BENEFITS

Unions, City Meet Target for Savings; Health Care Coverage Still Premium-Free

June 7, 2017 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES Mission accomplished. The Municipal Labor Committee on May 18 approved the last of a series of coverage changes that will enable the city to save $3.4 billion in employee health care costs. The city and MLC — which represents city unions on health care matters — agreed to the four-year plan in 2015. The saving plan enabled DC 37 to maintain the premium-free health care coverage that members and retirees enjoy through Blue Cross Blue Shield/GHI-CBP and HIP/HMO. “There were doubts in some circles that the union and city could achieve this, but we succeeded,” DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said. “The plan preserves our premium-free coverage at least through fiscal year 2018.” Here are the changes: ● The co-pay for members enrolled in HIP/HMO who use Urgent Care centers will increase to $50 on July 1. Currently, the co-pay at the centers ranges [More...]

Fighting Big Pharma

May 10, 2017 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES Administrators of the union’s welfare plan are mounting a new legal offensive to keep the rising costs of generic drugs in check. If successful, the court cases would help “correct widespread corrupt practices in the pharmaceutical industry,” said Audrey Browne, associate administrator and counsel of the DC 37 Health & Security Plan, which oversees the union’s drug benefit for over three hundred thousand members, retirees and their dependents. The first lawsuit, scheduled to be heard in Philadelphia federal court, accuses generic drug manufacturers of conspiring to increase the price of a popular generic drug called propranolol, which is used to treat hypertension and prevent heart attacks. The suit seeks a rollback in prices and damages. Two other price rigging cases have also been filed in federal courts in New York and New Jersey against the generic [More...]

When ICE Comes Knocking

May 9, 2017 // 0 Comments

Local 983’s Jose Molina turned his life around, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may deport the family man for a 20-year-old conviction. By DIANE S. WILLIAMS Loud pounding at 5:30 a.m. on a cold January morning in 2013 jolted Jose Molina and his family from their sleep. Molina’s wife, Jennifer, opened the door of their Bronx apartment. In the hallway stood five armed men. Within minutes, they were knocking over furniture and spilling out dresser drawers. The commotion frightened the Molina children, then ages 11 and 9, who began to cry as the strangers confined them to their bedrooms, out of the reassuring reach of their parents. The men surrounded Jose and Jennifer in their living room. She begged for an explanation. Then the men, officers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), handcuffed Jose and led him away as his crying family watched. Since that cold, [More...]

Trump’s Nationalistic Policies Worry Immigrant Members

March 31, 2017 // 0 Comments

By ALFREDO ALVARADO President Donald J. Trump’s executive order issued on Jan. 27 sought to ban people from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States. The order was swiftly struck down by the federal court with orders not to deport or detain travelers. Chaos prevailed at airports around the country on the weekend the day after Trump issued the ban. At Kennedy Airport in New York City, hundreds of demonstrators joined cab drivers and protested against the ban. Panic also spread among the thousands of immigrant New Yorkers. Fear spread to immigrants not covered by the ban and even immigrants who have green cards and visas. Ferdous Ahmed, a member of Electronic Data Processing Personnel Local 2627, was one of those New Yorkers. Shocked by what he was seeing on the evening news that weekend, Ahmed called the union’s Municipal Employees Legal Services (MELS) the [More...]

Members Overwhelmingly Pass Contract Extension

March 13, 2017 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES Members overwhelmingly approved a contract extension that will allow millions of dollars to be poured into the union welfare plan’s financially-troubled prescription drug plan. An independent monitor, the American Arbitration Association, announced the results of the mail-ballot vote on March 10. Members approved the extension by a vote of 94 percent, with 22,526 in favor and 1,196 opposed. “The passage of the contract extension is a very significant step toward protecting the plan from being devastated by the relentless pressure of rising drug prices,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. This extension will earmark $24 million to the DC 37 Health & Security Plan, which provides the popular drug benefit. Under an agreement between the city and the union, the city will permanently raises its annual contribution to the DC 37 Health & [More...]

