KEYSTONE FDNY - RETIREES
President - UFA
204 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
Dear Mr. Gallagher,
I'm writing in response to your
lengthy letter dated December, 2000 (Postmarked 12/16/00). Given the nature and
scope of your response, I felt it necessary not to take four (4) months to
To your possible dismay, I am for union solidarity but the union keeps driving a wedge between active members, service and disability retirees, witnessed by the familiar rhetoric of the author of your response. In your letter you state, "I intend to publish this response in Fire Lines". Of course, in the spirit of your definition of unionism, you didn't intend to publish my letters. I suspect that you won't publish this response either. You can reach more than 20,000 active and retired firefighters, with what you consider a response to my letters, while I struggle to get out the truth to only a few thousand. However, I am very thankful for today's information highway, as it provides an individual a better chance against a big machine's slanted rhetoric.
In your response you state, " I have tried to set out the substance of your questions ". Well, it is my contention that you did an end run around most of my comments and questions. The author of your letter chose not to "quote" my questions but rather to make-up his own version of what my concerns were, effectively putting a spin on many real concerns and issues. I will try to unwind what you have torn asunder.
"The unions warned their new partners that 'disability exclusion' was necessary or service retirees could expect a reduction in their defined benefit payment.
There was so much money actuarially available in the VSF (Defined Benefit), that the union supported special legislation in 1994 to give a substantial increase to prospective retirees. This would insure the exclusion of disabled retirees, any increases for service retirees and by no stretch of the imagination, votes for incumbent board members. You chose not to detail the 1994 legislation. Why ?
"We all know how the VSF was generated in the 1968 contract from pension moneys, contributed to equally by 'all' members, and never meant to be distributed unequally"
UFA "records" show that both UFA presidents, who were involved with the 1968 contract, said that the VSF was for "ALL" retirees. Legislative history shows that disability retirees were not excluded until the UFA proposed legislation in 1972, which changed the wording "From Service" to "For Service". Subsequently, additional legislation was proposed by the UFA to include "certain" vested retirees, one of whom was, ironically, a then recently retired UFA board member. Evidently your statement, "The agreement with the City to sponsor legislation creating the VSF was conditioned upon it being limited to service retirees. No amount of historical revisions can change that fact", is untrue. It is evident, from the above, that your version of the VSF history is totally inaccurate. Additionally, let me correct your statement that the VSF benefit applies to those who retired since 1971. Of course, you must have meant 1968.
"Disability retirees only wanted a legislative inquiry as to how and why disability retirees were excluded. There was an inquiry bill in Albany, for years, yet the unions fought behind closed doors to impede that legislation, effectively choosing sides among their retirees".
You state ."I am certain that you know that the 'inquiry bill' was a way to obtain legislative approval for expanding the benefit without regard to what effect it may have on the entire VSF scheme". Where did you ever come up with that scenario ? The inquiry bill was just what it stated, only an inquiry to review the history of both the contract and legislation. It could award NO MONEYS to anyone. If the inquiry bill discovered anything, it would have taken separate legislation to correct any inequities. The UFA was fearful that the inquiry would find out the facts surrounding the VSF. The unions never should have taken sides over an inquiry bill. To accept that the union's reasoning was to prevent a possible dilution of the benefit is absurd, knowing the amounts of moneys available and the aforementioned subsequent 1994 legislation.
"It has been a travesty, for the past 10 years, that both unions have been vicariously sleeping with the enemy. Real 'labor leaders' would never sacrifice their retirees, so active members could get raises. No one knows better than the 'Retiree', that the active firefighter deserves every penny he/she can squeeze from the City coffers. The VSF has been a windfall for the City ever since the unions chose to trade it in for the 'Defined Benefit Plan'. This along with assumption rate changes, has provided for contract raises ever since. The union has become no more than a training ground for the next Fire Commissioner".
You state, "I am proud of the UFA's accomplishments in the last decade in improving both the wages and working conditions of our members". Unfortunately, when you provide "double zeros" for active members in contracts, agree to assumption rate changes and then agree to delay funding of security benefit moneys for retirees, until the last years of the past two contracts, while the City raked in over $4 Billion in VSF excesses, it seems "too cozy" to say the least.
Re: Security Benefit Fund "How much does the City fund for active and retired members? Is their funding up-to-date? When a firefighter retires, does the City immediately fund his/her retiree benefits? How are administrative costs shared"?
Thank you for your direct and informative response to those questions. How long has this been the accepted procedure ?
"Why is there no generic drug co-pay for retirees"?
You state, "Be advised that at the time we instituted a co-pay for generic drugs for active members, we did so based on the recommendations of our outside consultants on how to keep our fund solvent. At that time, they also explored a generic co-pay for retirees, but found that it did not make any financial sense to the fund. It simply would not result in sufficient savings". Mr. Gallagher, if your consultants told you that, even though we all know that retirees spend more money on prescription drugs than active members, then something is rotten in Denmark !
"Let me inform the unions it was 'their agenda' that pushed for legislation which allowed the FDNY Mandatory Insurance to be increased to a maximum of $25.00 a month. It took a mere handful of talented retirees to beat back the powerful UFA and UFOA and have new legislation passed that would cap the monthly premium at $9.00
You state, "The UFA, in attempting to avoid the need for future legislative efforts, asked for a $25.00 cap". Sir, if the entire New York State legislature felt it was necessary to correct your enacted legislation, by passing new legislation, then I need not say anymore !
"I would like to clarify the unions 'non-participation' in the hard fought, long deserved COLA that was won by retiree groups across New York State."
You state, "The COLA was achieved through the efforts of not only retiree groups, but also the efforts of this union". Sir, retirees were in Albany every day and tried to get your representative to join with them in petitioning state legislators to accept the COLA package but were turned down. The proposed COLA package was to cost the city over $900 M. The City, et al are on record stating that a COLA, at that cost, would effect city worker's raises in the ongoing contract negotiations. The City, et al fought to reduce it to a $500 M COLA package. Please tell me which COLA package the Union supported ? Never mind, I already know. Let it be noted that the unions will, one day, come to organized retiree groups to petition their support, before they seek legislation that will affect retirees. That day is approaching fast.
"The Tier reform which was created as a way of saving the City during the financial crisis in the 1970's has also been addressed. I don't remember anyone jumping up and down to help the new firefighters in the 1970's and beyond - your silence was deafening."
