MINUTES OF THE NEW YORK CITY MANAGERIAL EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION RETIREES CHAPTER OCTOBER 29, 2009
The meeting was held at the MEA Office and began at 11:00 after brunch was served.
It was attended by about 30 chapter members. Chapter Director Stu Eber asked for a motion to accept the minutes from the June 16, 2009 meeting. It was unanimously approved.
Executive Director Linda Barnes discussed the MEA’s efforts to advocate for the 174 recent retirees to receive the retroactive money the active members received for the period March 1, 2008 – July 10, 2009. Ms. Barnes and President Ferrer met with Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler to discuss all the managers who didn’t receive their raises, including HHC, NYCHA and DOE – as well as the recent retirees. The original mayoral personnel orders did not exclude the recent retirees, but a subsequent payroll order did. The mayor made the decision based on OMB input. Chapter Director Eber, Ms. Barnes and Mr. Ferrer had prepared a document showing the total cost would be under $400,000.We await further review by the deputy mayor.
Executive Director Barnes expressed her appreciation towards the members of the retirees chapter, by citing their important contributions. Ms. Barnes expressed her opinion that retired City employees were responsible for the ongoing efficient and successful operation of New York City’s municipal facilities. She believes retired city managers are the individuals who “paved the way” for the city’s current efficient mode of operation.
Guest Speaker Stu Leibowitz – President, Retirees Association of DC 37 and Chair, NYC Alliance for Retired Americans – addressed the group and answered questions regarding current legislative issues. The municipal unions have collective bargaining rights and contracts, managers do not. Nationally, less than 8% of private sector workers are union members while 36% of public sector workers belong to unions. In New York State, virtually all public sector workers are unionized. NYC managers receive some protections under the state laws for all public sector workers, particularly for our pensions. The state legislature and the City Council cannot reduce our defined pension payments.
Mr. Leibowitz explained that these protections are under threat by Rudy Giuliani and others, including the NY Times, who are using the political situation in Albany to call for a State Constitutional Convention. Such a convention could remove the constitutional protections we now enjoy.
In response to a question about COLAs, Mr. Leibowitz explained there will be no Social Security COLA in 2010. He also said there will be a 1% pension increase for those who qualify. Albany is reviewing a bill that would increase the ceiling on pension COLAs from the first $18,000 paid to $25,000. It would establish a floor of 1% and a ceiling of 3% (50% of 6%) on the first $25,000.
The state faces a $4 billion deficit. There will be reductions in state aid to NYC. This may result in reduced benefits to active and retired municipal employees. Mayor Bloomberg has previously proposed cutting the health benefits $3.7 billion costs by 10% by increasing our contributions. He may also try to eliminate the spousal coverage for Medicare Part B reimbursement. Mr. Leibowitz said no cutbacks are acceptable to the 56 locals of DC 37. If you cut retiree benefits today, he said, then active members are cutting their own benefits tomorrow.
President Ferrer responded to a question regarding what MEA is doing about these legislative issues. He said the Legislative Committee will be established after the upcoming 2009 MEA elections. President Ferrer said there are issues unique to the MEA, particularly the $200 the unions’ welfare funds received in the most recent contracts but that the Management Benefits Fund did not. A sub-committee of the Legislative Committee will be formed to address retiree issues, said Mr. Ferrer.
Further discussion of the MBF followed. The core issue is if the MBF is “the Cadillac of welfare funds”, why is it reducing our benefits? Joel Fishelson, the MEA representative to the MBF, continues to advocate for individuals with the fund and with the carriers, but he has not been invited to attend an MBF board meeting in over two years. We do not have a vote on the board, but we are entitled to a voice.
Mr. Fishelson said retirees who are not covered by Medicare are not fully utilizing their Superimposed Major Medical Plan benefits; he wants to hold decentralized meetings to educate members about existing benefits, Medicare Part B surcharge reimbursements, optical benefits, VDT benefits, dental benefits, increasing the provider pool for out of state retirees and other relevant issues. Mr. Fishelson said his committee was monitoring the various health care reform proposals being discussed by Congress.
Warren Lewis , an MEA COMRO (Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations) representative, explained that we are part of this 250,000 member organization that issues resolutions on relevant legislative matters. At the October meeting, COMRO approved a resolution supporting the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency and discussed the need for a public option and protection against taxing health benefits in the various health care reform bills and amendments circulating in Washington.
Mr. Lewis also reminded the group that GHI often erroneously reassigns people over 65 years old back into the active employee status, thereby confusing Medicare and the providers. The member has to take corrective action with all three parties.
Chapter Director Stu Eber reported the chapter has grown by about 25 members in 2009. He said all members should actively recruit their former coworkers to join our chapter. The breakfast at Junior’s in June was attended by over 50 members. He was asked to schedule the 2010 breakfast in Manhattan. Suggestions for speakers and topics for future chapter meetings included the Department for the Aging, Medicare, Social Security, NY State managers and electronic subscriptions to The Chief.
The meeting adjourned at 12:15 PM.
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