyone else in the UFT. Of course it's very inportant. People are bored when I talk about hospitals, but when we're negotiating, those costs are on the table. The most expensive doctor is usually not the best one. It's an insane industry. They wouldn't allow us to question costs, just pay bills. That's what we're dealing with. We need to avoid high premiums. Retiree chapter has already given me lots of questions.
While I am against privatizing services like education and healthcare, early studies show Medicare Advantage does have many satisfied customers. However, research also reveals that MA does limit access to care. Then there is the question about people who are very sick.
This is from what I believe is a very objective paper published by HeathAffairs.org that acknowledges the pros of Medicare Advantage (MA):
Another marker of quality is whether Medicare beneficiaries remain in MA plans when their health deteriorates. On this basis, there is reason to question whether MA plans offer higher quality. One paper found that MA members who had been hospitalized at least once had a higher rate of switching back to traditional Medicare than did other MA enrollees. The same was true for users of home care and long-term nursing home care.
We can't forget the profits:
We know that MA is dominated by a few large companies, and that it is a profitable line of business. At the end of 2020, the four largest MA companies accounted for more than 60 percent of total enrollment, and the 15 largest accounted for more than 80 percent. MA has also been very lucrative for many private health insurers. In 2017, according to MedPAC, the average pretax margin of for-profit MA plans was 5.2 percent; in 2018, it was 4 percent.
The HealthAffairs.org summary:
In conclusion, it is not clear that Medicare Advantage for All would help bend society’s cost curve more than Medicare for All or other policy proposals. In fact, the current evidence suggests that MA plans have not saved Medicare any money relative to traditional Medicare. To the extent that they lower costs, the lion’s share of those savings seems to be flowing to insurance companies, partly in the form of profits. Policy makers should consider whether this is the direction in which they want health care financing to go.