Local 983 Wins Higher Pay and Better Benefits for Urban Park Rangers

February 22, 2017 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS From March 1 to March 27, New York City will offer an open competitive exam for Urban Park Rangers. To apply, file an application with the Dept. of Citywide Services (DCAS). Once you apply, you may register for prep classes at www.dc37.net. “We urge all provisional UPRs to take the exam and the test prep courses offered through the DC 37 Education Fund,” said Local 983 President Joseph Puleo. DC 37 and Local 983 have made outstanding strides improving salary and benefits for its members. Puleo said, “Newly hired Urban Park Rangers start with a 15 percent salary increase.” The union negotiated: A $41,200 new annual starting salary for UPRs, up from $32,700. After five years, UPRs get a $1,500 raise to bring them to $42,700, plus future increases negotiated in the citywide agreement. Longevity pay of $800 annually and pensionable Recurring Increment Payments [More...]

Vote “Yes” to Protect Your Drug Benefit

February 17, 2017 // 0 Comments

  By GREGORY N. HEIRES Mail ballots went out today  to more than 90,000 members for a vote on a contract extension to protect the union’s popular prescription drug plan, which has been rocked in recent years by the pharmaceutical industry’s pursuit of excessive profits. The contract extension, which the union and city agreed to in January, will enable the DC 37 Health & Security Plan to continue to provide stable benefits to members and retirees. During the past eight years, the pharmaceutical industry has raised prescription drug prices by 105 percent. Today, prescription drugs consume 76 percent of the costs of the welfare fund, which also covers the dental benefit and other benefits managed by the plan. The DC 37 Health & Security Plan faces a $55 million deficit. The contract extension is one of a number of critical steps the union is taking to protect the drug [More...]

DC 37 Approves Tentative Contract Extension to Help Stabilize Financially-Squeezed Drug Benefit

January 27, 2017 // 0 Comments

  By GREGORY N. HEIRES DC 37 and the city agreed to a contract extension that allows the union to pour millions of dollars into its financially pinched prescription drug benefit. The agreement, reached Jan. 12, calls for extending the union’s 2010-17 contract by two months and 23 days. Savings achieved through the extension will significantly help the union address the budget gap at the DC 37 Health & Security Plan, which provides the drug and other benefits. The agreement will help reduce the shortfall by requiring the city to permanently increase its annual welfare fund contribution to the DC 37 Health & Security Plan by $200 for each full-time worker and retiree. That will generate $24 million in new funding for the plan. Under union rules, the agreement must be sent to DC 37’s 100,000 members covered by the current contract for a vote. Mail ballots will be sent out [More...]

DC 37 and Medgar Evers College Announce Training Program

January 21, 2017 // 0 Comments

By ALFREDO ALVARADO With 100,000 workers getting ready to retire from the municipal workforce in the coming years, District Council 37 is planning on offering courses to train the next generation of city employees who will take their place. DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido announced that the union will be collaborating with Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn to offer courses to retrain the next generation of city employees. Garrido and Dr. Rudy Crew, the president of Medgar Evers College announced the partnership on Jan. 19 at the City University of New York campus in Crown Heights. “Unions have played such an important part in building communities like Crown Heights,” said Crew. “Together with DC 37, we can continue to build on that tradition.” Garrido wanted to partner with the Brooklyn school because 42 percent of the union’s members live in the borough. “The members [More...]

MELS: A Pioneering Union Law Firm

October 18, 2016 // 0 Comments

By ALFREDO ALVARADO Sept. 15 marked the 39th anniversary of the Municipal Employees Legal Services, one of District Council 37’s most successful programs. Established in 1977, MELS is one of the few pre-paid legal services offered to union members in the country. “When DC 37 started, I thought more unions would follow suit,” said MELS Chief Counsel and Director Joan Beranbaum, who was one of the first attorneys hired by MELS. “But that hasn’t been the case.” After starting as a pilot program, MELS is still going strong, offering eligible union members free legal services to assist them in a variety of issues from help with filing for a divorce, writing a will and becoming a citizen. The plan does not handle criminal cases. Members who are going up against an unscrupulous landlord can get assistance and be represented by a MELS attorney in Housing Court. Buying a home for [More...]