Thursday, February 23, 2023

UFT/Unity/AFT/NYSUT Bait and Switch Pro-Privatization Healthcare Duplicity, Playing Swap the Lobbyists Game

Oh, what a tangled web they weave,  

when first they practice to deceive! 
Always watch what UFT/AFT/NYSUT Leaders do, not what they say.
Ugh! I Mean UGH!!!!!!
  • UFT political director (and former Cuomo aide) Cassie Prugh leaves for lobbying firm in December but UFT may retain her and her firm (rumor - @10k a month).
  • Assistant UFT political director Angel Vasquez remains in place despite primarying (and losing) major UFT supporter Robert Jackson. 
  • Mulgrew lists himself as a lobbyist along with Vasquez. Vasquez, as Prugh’s assistant, is tasked with lobbying on a city level. As he describes in his LinkedIn bio. Clearly he was responsible for the failed campaign to influence the City Council to amend 12-126. An attempt that hurts retirees and active workers as the code provides decades old safeguards protecting the healthcare of city workers. UFT Payments to lobbyists (Vasquez and Mulgrew?) are listed as 94K. Is this in addition to their UFT salaries?

I've been working on this story about UFT/NYSUT political directors that points to how our local, state, national union work in tandem with the corporate Democrats' aim to make sure healthcare remains under the control of private insurance. Remember how quickly Obama abandoned the public option in order to get the private insurance companies to support Obamacare because they are making a fortune? Fundamental neo-liberal concept that better profit making private than anything government. Reaganism from both parties. Only the Bernie left pushes back. 

Thanks to Daniel Alicea for doing the fundamental research. 

Daniel has provided some insights into explaining the reasoning behind the Mulgrew promotion of Medicare Advantage which is controlled by private profit making insurance over the publicly managed Medicare system. 
The key: the union is bonded at the hip to the corporate wing of the Dem party which is also pro-privatization which also promotes medicare advantage over Medicare. Biden even appointed a corp exec to run Medicare - the classic fox in the hen house. (see below for details). A gang of lobbyists do their thing very successfully.

Daniel's research into the history of our local, state, national teacher union positions on healthcare shows an evolution going from support for public option toward privately managed care with some careful managing of the language used.

In 2017, the unions flirted theatrically with Bernie Sander’s popular single payer Medicare For All plan supported by a supermajority of Americans. However, Daniel asserts that with the campaigns of Harris and Biden, the union machines like AFT and AFL-CIO fall in line with the privatized vision for private-public national healthcare system. 
There's a difference between single payer and medicare for all. Medicare for all Obama care style keeps the private insurers in the game. Single payer means the government pays all bills and also has the ability to control healthcare costs. 

Note this point whenever Mulgrew whines about healthcare costs going up:
And have you noticed how since then hospitals have consolidated?

The AFT’s shift on Medicare Advantage and privatization of Medicare 

into a few too big to fail groups?

And the disappearance or deterioration of public hospital options?   

Yes they call for universal coverage but in the model of an Obamacare system extension which is better than nothing but fundamentally is a windfall for private insurers. They are careful in not calling for a single payer system like we have with traditional Medicare. So when Mulgrew tries to move us from single payer Medicare to multi-payer Medicare Advantage, he is affirming the corp Dem (ie. Biden/Shumer/Pelosi, etc) position on healthcare vs the Bernie Sanders single payer wing.
Some Key takeaways:
  • UFT/AFT leaders "claim" they want universal healthcare while doing everything they can to undermine the possibilities on all levels.
  • Ditto for their partners in the Democratic Party run by a center/right connected to private health insurance lobbyists.
  • UFT hires lobby firm representing healthcare industry.
  • Biden chooses member of same firm to run Medicare. 
  • Both Dems and UFT try selling universal healthcare for all but must go through private insurance companies instead of single payer.
Ed Notes' recent report on the coming changes in the NY State United Teachers (NYSUT News: Going - Pres. Andy Pallotta, Coming - Melinda Person Who? Has Never Been a Teacher - Succession or Coup?) we mentioned that lobbyist Cassie Prugh had left the UFT in December to go work for a private firm, Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips, LLP, leaving her UFT position vacant. Or maybe not. (See below for Prugh's lobby listings.) Also note above and below the letter Mulgew sent to state ethics listing himself and Vasquez as lobbyists at 94K a year while at the same time we hear they may use Prugh, now employed by Manatt, etc. as a consultant. Money to burn. Our money.
Want an example of litigation won by Manatt in California where they defended the right of hospitals NOT to reveal fees? Remember, Prugh comes out of the Cuomo admin - check his record on hospitals (and nursing homes).

