Municipal Government

OSA’s Struggle for Collective Bargaining

December 30, 2011
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter

One could argue that the history of the Organization of Staff Analysts goes back to 1970, while another could argue that the seeds of OSA go back further to 1956, and yet another history buff could say that OSA officially represented City staff analysts in 1985, which was followed by a celebration in 1987 to mark the 10-year anniversary of the moniker change from COPE, OSA’s predecessor, to OSA.  

The evolution of OSA has been a meandering and winding road, born in the cauldron of struggle for collective bargaining rights with the City while simultaneously fending off inter-union rivalry for the right to represent staff analysts.  

Today’s OSA members work in a variety of titles in numerous and diverse city agencies such as the Traffic Department and Welfare Centers, helping the agencies gain deeper insights from mounds of collected data. From their beginnings in 1956, the analysts tried to affiliate with different unions as the fledging professional organization needed the organizational and financial support of a bigger union in order to achieve collective bargaining.

In 1956, analysts with the old Department of Personnel (DOP) tried, unsuccessfully, to get recognition from DC 37 of AFSCME. But the analysts continued to struggle for union representation. Fourteen years later, they formed the professional association, Council of Personnel Examiners (COPE), which in turn would become OSA in 1977 in response to the City’s broadbanding (grouping similar jobs) of numerous titles into a new Staff Analysis Occupational Group.  

The analysts approached the CWA, Teamsters Local 237 and DC Local 375, while other unions expressed interest in the professional analysts such as Social Services Employees Union Local 371 and Accountants Local 1407.

But in 1979, two years after the City broadbanded the Analyst series, which in effect precluded union representation because the job titles were considered managerial, the OSA affiliated with Local 237 when the Local promised OSA independence and self-governance.

The affiliation, however, didn’t stop the other unions from pursuing a partnership with OSA. Also in 1979, SSEU Local 371, led by OSA’s current president Bob Croghan, (a battle-hardened campaign organizer whose father had been a volunteer for the Irish Republican Army), launched a drive to organize City staff analysts.   

Another City agency, the now defunct Board of Education, erected hurdles to prevent Local 371 unionization, prompting CWA 1180 to file a petition with the Office of Collective Bargaining, a tri-partite governmental agency, to represent the analysts at BOE.

CWA Local 1180’s drive was soon contested by Teamsters Local 237 and SSEU Local 371. A union jurisdictional dispute raged around the still unorganized Analysts. Croghan, who had become an Analyst in order to organize more effectively, joined OSA while still advocating for merger with Local 371. Local 237 Teamsters had Croghan brought up on a charge of dual unionism and Croghan was expelled from OSA.

By 1983, both SSEU Local 371 and Local 237 Teamsters had dropped the Analyst Organizing Drive. A deal was made between the unions and the City that would allow some current Analysts to change into union-covered job titles while the rest of the Analysts would remain non-union.

OSA was an independent organization, without allies, once again.

However, Croghan wasn’t sidelined for long. He managed to be reinstated by OSA and ran, and won, an election against the incumbent administration of Susan Mullgrav in 1984. Only one year later, the BOE was ordered by the state Public Employment Relations Board, which issues rulings regarding certification of unions seeking to represent public employees, to recognize 38 staff analysts’ eligibility for collective bargaining. Those analysts voted overwhelmingly for OSA representation.

As the 1980s drew to a close, the City and OSA reached an agreement for 650 staff analysts be allowed to vote for unionization. But the City reneged on the agreement by allowing only half of those voting to come from the ranks of OSA’s voluntary membership, and selecting the other half from analysts not represented by OSA. To the City’s surprise, the analysts voted by a better than two to one margin for OSA representation.

As OSA entered the 1990s under Croghan’s leadership, its membership grew rapidly as it won the rights to represent staff analysts in different City agencies. Today, the union boasts more than 4,500 workers and hopes to add more analysts in the New Year as it continues to organize analysts in the health care sector.    

December 29, 2011

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