Are you about to compare these prosperous times to the 1970's ? Tens of thousands of City workers were "Fired", including thousands of firefighters. I lost my job ! A job I took for security ! There was no money available then, as there is today ! Are you saying that past union leaders sold-out new firefighters and now you're going to take credit for their salvation ? Come on, the City had a $3.2 Billion surplus last year and a $2 Billion surplus this year. If the union wasn't able to correct that disparity now, then they might as well have folded up their tents.
YOU CHOSE TO AVOID:
(1) When the union fought the Inquiry Bill, were retirees' dues used in that fight ? According to a breakdown on how retirees' dues are used, $20,000.00 is dedicated for fighting for retirees in Albany, not against them.
(2) Are the unions demanding the return of the $25 M that was handed over from our pension fund to the City, in order to guarantee the Defined Benefit Plan ? If it was recently declared illegal in the COBA package, then it was also illegal for both the Fire and Police unions.
(3) Why did the unions choose to publish the names of the VSF litigants and place that list in each firehouse ? Why didn't the unions publish the names of those retirees who joined to fight the litigation, with the unions and City, with their "Amicus Curae"? It was evident that you took sides again
YOU CHOSE TO AVOID:
(1) Four quotes from the City, UFA, UFOA and the Court, regarding their position on the VSF legislation. I will not bother to repeat them. Although, I will add that disability retirees didn't get their day in court, as the City and unions' "Motions to Dismiss" stopped them from having discovery and a trial. The courts also used "Castellano I" in dismissing the disability litigation. "Castellano I" stated that the Police contract was "silent" as to who was to receive the VSF and that the Legislature made the exclusion. The "Firefighter's contract was not silent, but changes to the original legislation did exclude disability retirees, ergo, the "Inquiry Bill", to see how and why the legislature made the exclusion. Disability retirees did not want to go to court; they only wanted the Inquiry Bill, which was successfully blocked by the unions. The Court said, go back to the legislature. Sounds like a perfect catch 22 to me !
(2) What is needed is a retire e representative at union board meetings, especially when retiree issues are being discussed. I understand it may be difficult for current union leaders to remember past negotiations, especially if they weren't on the job at the time. A retiree representative would solve that inequity.
(3) There have been many changes to the original VSF legislation that the unions supported, but the legislation which excluded any future widows from benefitting in the VSF, when their husbands chose to take a pension "option" may be the most disheartening of all. So much for our widows !
(4) Since it was a known fact that there was more than enough moneys in the VSF (Defined Benefit) for all firefighters, why would the unions be willing to let the City gain such a windfall and continue to allow disability retirees to be disenfranchised ? The fact, as you put it, that the fund would be diluted for service retirees is a fabrication contrived by the union.
In closing, I would like to thank you for finally answering my letters to Mr. LaMacchia, even though you added your own "spin" to my concerns. I hope that I have corrected any misleading statements and misunderstandings by the union. I respectfully ask again, as I did in my last letter, that you print my letters to the union in the "Firelines", in the interest of fair play and better communications. Controlling the content of the "Firelines" can not be well received by either active or retired firefighters for very obvious reasons. Lastly, I would like to thank the UFA for, at least, being available for retiree meetings and listening to our questions, something that I can not say for others.
John R. Gilleeny, Pres.
Thomas LaMacchia, Treasurer
Uniformed Firefighters Association
204 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
Dear Mr. LaMacchia,
Im writing this follow-up
letter, since I havent received an answer to my original correspondence
of August 22, 2000, which was sent by Fax and regular mail. I know many
questions were posed in my letter and I trust it will be answered before the
UFA makes any decision that alters the Retirees Security Benefit Fund.
Since no answer has been received to date, I would like to add the following so
it too may be addressed by the union.
Let me take you back to the early and mid-1970s. The city leaders were spending moneys they didnt have. They needed to borrow money but all lending institutions turned their backs. Gerald Ford, then President, told New York City to Go To Hell, according to The Daily News. It even reached the ugly point of layoffs, if you recall. I was one of those unlucky firefighters, even though I had over seven (7) years on the job. Each firefighter who was laid off had to turn in their badge and Book of Rules in order to get their last check. It was the unions who permitted the city to borrow pension fund moneys, bailing the city out, avoiding default and allowing furloughed firefighters to eventually be re-hired. These were really troubled times, to say the least!
During and after those years, many contracts were signed that included benefit packages, in lieu of raises, because the city was broke. We sacrificed so the city could meet its debt. Now the union wants to take away retiree benefits? Thats absurd! Youre actually taking away the raises retirees received in the 1970s and after. When negotiating with the city in current contract talks, it would behoove the union to remind the city and themselves of the above and demand more moneys be infused into the retirees SBF instead of taking away their hard fought raises. I understand, it may be difficult for current union leaders to remember past negotiations, especially if they werent on the job at the time. Thats why, it is imperative to have a retiree sit on the board, so some semblance of continuity and justice may be retained. Dont sacrifice those who made the sacrifice! Fight for them, as those who should fight for you, when you retire.
cc: URFA __________________
John R. Gilleeny, Pres.
Mr. Thomas LaMacchia, Treasurer
Uniformed Firefighters Association
204 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
Dear Mr. LaMacchia,
I understand that you may be
answering my two previous correspondences, of August 22 and September 26, 2000,
in which I posed many questions concerning retirees benefits. May I
suggest, for the purpose of better communications, that you highlight all my
concerns and questions (?) by publishing both my letters in The
Firelines, along with your expected response.
I have been in contact with a few thousand retired and active firefighters, who share my concerns. Of course, The Firelines has the ability to reach 10,000 active and 10,000 retired firefighters and without publishing my letters along with any planned response, you would just exacerbate the lack of communication retirees are now experiencing. This would be a great opportunity for the UFA to show their concern for retiree issues. I believe that retirees dues pays for the retirees Firelines, according to a breakdown by the former treasurer of the UFA. If this is the case, then retirees should be permitted to voice their concerns in writing and have their questions answered in The Firelines.
If the retirees page in The Firelines would contain something in the nature of Letters to the Editor, I believe it would go a long way in educating both the retiree and active firefighter and break down the wall of ignorance which is responsible for dividing a once united house.
Thank you for your expected concern and consideration.
