Retired NYC teachers toss out union prez’s crew in furor over Medicare coverage

Retired city educators furious over proposed changes to their health care have toppled a union slate allied with powerful United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

The Mulgrew-linked United Caucus’ Retiree chapter sent a notice to its supporters Saturday saying unofficial results showed it lost the recent election to the dissident faction Retiree Advocate.

The loss of control of the UFT’s Retired Teachers Chapter by Mulgrew’s camp means the renegade faction will now be overseeing about 300 union seats carrying crucial voting and administration powers while repping tens of thousands of retired teachers and other educators such as guidance counselors and paraprofessionals.

metro, us news, health, politics, bill de blasio, eric adams, medicare, mike mulgrew, united federation of teachers, retired nyc teachers toss out union prez’s crew in furor over medicare coverage
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The Michael Mulgrew-linked United Caucus’ Retiree chapter sent a notice to its supporters Saturday saying unofficial results showed it lost the recent election. Mulgrew pictured. Brigitte Stelzer

Tampering with retirees’ health coverage was “a big mistake,” a union source said.

“This was cuckoo. Why were we messing with retirees’ health care? It’s like a bomb has been dropped on the UFT,” the source said.

Bennett Fischer, the new Retiree Chapter leader, said in a statement, “Wow. It’s a new day in the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter and a new day in the UFT. A good day. A very good day.

“For three years now, retirees have been fighting for our lives: Fighting for the health benefits that we earned; fighting against the privatization of our healthcare; fighting for the traditional Medicare and Supplemental insurance that we were promised. And, fighting for the health and wellbeing of our future UFT colleagues-in-retirement,” he said.

metro, us news, health, politics, bill de blasio, eric adams, medicare, mike mulgrew, united federation of teachers, retired nyc teachers toss out union prez’s crew in furor over medicare coverage
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Critics claim the shift of 250,000 city retirees to Medicare Advantage supplemental coverage could leave them with higher costs and fewer benefits. Retiree Advocate UFT / Facebook

The upheaval comes on the heels of opposition to Mulgrew and city union leaders representing other municipal workers agreeing to shift retirees from their traditional Medicare coverage to Aetna-run Medicare Advantage to generate cost savings for New York City.

Critics claim the shift of 250,000 city retirees to Medicare Advantage supplemental coverage could leave them with higher costs and fewer benefits.

Fischer’s Retiree Advocate faction won 63% to 37% to Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus slate — 17,226 votes to 10,114, according to unofficial results.

Tom Murphy was knocked out as the longtime Retirees Chapter leader.

Even UFT sources allied with Mulgrew said the results are a disaster and spell potential trouble when the top seats for president and other union offices are up for election next year.

Mulgrew has been the UFT president since 2009.

metro, us news, health, politics, bill de blasio, eric adams, medicare, mike mulgrew, united federation of teachers, retired nyc teachers toss out union prez’s crew in furor over medicare coverage
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Tampering with retirees’ health coverage was “a big mistake,” a union source said. Retiree Advocate UFT / Facebook

Unlike other unions, thousands of retirees are allowed to vote in UFT elections.

Retirees have used the courts to block implementation of the planned switch to Medicare Advantage, though the city has appealed.

UFT insurgents credited Marianne Pizzitola, a retired FDNY emergency medical specialist and current president of the Organization of Public Service Retirees, Inc., with rallying citywide worker opposition to the Medicare Advantage shift.

The issue is a political hot potato for Mayor Eric Adams, who is for re-election next year.

metro, us news, health, politics, bill de blasio, eric adams, medicare, mike mulgrew, united federation of teachers, retired nyc teachers toss out union prez’s crew in furor over medicare coverage
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“This is a tale of a massive shift in voting sentiment amongst retirees,” UFT activist Norm Scott said of the election results. Retiree Advocate UFT / Facebook

The move to switch over to Medicare Advantage was first proposed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio — and was designed to allow the city to tap into an estimated $600 million in federal subsidies available to Medicare Advantage plans, potentially lowering New York City’s costs to provide healthcare for its retired public workers.

While Adams advanced the program with changes that were approved by the Municipal Labor Committee — comprised of union leaders coalitions representing workers and retirees including the UFT’s Mulgrew — the move faced bitter criticism from retirees and New York City Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called the program a “cash cow” for private insurers.

“This is a tale of a massive shift in voting sentiment amongst retirees,” UFT activist Norm Scott said of the election results. “Can the same shift occur in the general election next year?”

Arthur Goldstein, vice-chair-elect of the retiree chapter, said, “We have taken our United Federation of Teachers from the clutches of those who thought Eric Adams’ budget and/or Aetna’s profits were more important than our health.

“We have broken the bonds placed upon us by ostensible leaders, union bosses to whom our health was not even an afterthought.”

A UFT rep said, “Final results will be certified Tuesday. We wish to congratulate all those who won and thank all those who have served.”

There were other union elections for chapter leaders, delegates and paraprofessional representatives for each of the city’s public schools. The Mulgrew-led Unity Caucus fared much better in those contests.

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