June 26, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY — Organization of Staff Analysts President Bob Croghan talked to Labor Press recently about his union’s success in defeating a competing bid to represent law enforcement personnel in Traffic Enforcement and School Security.
The OSA had represented these officers since 2001. The competing bid came from the Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association (LEEBA), which has been trying to gain a foothold among New York City municipal workers for years, thus far unsuccessfully.
The OSA won the representation election by 50 to 1, Croghan says, because LEEBA overpromised on pay and benefits. Additionally, there are issues with the LEEBA Constitution, he says, that gave prospective members pause.
Croghan noted that LEEBA President Ken Wynder had touted the value of obtaining “uniformed services status” through legislation, but that his OSA members found out that this status actually only entitles a union to bargain separately, and doesn’t guarantee police wages or any other benefit. Second, Croghan noted that the LEEBA Constitution apparently allows top officers to serve for life, without having to run for election. Their constitution also includes severe limitation on who can vote, linked to dues status. LEEBA also recently took on Teamsters Local 237 and also lost that bid to represent some of their members.
Croghan talked about LEEBA’s strategy of seeking to win representation elections among already-organized workers rather than trying to pick up the un-organized.
He said that LEEBA’s big single success was with the first union it organized, because the organization had no track record. “It’s easy to go to another group and say, ‘I can do it better. Trust me.’ But later, LEEBA had to stand its record. “You can always sell dreams. If you have
no reality behind it, people will notice.”
“The one good thing that can be said about LEEBA,” Croghan continued, “is that they do have the possibility of walking into a situation where the existing leadership is highly deficient and yet there has been no internal reform for whatever reason. But it falls apart the minute they walk
into a situation where the union has been responsive and has been trying to do the best they can.”
But if good local leadership exists, “then you can do a very good job of defeating the outside forces because you have your own local trusted people knowing that whatever promises the other guy made couldn’t have been accomplished and that what was accomplished by the Union was in fact good.”
Croghan’s strong belief in the value of unions goes back to his father’s membership in the Transport Workers Union. “My father was a trolley car driver, then a bus driver. He believed in his union, and its head, Mike Quill. At every stage in growing up, I saw the value of being in a
union When I was 20 years of age, I almost had to drop out of City College and give up my scholarship because my father was about to be fired by the 5 th Avenue Coach and Omnibus Corporation, because he had committed the sin of being 59-and- a-half years of age, and was due a pension at age 62. By firing him at 59, along with 699 others, they could save the pensions and thus enrich the bondholders. Well, the Transport Workers Union went out on strike. It became very apparent to the people in NYC who have lots of money, like the department stores and the hotels, that this was about to turn into a full scale life and death transit strike. They contacted Albany and said, do something about the 5 th Avenue Coach and Omnibus Corporation, because they’re hurting us at all. Those guys [the TWU] are never going to give in, and they’re going to spread the strike to the subways and every place else.
Albany listened to them and they created something new. They seized the entire property of the 5 th Avenue Coach and Omnibus Corporation, and all of sudden my father went back to work, and he came home wearing a blue uniform with a badge on the side, saying MABSTOA. The victory of the union in saving its 700 oldest drivers and mechanics was very clear to me, and that’s why I believe very much in the balance of power between the employer and some force to speak up in favor of the working man. Without that balance, really awful things happen.”
The OSA is still organizing, with three new drives within the Health and Hospitals Corporation (Assistant and Associate Director of Hospitals), the Health Department (Health Services Manager), and MABSTOA (Staff Analyst).