John R. Gilleeny, Pres.
Correction VSF Checks Go Out Despite
Left-Out Retirees Say Fund Jeopardizes Basic Pensions
WILLIAM VAN AUKEN (The Chief 12-22-00)
The holiday season was considerably brightened for hundreds of retired correction officers last week as the first checks from a Variable Supplements Fund-derived retirement benefit went out in the mail.
New York City Retirement System Executive Director John J. Murphy said that checks dated Dec. 15 have been mailed out to 276 retired correction officers of all ranks. For those who retired in 1999, the checks are worth $8,500. Jail officers who retired this year up until November will receive a portion of that amount pro-rated to the month that they left active service, Mr. Murphy said.
Will Crest at $12,000
The annual special retirement benefit will increase by $500 increments until 2007, when it will peak at $12,000.
"VSF was a major victory for the COBA memberships said Correction Officers" Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook. "Although I would have enjoyed getting that benefit for everybody who worked in correction from the beginning of time, on my watch it started in 1999."
Some of the officers who retired before then and are not getting enhanced retirement benefits went to Manhattan State Supreme Court Dec. 13 in an effort to prevent the checks from going out.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, an attorney representing the New York City Correction Retirees' Benevolent Association, sought a temporary restraining order to stop the payments. He argued before State Supreme Court Justice Eileen C. Bransten that paying out the special benefit would threaten the entire New York City Employees' Retirement System with "catastrophic tax losses," endangering the regular pension benefits of retired members.
Justice Bransten refused to grant the restraining order, noting the lateness of the motion, given that the checks were due to go out that same week. Mr. Fitzpatrick said that the retirees group will continue its underlying lawsuit challenging the VSF-derived benefit.
Echoes City's Claim
Ironically, the claim that the new benefit would place NYCERS in violation of the Internal Revenue Code, causing the IRS to treat city contributions as income and possibly subjecting retirees to taxation on their pensions, was one of the arguments made by the city in its attempt to kill the correction VSF legislation. Responding to the retirees lawsuit, however, Jerry Dwyer of the Corporation Counsel's Office tried to debunk this theory in Manhattan Supreme Court.
"For them to say, 'If-we can't have it, they can't have it,' is really selfish and unfair," Mr. Seabrook said in response to the lawsuit. The COBA leader said that the inability of the union to get retirees covered by the correction VSF legislation was based on the similar exclusion of police and fire retirees from the additional benefits after the police and fire unions agreed to trade in their Variable Supplements Funds for a defined benefit more than a decade ago.
In lobbying the State Legislature and Governor Pataki for the legislation, COBA made the case that its members deserved the same benefit as cops because of their law-enforcement role. The Governor agreed to sign the bill only after the correction unions agreed to seek follow-up legislation transforming the VSF into a defined benefit equal to the one granted cops and firefighters.
Fears Tax Hit
"We're on fixed incomes and are just trying to protect what little we have," said Anthony Arfi, the legislative chairman of the Correction Retirees' Benevolent Association. "If this thing about being out of compliance with the IRS goes through, we'll end up paying taxes on our pensions. We can't afford to lose any more."
One longtime observer of the city pension scene said there was no danger of the IRS demanding income tax on pensions. "That argument might have had legs in 1999, but it doesn't now," he said.
Because the originally legislated Variable Supplements Funds were based on a "skim" of stock market earnings and not a fixed benefit, they did raise possible tax concerns, the pension expert said. He added, however, that the IRS made no move to impose income tax on police and fire pension benefits when VSFs were established in those systems. "With the conversion to a defined benefit," he added, "I don't see where it would be a problem."
10409 E. Silvertree Dr.
Sun Lakes,AZ 85248
Kevin E. Gallagher -President
Uniformed Firefighters Association of New York
204 East 23 Street
New York, NY 10010
Dear Mr. Gallagher,
On August 25th, I received a letter from a
Mr. John Gilleeny. After reading the message, I forwarded you a copy and the
To date, I havent received a reply from you or any other representative of Local #94. I dont know if this omission was through ignorance on your part or another example of your total disregard for the retirees.
In my letter, I had earnestly made a suggestion that you, in the sprit of union brotherhood, and for the betterment of all concerned parties, the active firefighter, and the retiree, sit down and try to iron out our problems. Apparently, you seemed to have taken the position that the retiree is not worthy of your concern. I am dismayed by this lack of concern, someday we all become retirees.
One of my main concerns is the way members are excluded in contracts. I always thought that the union represents all, not just groups of when you retired. A prime example of this is the way the pre-68 retiree has been excluded. I ask you Are these members not a part, or never were a part of Local # 94? Is this a new phenomenon, when negotiating?
In closing, I am writing this letter to be constructive. We all make mistakes but we must all learn by our mistakes. That is why, in the spirit of union brotherhood, I ask you to seek a solution to an ever growing problem.
Peter J. Slane
United Retired Firefighters Association
CITY OF NEW YORK - FIRE DEPARTMENT
URFA Semi-Annual Meeting-Randall's Island, NY
Attending:John Sollazzo, James King, John Gilleeny, Bob
Leon Chikofsky-Palm Beach, FL
Robert Sheehan, Treasurer - Excused
to order at 10:30 hrs.
John Gilleeny read the minutes from the
previous meeting on 11/29/00.
Gerry Bellingham made motion to accept minutes as read. John Barr seconded motion. Motion unanimously accepted.
John Sollazzo welcomed retiree representatives and guests. He then introduced Mr. Stanley Reimer - Honor Emergency Fund.
Stanley Reimer passed-out some information on the H.E.F. and gave a brief history of the fund and how it operates. The bottom line is, if any active or retired member is in doubt about his/her qualifications, simply call Mr. Reimer and he will answer any and all questions. All requests are based on financial need.
Ken Dolan asked if Financial Statement of H.E.F. was available for retirees. Mr. Reimer will get back to John Sollazzo with that answer.
John Sollazzo then introduced Bill Mirro, Recording Secretary-UFA, MikeCarter-V.P. and Tom DaParma-Queens Trustee.
Bill Mirro spoke briefly about Global Fitness Health Clubs and discount membership for active and retired members. Mr. Mirro then addressed the UFAs concern for both active and retired members who have never updated their Beneficiary Cards with both the unions and the City. Please Update!