Manatt secured a landmark victory for its client Dignity Health, a California-based nonprofit hospital system, on October 13, when the California Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the hospital in Gray v. Dignity Health. The decision affirmed the dismissal of a putative systemwide class action lawsuit that claimed Dignity Health unlawfully failed to disclose emergency room fees. The decision also held that Dignity Health complies with all state and federal pricing disclosure laws, none of which imposes a duty to disclose emergency room fees. The Court of Appeal held that the disclosure duty the plaintiff wanted to impose was directly contrary to a host of federal and state laws that prohibit hospitals from discussing cost with patients in the emergency room prior to treating them, thus “disregard[ing] the long standing regulatory environment within which emergency departments operate, which emphasizes that no one in need of emergency care should be deterred from receiving it because of cost.” 

Do you think this victory for hospitals helped them keep prices high?
Now how about this one as we tie the Biden admin to Manatt:


Jeez - the lady running Medicare managed the same firm that Cassie Prugh is working for. A tangled web indeed. Recently we found that Medicare was going to let the private insurers get away with billions in defrauding Medicare.

Daniel's next career should be investigative reporter.

No legislative reports at Ex Bd meetings 
Ok, so we have the link between Prugh and Manatt and the UFT.  For years we enjoyed former UFT Leg rep Paul Egan's reports at Ex Bd meetings because we wanted the latest soccer scores from Manchester United. We no longer get regular reports since Prugh left. Ask who replaced her and you get vague answers, including the UFT will now hire her and her firm as consultants. Now add to this that Prugh's deputy has been Angel Vasquez who outraged people by forcing Robert Jackson, probably the most loyal UFT supporter, into a primary for State Senate. We should not be using our dues to pay Angel Vasquez to work for the UFT. He was the agent of the right wing Dem attempt to purge a progressive. 
Here are some of Daniel's tweets on the story:
is a VERY big lobbying firm. just secured them as their lobbying firm in Jan. Significant for a few reasons. 1. Manatt is one of the most influential lobbyists for Medicare Advantage & ACOs. 
2. fmr political director who just left, now UFT lobbyist in Albany. 
3. Fmr managing director for Manatt is appointed by Biden as director for CMS. She is on record in her belief that the path to national healthcare is through privatization.
Prugh and her assistant, have lobbied with FOR admin code 12-126. The provision that protects city worker healthcare. Vasquez still with and on payroll. He ran against in 2022. And is responsible for lobbying pols in NYC like
To clarify, Prugh and Vasquez lobbied for the ELIMINATION of admin code 12-126.
A single payer option is off the table on state & nat’l level for the big Dem machine. Despite lip service. See Biden & Harris vision for private-public plans. We see this vision in 2019 when testified before Congress. It’s as if she targets NYHA 
This privatization vision is reflected in our teacher unions when voted against including Medicare for All on DNC platform. And after decades of anti-privatization policy passes a resolution in 2020 during #lockdown that opens path to privatization.
This shift away from anti-privatization from teacher unions is made evident when and rejected separate resolutions seeking to reaffirm our past rejection of privatization of Medicare. This is the AFT reso that was REJECTED in committee and not brought to a vote.
 And some source material:

Sunday, February 12, 2023

NYSUT News: Going - Pres. Andy Pallotta, Coming - Melinda Person Who? Has Never Been a Teacher - Succession or Coup?

Putin Cites Mulgrew/Randi Takeover of NYSUT as Inspiration for Crimean Invasion
I admire the Unity Caucus operation tremendously. I only wish I had such control....My next invasion will be Brighton Beach to protect the Russian speaking population in Brooklyn.... I am looking for a condo in Brooklyn as a base of operation but the real estate prices are crazy.... Vladimir Putin 
Ed Notes, March 4, 2014
Sunday - February 12, 2023  - Happy Birthday Abe

Ok, so Putin lied about his next invasion. The breaking news Friday night of a coming change in leadership at NYSUT brought up memories of the last change of leadership in 2014, one of only two times where there was a contested election. But lots more on 2014 later in this post.
UPDATE 7:30: Trusted source says Pallotta just retired. No drama. Also - no signs of early resistance to the move to Person.
Traditionally, the top levels of NYSUT have been occupied by former teachers and local union leaders, not by bureaucrats. Even Randi, who was a lawyer first when the top level oligarchs chose to make her the next president, did a quick teaching hit job to give her creds and meet UFT constitution requirements. NYSUT doesn't seem to have a similar requirement that officers had to teach.
Thus, we see a change coming with the announcement of candidacy for NYSUT President by Melinda Person, currently NYSUT Executive and Political Director - an appointed position, seemed sort of strange less than three months before NYSUT Delegates meet to elect its officers in late April. 

By all reports, Melinda Person is well-liked but it is interesting she shows no teaching background in her resume (see below), though she says she wanted to be a teacher. But all you have to do is look at her salary over the past 15 years (below) for a reason she did not teach. Even Randi seems to have had more teaching experience than her.

I was confused when I first heard of the announcement Friday night. 
She announces she is running while Andy Pallotta is still president? My first thought was she is running against him. But how could that be since she is running under the Unity line? This came across like she woke up in the morning and decided to run for NYSUT president but we know she was chosen by the hierarchy. 
I wondered. Who is Melinda Person and what is going on with Andy? Is he being forced out? Another coup in NYSUT?  (See 2014 story below). 
What forces in the UFT/NYSUT/AFT sphere are behind Person?

