NYC MEA President’s Report, 2022-2023

Full copy of the 19 page report may be downloaded at the bottom.

Darrell L. Sims, MEA President

From testifying at public hearings, writing letters and meeting with the Administration and public officials, as well as participating in protest rallies in support of our membership, MEA continues to be steadfast in advocacy for our members. The past twelve months have been filled with challenges for our members. Dire economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, high inflation, skyrocketing health care costs, and the influx of asylum seekers have caused the City Administration to impose budget cuts and proposed reductions and changes in health insurance and benefits. MEA continues to advocate for overdue and well-deserved pay raises and work-life improvements for managers. We vehemently oppose the involuntary enrollment of municipal retirees and their dependents into the inferior Aetna Insurance Company Medicare Advantage Plan (MAP).

During this unprecedented time in modern-day history, it is essential for career managers to provide extraordinary leadership to address the adverse effect of budget cuts on municipal government operations and budgets. With an abnormally high municipal employee vacancy rate close to 8% or over 20,000 unfilled positions, the delivery of some essential services reflects the impact of staff vacancies. Our members have been at the forefront in ensuring the delivery of essential services while taking on more responsibility with a reduced workforce. They are tasked with accomplishing more with fewer resources because of the economic downturn prompting the Administration to mandate a 4% cut from most agencies for Fiscal Year 2024 on top of the 3% budget cut for Fiscal Year 2023. Additionally, the cost of providing accommodations for more than 60% of the approximately 95,000 asylum seekers has caused additional strain on the budget with insufficient affordable housing and shortages in the shelter system.

MEA Executive Director Alice Wong, our legal counsel Stuart Salles and I have met numerous times with the Office of Labor Relations (OLR). At these meetings, we emphatically expressed the need for manager pay raises, proposed that the Paid Parental Leave Program be changed to a Paid Family Leave Program with the two annual leave days taken from managers earning 27 days of annual leave per year be restored. We also presented and led discussions on other items from the Independence In Action Team (IAT) Platform to improve manager work-life balance. MEA stressed that managers should be treated fairly and there should be parity of benefits with unionized municipal employees. MEA also voiced our opposition to the involuntary transfer of municipal retirees and their dependents into the Aetna Insurance Company Medicare Advantage Plan (MAP). As a continuum of efforts to effectuate pay raises and work-life improvements for managers including hybrid work options, the MEA has been in contact with the Mayor’s Office and with First Deputy Mayor’s Office requesting assistance. MEA will continue to advocate for our members with open communication with City Hall.

The MEA testified at City Council hearings that employee morale is low because of no pay raises and the Mayor’s return to work mandate for the entire City workforce without a hybrid work option. We stressed the need to develop incentives to retain the existing workforce as well as to attract candidates from the private sector to fill vacant positions. We presented the City Council Committees with copies of MEA’s proposed work-life improvement advocacy letters that were addressed to the City Administration as well as copies of our July 2022 MEA Telework / WFH Survey for their review and use. In addition, we also provided City Council testimony in opposition to the Administration’s proposed amendment Intro 0874-2023 to The Administrative Code, Section 12-126 enabling the City to impose Medicare Advantage as the only premium-free retiree health insurance plan.

We also testified in support “Exit Surveys For Resigning and Retiring Employees of City Agencies: Intro 0877-2023 Version A”. The bill would require agencies to have resigning and retiring employees submit exit surveys upon departure. Information collected could be used to improve civil service employment in an effort to attract workers from the private sector to city government and to retain the existing workforce because of the high vacancy rate. It is proposed that agencies submit exit surveys to the Dept. of Citywide Administrative Services for distribution to the Human Rights Commission and City Council Speaker for review and follow up when appropriate.

On May 31, 2023, a lawsuit was filed in the NYS Supreme Court by the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees and several municipal retirees (plaintiffs) against The City of New York in opposition to the Aetna Insurance Company Medicare Advantage Plan. By mutual agreement of all parties to the lawsuit, the deadline for opting-out / waiving City retiree health care programs was extended from June 30, 2023 to July 10, 2023. However, on July 6, 2023, a hearing on the case was held with all parties present, and the following day, Judge Frank issued a preliminary injunction based on the merits of the lawsuit – “irreparable harm” to plaintiffs. Accordingly, the schedules to opt-out / waive City retiree health care programs and for implementation of the Medicare Advantage Plan were suspended by the Court.

Subsequent to the preliminary injunction, a final court discission was rendered in favor of the plaintiffs on August 11, 2023. Judge Frank, found that the involuntary switch in health care insurance violated long-established, decades-old City promises and guarantees that every active and retired municipal employee is entitled to City-funded healthcare through a combination of original Medicare and other supplemental insurance.

Therefore, he ordered New York City to be “permanently enjoined from requiring any City retirees, and their dependents from being removed from their current health insurance plan(s), and from being required to either enroll in an Aetna Medicare Advantage Plan or seek their own health coverage.” Thereby, The City of New York is “permanently” banned from switching retired municipal employees and their dependents to the for-profit, privatized Aetna Medicare Advantage Plan. The City will most likely appeal the NYS Supreme Court decision.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic remission, chapter election meetings are being conducted in-person at agency locations unless scheduled specifically as a Zoom meeting. We encourage members to participate in chapter elections and volunteer as candidates to fill chapter officer positions. Please remember, recruitment leading to membership growth is the MEA’s life blood – “There is strength in numbers”.

Member participation in the Organization Committee; Compensation, Benefits and Professional Development Committee; and the Events and Fundraising Committee is also highly encouraged. These committees provide the opportunity for members to become proactively involved in the MEA.

Our legal team has continued its success in representing and resolving members’ legal issues by providing alternative solutions and ensuring job security among various other legal matters. MEA also saw an increase with pension counseling services in preparation for retirement and exit from City government employment.

The MEA acknowledges and appreciates the hard work of our members and continues to represent NYC managers to the best of our abilities. We wish everyone a Safe, Healthy, and Happy Summer that is full of achievable hopes and dreams.