Tom DaParma gave a current example. It was duly noted by all present.
Mike Carter also addressed retirees. He floated an idea, with those present, to see how they felt about ending the FDNY Mandatory Life Ins. ($5,600) Carter stated that the Insurance program had lived-out its usefulness. He stated that one way it could be dissolved was to issue shares according to how many years each member contributed.
Dan Finegan and others showed some interest and asked if Mike could put the offer in writing, so they could share it with their members. Mr. Carter will draft a proposal for URFA.
Vinny Olivetto asked for the total UFA active and retired members and how much was presently in the FDNY Mandatory Fund, as he could not conceive the fund not making plenty of money. Bill Mirro stated that there were 8931 active firefighters and approximately the same amount of retirees. (UFA) He said there was $14,000,808.00 in the fund as of July, 2000.
John Gilleeny expressed his concern about cashing out of the FDNY Mandatory Ins. He noted that the UFAs approach was, again, for the active members benefit. Gilleeny stated that the UFA was not a forward looking union and they have not done their job educating the active member. i.e. The UFA must inform the active member that his/her UFA ins. policy, of up-to $300,000.00, will die when the member reaches age 70 and the only insurance they may have left is the FDNY Mandatory and the SBF or Family Protection Plans $2,000.00. John said this insurance was no different than Social Security and school taxes. We pay for others and others pay for us. To drop our insurance because the active member can do better with his/her $9.00 a month is shameful and selfish. The UFA must educate them to the facts.
Mike Carter discussed some of the UFA backed legislation which includes (1) Full reimbursement for Med. Part B. (2) Spousal coverage for health benefits at City rate + 2%. (3) Allow retired members to become school teachers. (A foot in door for other retiree employment) Carter spoke about Military buy-back and that it is open from 10/19/00 to 10/19/01. He also said that Kevin Gallagher has asked the City, in current bargaining agreement, to go back and visit the original contract and legislation, that excluded Service retirees from getting pension supplementations and COLA since 1988-89 contract, because they receive the VSF.
Ken Dolan, immediately, spoke to why the UFA chose to block the VSF Inquiry Bill. Mr. Carters answer was, although the UFA was positive that the VSF was meant only for Service Retirees, there was a possibility, however slight, that the Inquiry Bill would seek to include Disability Retirees. Dolan charged that the unions effectively took sides by opposing an inquiry. Much discussion took place concerning the VSF.
John Gilleeny stated that he was not speaking for Mr. Dolan but thought that Kens question went beyond the Inquiry Bill. It showed the unions willingness, rightfully so, to try and unravel a possible wrong in the 1989 contract and yet chose to block an Inquiry Bill that would possibly unravel any wrong in the 1968 contract. Gilleeny noted that the Inquiry Bill was just that, an inquiry. It had no power to award any moneys to anyone. Special legislation would be required to accomplish those ends. All parties would be welcome to fight any such legislation.
Bob DiVirgilio, John OSullivan & Charles Bohan each gave their version of the VSF history, all agreeing that it was meant only for Service retirees.
Dan Finegan asked if the UFA intended to recoup the $25 M they gave to the City from our pension fund in return for the Defined Benefit Plan.
John Gilleeny stated although the $25 M came out of our pension fund, only Service retirees benefited from that loss.
Bill Mirro explained that many other contract benefits, including longevity increases, were involved in the 1989 contract. He stated, if the UFA went after that money, the 1989 contract would have to be unraveled, inviting the possible loss of many contract gains.
Ken Dolan expressed his concern over retirees being forced to take Medicare as their primary health insurance, when they became eligible. He stated that Federal Regulations provide you with an option. UFA will check it out and get back to John Sollazzo.
Bob DiVirgilio informed members that a Health Benefits Workshop is being planned. He will invite the administrators of respective health programs. Bob will keep retirees posted.
Dan Finegan mentioned what happened in Florida with HIP. The City gave Floridians other carriers to contact and some of those carriers werent even available to our retirees. He stated that carriers like to go where reimbursement rates are high.
Bill Mirro noted that Staten Islands rates were the highest at $831.00
Henry Demchek informed retirees that SCARF has group Medigap Program at competitive rates. (Only in N.Y. State) Plan A was $66.00 a month.
Gerry Bellingham asked what the UFA thought about the URFA hiring their own lobbyist.
John Gilleeny added that the Florida Retiree groups were primed for a retiree lobbyist.
Mike Carter stated that he doesnt see it as a terrible thing. He thinks that retirees would be on the same page as the UFA 99% of the time. He noted that the UFAs City Council lobbyist was Norman Adler and the UFAs Albany lobbyist was Richard Winston. There was no further discussion from retiree members.
John OSullivan asked, Isnt that what Bob DiVirgilio does now? There was no response.
Bill Mirro spoke at length about retirees Security Benefit Fund. He handed-out papers which showed both income and expenditures. Bill noted that retirees spend more on prescription drugs than the active firefighter. Mirro stated there will be an increase, in the near future, for retiree out-of-pocket costs. It was noted that the UFOA has already imposed those increases on their members. Bill explained that the UFA was part of the Municipal Labor Council, which was comprised of just about all City unions except the PBA. Mirro said that both active and retired members, from all unions, get the same dollar amounts in their various union administered health funds. He encouraged using the V.A. in order to keep cost down and hoped there would be federal legislation on Medicare Drug coverage.
John Gilleeny asked if it was too late for retiree input concerning planned increases. John was also concerned, if retirees reduced their drug costs by using the V.A. and possibly Medicare, that the unions wouldnt need to seek future substantial increases from the City in order to cut retirees costs, because all active health plans were very solvent. This would allow the unions to use those needed moneys, elsewhere, in their negotiations.
Bill Mirro welcomed any and all retiree input. He went on to explain that the Retiree SBF, according to projections, would go bust in 2003. He stated, again, that being a part of the MLC, each union would receive the same amounts for their respective health plans.
Rudy Migliore, Atty said that his primary push for legislation would be for the widows benefit bill, which would seek the ability of a widow to secure health coverage at the Citys cost + 2%. He and the UFA will be fighting for this in the upcoming legislative session. Mr. Migliore also mentioned that there would be an asbestos screening, this February, in Florida.
John Gilleeny asked Mr. Mirro about a retiree representative on the UFA SBF Board.