We got our answer shortly after with this twitter announcement by Andy Pallotta:
The order of announcement seemed strange. How mixed were his emotions? A change in leadership at that level involves some preparation. Some introduction around the state to the rank and file of someone no one except maybe the insiders know. Apparently Unity/NYSUT had a meeting the other day and the change was made. Did Andy decide to retire or was he pushed? Most probably, the former. (He must have noticed how much I've been enjoying my 20 years of retirement.) Usually, there are rumors in advance.
One thing we noted was that Person has been the NYSUT political director since October, 2014 and was assistant director of legislation for 6 years from 2008-2013 with a gap of a year, right in the middle of NYSUT turmoil over the 2014 election. She occupied the same position at the state level that Cassie Prugh, who recently left the UFT, had. Prugh replaced the popular (with soccer fans) Paul Egan after a fuzzy type scandal. She had been a somewhat shadowy and unpopular figure who came directly out of the Cuomo administration to the UFT. Some saw Prugh as the Cuomo plant in the UFT or vice versa. It is not clear who is replacing Prugh in the UFT. Sources say that she’ll still be working for the UFT on retainer. And who is taking Person's place as political director of NYSUT? Might as well let Cassie do both jobs for a double retainer - I'd love to what the retainer pays.

The UFT/NYSUT/AFT hierarchy is fundamentally run like a monarchy

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

UFT Contract Teach-Ins Raise Profile with Members and gets good ratings, Some Talk - strike prep (shhh) in schools, Report on Jan. 29 Pep Rally - and other News

Don't tell anyone, but s-t-r-i-k-e was mentioned at some chapters taking part in the UFT contract Teach-In. Taylor Law spies were monitoring and if you uttered the word you will get a two for one penalty. A NO vote on a contract doesn't mean a strike but why not scare the city and show the UFT membership is ready and willing if necessary?

Best union discussion I've heard forever...  comment on the pre-teach in PEP rally.

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2022

Over a week has passed since the UFT contract Teach-in on Jan. 30 and the previous Sunday evening Jan. 29 fabulous and historic EONYC Prep rally chaired by Daniel Alicea. Daniel is doing some amazing things with his web site on The Wire by offering a wide range of people space to publish. Support EONYC. The slides are here.

Reports coming in are that the contract Teach-in was a success, as was the PEP rally the night before with about 90 people on the zoom and another 100 or so on the FB stream and included a panel from across the spectrum of the UFT. In a number of schools salaries and health care were big items. And there was some talk about strike. And some anti-Mulgrew sentiment. But there was interest and we give the UFT kudos for engaging.

Due to Mondays being a long PD day, some schools did the teach-in later in the week, as MS 53 (Daniel's school) did. The UFT did promos - and pre-training that 900 people attended and held a noon Jan. 30 press conference in front of the Whitney Museum which got some good press coverage - and also some criticism as to the optics of using a fancy spot instead of a gritty school - there are reports that 700 Queens school held an event. Kudos to Queens UFT Borough rep Amy Arundell for pushing this plan aggressively and enthusiastically.

The great Work-Bites reporter Bob Hennelly had UFT officials on WBAI:

Bob's guests are Vice President for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Janella Hinds, special education teacher Faiza Khalid, and UFT Borough Representative in Queens Amy Arundell on the UFT building rank and file solidarity at contract time.Listen here. (They go on at the 31:30 mark). Note- Janella Hinds of a Secretary Treasurer at MLC in addition to being VP high schools. Hennelly knows his stuff on healthcare.

In addition, UFT contract committees met in person during that week after school. It was a pretty busy week and Yes, Virginia, the oppo people have been supporting the leadership initiatives on the contract while maintaining the right to be critical.

James Eterno commented a few days before:

Nick Bacon had some advance advice for how the Teach-in should run:

UFT: Let’s do those contract teach-ins right today

Contract teach-ins start today. As I wrote last week, I’m in favor of the teach-ins, albeit with some modifications. I support them to the extent that they help members learn, think, and build some organizing infrastructure around our contract. I oppose them to the extent that the timing is odd (though better late than never) and the materials designed for them resemble propaganda to pre-organize members for a potentially undeserved ‘yes’ vote.  Luckily, at this point, we have some new materials. The good folks over at MORE published a much better version of the UFT’s official powerpoint. It looks to resemble the original powerpoint well enough that it could be switched out without any new planning. And, James Eterno over at ICE-UFT published an awesome article thoroughly analyzing the flaws with UFT leadership’s explanation on what we ‘do and don’t’ have power to bargain over. (Spoiler alert: we have way more power than union leadership would have us believe). I’d frankly print out that article and read it with your chapter. You might also take a look at some sample contract demands like New Action’s and share those with your chapter.

 I wonder if the leadership didn't open up a pandora's box by getting people involved while telling them about all the things they can't negotiate. James takes these apart one by one.