Bill Mirro stated that it was not a popular issue among UFA board members. He, however, felt there was some outside possibility a retiree(s) could serve in some advisory capacity.
John Sollazzo asked if it would be a good idea to raise this issue with President Gallagher and the UFA board.
Bill Mirro said it couldnt hurt for the URFA to present this suggestion to President Gallagher and the board.
John Sollazzo thanked Mr. Mirro for staying the entire meeting. John also thanked Bill for answering the many questions and concerns of the retiree. It was Sollazzos hope that this meeting would be the catalyst for renewed communications with the UFA.
John Gilleeny called for URFA election of officers. John asked if there was any interest among those present, to run for any office. There was no response.
Gerry Bellingham made motion to retain the current officers for another term. Seconded by Dan Finegan. Motion carried unanimously.
Ken Dolan made motion to close meeting. Seconded by Gerry Bellingham. Motion carried.
Meeting adjoined at 1545 hrs.
United Retired Firefighters Association
CITY OF NEW YORK - FIRE DEPARTMENT
URFA Meeting held at Koenigs, Floral Park, N.Y.
Attending:John Sollazzo, Jim King, Bob Sheehan, Bob DiVirgilio,
Absent: Jim Belmonte - due to illness
Meeting called to order at 1045
Report: (John Sollazzo)
Report: (Bob Sheehan)
Frank Martinez -
1) Spoke at length about John Gilleenys (Keystone, PA) letter to UFA (LaMacchia). He noted the frustrations of the writer and other retiree groups with the UFA & UFOA. He stated that he understood those frustrations but felt there was a lot of talent being wasted. He said that we (URFA) needed to provoke more thinking, plan strategies and to incorporate our thoughts and feelings into a renewed vision, in order to be a successful, united group.
2) He went on to state that we (URFA) have failed to educate the active firefighter.
3) He explained the need for these strategies and information to be placed in a binder for each retiree group to have. This binder will be constantly updated so all groups will share the same information. He explained the format he is currently working on. (Delegates Manual) He stated, he should have the project completed after the first of the year. It was well received by all members present.
John Sollazzo read correspondence from Pete Slane, AZ which dealt with John Gilleenys letter. Mr. Slane agreed with most of the letter but was interested in better relations between retirees and the unions and retirees and the URFA. He wrote a letter to UFA Pres. Gallagher with those concerns but never received a reply.
Jerry Bellingham -
1) Spoke on the positive response he has received from Up-State retirees re: Gilleenys letter. He said that a recently retired UFA Executive Board member attended an Orange Cnty. retirees meeting and disagreed with letter. He stated that he will answer all the questions in a letter to the Orange Cnty. Board. Orange Cnty. will provide him with equal space in their newsletter. Stay tuned.
2) Jerry also spoke on Comm. Von Essens statement that the Retirees from the War Years are now paying the price with their health. Bellingham went on to say that it is simply not acceptable for retirees to lose any benefits, especially when it concerns our health.
John Gilleeny - Corr.
1) Reported that he did not receive any negative responses to his letter. As a matter of fact many retiree groups published his letter in its entirety. Gilleeny expressed his concern that the RMA and Staten Island retiree groups chose to ignore the UFAs projected changes to our drug coverage in their respective newsletters.
2) Reported that it is over 3 months since his letter to the UFA, and still no response.
3) John asked Pres. Sollazzo to request, from the unions or city, a list of all retirees, so we can provide them with a membership opportunity in the URFA or their local division.
4) Requested that Pres. Sollazzo seek dues check-off for retirees UFA Catastrophe Major Medical Insurance. He noted that active members are currently afforded the check-off. 5) John noted, in response to Pres. Sollazzos phone calls to various division leaders concerning communications, that there has been no info & no minutes provided to him to disburse.
Bob DiVirgilio - Exec. Secretary:
Spoke at length, with accompanying paperwork, on legislation and other related information.
1) (A-6027, S-3585) Passage of FDNY Mandatory Life Insurance with a $9.00 cap. He noted that, if the actuary certifies to the board of trustees that an increase in such sums payable is warranted .the board shall by resolution, increase .such sums payable in accordance with the certification of the actuary.
John Gilleeny asked if the report that retirees FDNY Mandatory Insurance payoff has been increased, as reported to him, from $5,600 to $6,000. Bob will find out that information.
2) (S-5172-A, A-9625-A) Legislation for Widows Health Insurance Coverage which will allow the spouses of deceased retired NYC Firefighters & Police to continue their health insurance coverage at the city policy rate, plus 2%.
3) (5483, A-8142) An act to amend the Administrative Code of the City of New York, in relation to the investment powers of the Board of Trustees of the City of N.Y.Fire Department mandatory Life Insurance Fund. ( Would allow broader investment powers)
4) Reported City Council Int.# 580 would require the city to fully reimburse Part B premiums to those retirees on Medicare, in an amount equal to the premium rate for that year.
5) Informed members that the market value of the FDNY Pension is $6.2 Billion dollars and there are currently 11, 477 active members and 16, 160 retirees.
6) On Social Security - reported : If youre at least 65 and receiving Social security benefits, you can now work without having your benefit reduced. If youre approaching 65 this year and choose to work, your benefit will be reduced $1.00 for every $3.00 you earn over $17,000.00, until the month you reach 65. Then you can work without any reduction.
7) He reminded members - Adm. Code 12-126(b)2 provides that if a retired member of the uniformed force is receiving a service related disability pension and subsequently passes away from such condition, the widow and children under 19 years of age would be eligible for health insurance.
8) Informed members of change in IAFF Constitution, re: IAFF Retiree Organization, Resolution # 4. He pointed out line 43 - Resolved, That the retiree Committee in its findings and recommendations shall protect local autonomy, ensure the jurisdictional integrity of affiliates and preserve the voice and vote of active organizations; It is believed that the retiree representative for our area will be the Active President of Yonkers Firefighters. (Form your own opinion.)
1) Rudy Migliore reported that there were two screenings today and others are scheduled. If anyone has any questions please contact him.
2) Reported that payments are currently being received by firefighters from Garlock Corp. Amounts differ according to the severity of each individuals case.
The next meeting will be the semi-annual membership meeting tentatively scheduled at the Rock on December 27th or 28th. Stay tuned
Meeting adjourned at 1435 Hrs.
Respectfully submitted: (In the absence of the Recording Secretary)
As We See
Horace B. Deets, AARP Executive Director (Jan., 2001)
Prescription drug benefit
A priority in 2001 agenda
Despite the confusion, Surrounding, the presidential election results, the American people were clear on one issue. They want prescription drug coverage in Medicare. There is not a consensus on how it should be structured, but leaders of both parties, and voters across all age groups, agree that it is needed.
As the new administration submits its first budget proposal and the 102nd Congress structures its budget resolution or "blueprint," it is imperative that they set aside in those budgets enough money to fund a viable prescription drug benefit in Medicare. Many competing interests will vie for use of the budget surplus, and if funds are not earmarked for a prescription drug in Medicare now, the money will used for other programs before the particulars of a prescription drug benefit are worked out.
The amount needed to adequately fund a prescription drug benefit in Medicare depends upon how the benefit is structured, but it is painfully clear that the $40 billion set aside by Congress last year is inadequate. A $40 billion contribution from Medicare toward the five-year cost of a prescription drug benefit would leave beneficiaries with very high premiums and coinsurance for their drug coverage. For example, it assumes that, beneficiaries would pay 50 percent co-insurance on each prescription they receive, compared to 20 percent co-insurance they are required to pay for services under Medicare Part B. Certainly, Medicare beneficiaries do not expect to get a prescription drug benefit for free, but they must view a new benefit as affordable - as a good insurance buy.
The key to framing an adequately funded prescription drug benefit in Medicare is to attract enough people into the program so that the risk is spread across a wide pool of participants. In other words, a stable, affordable benefit requires the participation of healthy people as well as those who spend heavily on prescription drugs. Today, good medicine requires prescription drug coverage. For all Americans-regardless of age-prescription drugs embody the promise of 21st century medicine. Yet for many older Americans this promise has not been fulfilled. Many Medicare beneficiaries are forced to choose between filling their prescriptions and putting food on their tables. Our nation can do better.
People age 65 and older comprise 13 percent of the population yet purchase one-third of all prescription drugs. Older Americans understand as well as anyone the need for economizing on drugs and the need to contribute to the cost of coverage. A prescription drug benefit in Medicare is not only a dollars-and-cents issue; it's also a common sense issue. All older Americans-today and in the future-should have the choice of a workable, affordable and stable prescription drug benefit in Medicare. Republicans and Democrats agree they need it. And with strong bipartisan cooperation, Congress and the new administration can make sure they get this benefit.
Is Cheapest Deal Really Best ?
Chief Editorial (1-05-01)
PBA President Pat Lynch was given a month head start by other uniform leaders to make a deal they all would try to replicate. But by putting him on the clock in that fashion, the other unions sent a signal to City Hall that they were ready to leap-frog the PBA if its bargaining failed to ignite. This was not the best way to play contract poker, since it gave city officials an indication that they might not have to beat the best hand to win the round.
Surely the other unions know that. But there are also understandable reasons, beyond impatience, for their reluctance to simply sit back and let their, destiny be determined thePBA talks.
A large one, was Mr. Lynch's retainer of Bob Linn, Ed Koch's former chief negotiator, to argue the PBA's case. When he worked for the city, Mr. Linn was a skilled, creative negotiator, and his deal that led the police and fire unions to trade-in their Variable Supplements Funds has saved the city $4 billion and counting.
But union leaders remember only too well that this very deal with the PBA in 1988 put the rest of the uniformed unions at a bargaining disadvantage because it was structured in a way that punished unions whose members stayed in their jobs longer than the average Police Officer. Whatever hard feelings may still linger toward Mr. Linn-a misplaced anger, since his mission then was to make the best possible deal from Mr. Koch's standpoint, not theirs, are compounded by the concern that he could very well use the PBA's stronger bargaining case to once again, get a contract that rewards that Union's members at the expense of other uniformed employees.
That is a large reason the uniformed forces coalition is moving ever closer to a deal with the Giuliani administration. It might not be the maximum possible wage hike, but settling first would offer those unions the security of not being boxed-in once again by the PBA.
Their suspicions could ultimately work to the Mayor's advantage. A question remains, however, about whether getting the cheapest possible deal this time and thwarting the grander goals of the UFT and the PBA will ultimately benefit the city.
During the same round that he agreed to those constricting uniformed union deals, Mr. Koch authorized Mr. Linn to give city nurses contract terms that exceeded those won by other unions, including the PBA. There was no political advantage to doing so; in fact the uniformed unions were his staunchest labor allies. Rather, that was one of those cases where Mr.. Koch became persuaded that the shortage of qualified nurses was so severe that only by stepping outside the basic bargaining pattern could the city hope to compete with neighboring jurisdictions in recruiting and retaining qualified personnel.
Mr. Giuliani prides himself on being an unconventional politician. It remains to be seen whether, in the area of collective bargaining, that unorthodox streak will be confined to squeezing all the available dollars from the unions during his first administration to balance his budget, rather than using it to solve long-term compensation problems.
No Exam For
Firefighter In '01, City Says
Mark Daly (The Chief - 12/29/00)
Next year's Firefighter test has been canceled, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services announced Dec. 20.
The exam, which was expected to attract thousands of applicants, was due to open for filing on Jan. 3. A new filing period and test date was not announced.
Wanted More Tests
The scheduling of the exam had represented a victory for Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, who had pushed the city to hold Firefighter tests at two-year intervals in order to boost recruiting efforts among women and minorities.
But the department later decided to make the most of the current list, No. 7029, after discussions with fraternal groups, an FDNY spokesman said. The city now will revert to the standard four year interval between tests.
The city will continue to hold regular Firefighter promotion tests for qualified Emergency Medical Service personnel and college students in the Fire Safety Cadet Corps. Last week the filing period for the next Firefighter promotional was delayed one month, to Feb, 7-27, and the written test was moved to May 19.
Ganci As Permanent Chief of Dept.
By MARK DALY (The Chief - 12/29/00)
Peter J. Ganci Jr. was sworn in as Chief of Department at the Fire Department Dec. 22, two days after a new eligible list was issued for the title. He had served provisionally for over a year in the city's highest-ranking Competitive Class position. .
In all, 10 candidates were on the new roster for the FDNY's top uniformed post. Mr. Ganci was ranked No. 5, but he could be picked over the top eligibles because the first two and next three candidates had tied scores.
Von Essen's Call
Invoking the civil service 1-in-3 rule allowed Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen to permanently appoint Mr. Ganci since he was tied as the third-best scorer.
"He's served in an acting or provisional capacity for three years now . He's demonstrated the skills and abilities as Chief of Department," a Fire Department spokesman said of Mr. Ganci.
The use of the 1-in-3 rule in picking the Chief of Department has been strongly opposed by the Uniformed Fire Officers' Association. UFOA President Peter L. Gorman was not immediately available for comment last week.
The candidates for Chief of Department were all Deputy Chiefs who competed in an oral test last December. Several have appeared on previous lists for the position.
The top-ranked candidates were Edward J. Dennehy and Joseph J. Callan, who both scored 89.715.
The next three were Arthur J. Parrinello, Daniel A. Nigro and Mr. Ganci, who all scored 87.143.
The remaining eligibles who could have been reached under the 1-in-3 rule were Theodore H. Goldfarb and Frank P. Crathers, who both scored 84.572.
Rounding out the list were Alexander W. Santora, with 84.5, and Gerard A. Barbara and John W. Kelly, both with 82. Mr. Cruthers was appointeded Chief of Department by then-Fire Commissioner Howard Safir in 1996 but was replaced by Mr. Von Essen the following year in favor of another eligible, Joseph Casaburi.
Mr. Casaburi was injured in a car accident while on duty in 1998 and retired last year. Mr. Ganci served in the title in an acting capacity, and was named to the post provisionally upon Mr. Casaburi's retirement.
The new list for Chief of Department will remain valid for one year. The scoring method was not released.
Lack of $$ imperils fix of firetrap RR tunnels
TOPOUSIS (NY Post 12-19-2000)
A top federal transportation official yesterday warned that potentially life-threatening conditions in Penn Station's six aging railroad tunnels won't be fixed for another 28 years at the current rate of funding.
Transportation Department Inspector General Mead said, "the effort to renovate the dangerous tunnels beneath the Hudson and East Rivers is getting a paltry $27.5 million a year."
In a report to a House subcommittee, Mead said the spending pales in comparison to the $898 million that is the latest price tag for completing the job. The work was last estimated at $654 million in 1997.
The 90-year-old tunnels lack adequate ventilation and firefighting equipment, while emergency staircases that descend 10 flights are too narrow to evacuate passengers and bring in rescuers at the same time.
City fire officials have called the tunnels "a catastrophe waiting to happen." The Post first reported the dangers facing nearly 500,000 daily Amtrack, Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit riders two weeks ago. Since then, railroad officials have been huddling over ways to speed the tunnel improvements.
Rep. Frank Wolf, (R-Va.), chairman of the transportation appropriations subcommittee, requested the IG's report last month after an Austrian railroad tunnel fire killed 159 passengers.
Wolf has insisted that Amtrack, which owns the tunnel, must get the safety issues resolved by the time Penn Station's $800 million expansion into the Farley Post Office is completed in 2005.
"If you don't link them the real danger is that you can see Penn Station and the progress or lack of progress there. But you'll never see what's going on or has not gone on below."
"Amtrack has been ignoring the issue," said Wolf.
Amtrack officials, last week, said they would be able to speed up completion of the most serious safety problems in the tunnels by 2006 - but only if Congress gives the railroad enough money for the job.
Mead's estimate of the cost of upgrading the tunnels doesn't include the $125 million slated to be spent by the LIRR over the next five years - on top of about $97 million the commuter line has already invested.
In his report, Mead warned that the risk of fire is real. "In the last five years there have been four incidents in which fires or smoke conditions have forced the closing of a tunnel," he said.
KEYSTONE FDNY - RETIREES
United Retird Firefighters
Lake Ariel, PA 18436
William Mirro, Rec. Secy
Uniformed Firefighters Assn.
204 East 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010
Dear Mr. Mirro,
I would like to thank you for attending the United Retired Firefighters Assn. (URFA) meeting on 12/27/00. At that meeting, you said the UFA was still open for suggestions concerning the Retiree SBF and other matters which were discussed. After conferring with members of the Keystone-FDNY-Retirees, I have the following suggestions to make:
Be assured, retirees will be vigorously
supporting the Medicare Part B and Spousal Health Insurance Bills alluded to,
by Mr. Carter, at the meeting.
In closing, remember, active firefighters are prospective retirees and current retirees continue to fight for their benefit.
The UFA is the guardian of this trust and has the awesome obligation to educate its members, while preparing them for that ultimate transition.
Thank you for your genuine concern for all firefighters.
In Friendship & Brotherhood,
cc: URFA Assn.'s.
John R. Gilleeny, Pres.-Keystone
Cut Deal On Benefits Package
By JOANNE WASSERMAN (Daily News - 1/12/01)
The city and its unions have agreed to a package of health and fringe benefits for 500,000 municipal workers and retirees that both sides hope will pave the way for a quick wage settlement.
Announced yesterday, the two-year package for all municipal employees includes broadening the city's 401(k) fund for more workers and improving medical coverage.
"The additional benefits were financed by using about $165 million the city has poured into a special fund, in recent years, to pay for increased health-care costs,"officials said.
The agreement also calls for a give-back that eventually will save the city millions of dollars by extending from five to 10 years the amount of time city workers must wait to receive health insurance after they retire.
The talks took place as the city and the uniformed coalition representing correction officers, sanitation workers, firefighters and police supervisors are on the verge of a deal to pay workers about 10% more over two years.
Randi Weingarten, the teachers union chief who heads the Municipal Labor Committee, said she hoped that because the benefits package includes savings for the city, "this should give the city clear sailing to sit down and bargain a fair and equitable wage settlement."
One city official said the agreement is "good for us and good for [the unions]. They have used their own money to buy increased benefits."
Jim Hanley, the city's chief labor negotiator, said that eventually, thousands of retired workers would be affected by the increase in time to collect health benefits. He said the city would save "several millions of dollars" because of the lag.
Firefighter Donald Franklin
Firefighter Donald Franklin
N Y POST.......By WILLIAM J. GORTA, JESSICA GRAHAM, and LARRY CELONA
veteran firefighter died of a heart attack last
night after battling a blaze at a dilapidated South Bronx building that killed
an elderly couple and
an 87-year-old man.
Paramedics desperately tried to revive Firefighter Donald Franklin, 42, at the scene of the two-alarm fire at 320 E. 166th St., said Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen. But he was pronounced dead soon after at Lincoln Hospital.
"They believe it was a massive heart attack," Von Essen said. "It's a very strenuous job." Franklin, who worked seven years in Brooklyn and nine in The Bronx, most recently for Ladder Company 44, was the second firefighter to die this year.
Franklin, of upstate Westtown, near Warwick, is survived by his wife and a stepdaughter, and five children, between 5 and 16, from his first marriage.
The fire broke out at around 8 p.m. on the fifth floor of the five-story building in the Morrisania section. Flames quickly engulfed the fifth-floor the apartment of Nathaniel and Jean Barnes, a couple in their 60s who were pronounced dead at the scene. Neighbors said that Nathaniel Barnes had recently suffered a stroke and was paralyzed on one side of his body.
A third elderly resident of the building, 87-year-old Mann Smith, suffered burns and was in critical condition at Lincoln Hospital, a spokeswoman said. The blaze was under control in less than an hour. Von Essensaid it appeared one of the victims had been smoking in bed.
Franklin had been on the roof venting the building of smoke and came downstairs, appearing ill, Von Essen said. He was walked to an ambulance, where he collapsed. Von Essen said the heroics of two neighbors, identified by a neighbor as Zebediah Hart and Eugene Adams, probably saved the life of Smith. The youngsters dragged the elderly man from the apartment to a landing in the building. "If he has any chance to live, it's probably because of those two guys that got him out," Von Essen said. A neighbor, Booker Moore, said the couple had been through hard times recently. Other residents said the wife had retired and had been caring for her disabled husband.
"All I know about them is they had a son who passed away a few years ago," said Moore. Another neighbor who asked not be identified said the elderly couple's death was a real tragedy. "They were good people," he said.
Neighbors said Smith was the former superintendent of the building and had most recently been living with Barneses, who took care of him. Fire officials said the city-owned building was in disrepair, with only eight out of 19 units occupied.
"There was a tremendous amount of heat and fire," said Sixth Division Fire Chief John Quevedo. "It was completely black. It was very disorienting."
Firefighters waded through clutter to reach the victims inside the apartment, Quevedo said, only to find that the ceiling had collapsed on the residents. Mayor Giuliani and police and fire brass rushed to Lincoln Hospital last night to pay their respects to Franklin's family and co-workers.
Earlier this month, Firefighter Gregg McLoughlin, 39, collapsed and died of a heart attack while working out in his Queens firehouse.
Last year, Kenneth Kerr, 44, a father of four from Engine Company 91 in The Bronx, died Nov. 17 of an apparent heart attack after helping to put out an elevator fire.
The 14-year veteran was the only firefighter to die in the line of duty in 2000.
A wake for FF Donald Franklin will be held today (1-15-01) from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and tomorrow from 2 p.m. to 4p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Applebee-McPhillips Funeral Home, 130 Highland Ave. Middletown, N.Y.
A funeral Mass will be held noon Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church on Orchard St., Middletown.
Firemen Just in Time To Save Baby & Mom
By BILL EGBERT and BILL HUTCHINSON Daily News Staff Writers (1-15-01)
A mother and her 2-year-old son were plucked
from a burning Manhattan apartment last night by firefighters, who resuscitated
the boy as he was carried down a ladder, officials said.
"He didn't have much longer," said Firefighter Chris Williamson, 28, said of the boy, who had stopped breathing when firefighters found him and his unconscious mom in their sixth-floor Inwood apartment. "I guess we reached him just in time."
The three-alarm blaze began at about 8:15 p.m. in the family's apartment on the top floor of 103 Post Ave. The cause was not immediately known.
Firefighters found a man, believed to be the boy's father, hanging from an air-conditioner, a floor below the burning apartment. A neighbor perched on a fire escape was trying to toss a rope to the man when firefighters rescued him by ladder.
Williamson, Firefighter Dave Alexander and FDNY Lt. Bob Alfieri all of Ladder Co. 36 rushed from door to door searching for trapped people. They found the fire in a top-floor apartment.
"The fire was right at the front door, waiting for us," said Alexander, 30. "All the rooms were burning."
Alexander battled flames with a fire extinguisher while Williamson and Alfieri searched the back room. They found the child and his 30-year-old mother unconscious on the floor. They carried the victims to the window where firefighter Scott Atlas was waiting on an aerial ladder. Atlas began CPR on the child as he carried him to safety, Williamson said. Fire officials said the mother and son were conscious and in stable condition last night at Harlem Hospital.
BRAVEST HEART ATTACKS SOAR
TOM TOPOUSIS and IKIMULISA SOCKWELL-MASON
- Firefighters braving the heat, flames and treacherous conditions inside a burning building are more likely to die of a heart attack on the job than anything else, federal studies show. Donald Franklin, who collapsed after fighting a blaze that killed a couple in their burning Bronx home Friday night, was the third city firefighter to die in as many months - all of heart attacks.
Firefighter deaths are down overall in recent years, thanks in large part to "bunker gear" that protects against burns and allows the city's Bravest to go deeper into a structure fire.
But some firefighters say that the new gear's protection from flames exposes them to other dangers, particularly from heat and exhaustion, pushing up the risk of heart attacks.
"It's a Catch-22," said Tom DaParma, a trustee with the Uniformed Fire Fighters Association and a 23-year veteran of the FDNY. "Burns have gone down, but heart attacks are up."
"Bunker gear allows us to do our job better, getting right into a fire," DaParma said. "The downside to that is that we're in the middle of a fire and the core temperature of our body is really rising."
Franklin, 42, was the first firefighter to die in the line of duty this year. Earlier this month, Gregg McLoughlin, 39, died of a heart attack just after his shift while running on a treadmill at Engine Co. 302 in Queens.
In November, firefighter Kenneth Kerr died of a heart attack at his Bronx firehouse moments after returning from battling a blaze. He was the only city firefighter to die in the line of duty during 2000.
Nationally, 30 of the 95 firefighters who died in action last year were felled by heart attacks. Motor-vehicle accidents while traveling to or from a fire scene were the second-leading cause of death, claiming 13 firefighters in 2000.