We have been especially busy here at Local 237 lately. The executive board and I have been working on several fronts. I’d like to take the time in this column to talk about important initiatives we are undertaking.
First, as you may know by now, we made a few changes to our welfare fund drug benefit. Our union has one of the best and most affordable drug benefits in the entire city. To ensure that it stays that way for years to come, we increased the maximum prescription benefit and slightly raised the co-pay. If we did not make these changes, then there was a very real possibility that rising costs would bankrupt our drug benefit altogether.
I recognize that times are still tough for many of you, but we must not forget the larger picture. Increasing the maximum prescription benefit provides relief for many families, while sharing the small co-pay increase together saves all our members potentially thousands of dollars a year. Our drug benefit is a privilege we cannot afford to lose. I encourage all members using maintenance drugs to reduce their costs by taking advantage of the Medco mail-ordering option.
Also in the area of health care, the Health and Hospitals Corporation recently announced a restructuring and cutbacks to take place over the next several years in our city’s hospitals. This move is aimed at plugging a billion-dollar budget gap as Albany continues to gut the budgets of our public institutions.
We cannot have a healthy city without good hospitals. And we cannot have good hospitals without highly trained technical workers such as X-ray and lab technicians, skilled trades workers, who keep facilities running smoothly, and hospital police officers who are essential to making sure that HHC’s hospitals are safe.
We have been working with legislative leaders to find alternative sources of revenue to offset some of the HHC cutbacks. I am confident that when the state budget is finally passed, we will have found money to save the jobs of many of our workers.
Threats of layoffs have become an old and tired tune — we are used to them, and used to fighting them successfully. No doubt the threats are real, but we will continue to fight to minimize any threat to the livelihood of our members.
One of the most important elements of that livelihood comes from our pension system. With the economic collapse in the past few years, our pension system has been hit hard, as have so many across the country.
Our investments have suffered for several reasons, one being the sinking of stocks in a souring economy. While it is unfortunate, the fluctuating nature of the market is a fact of economic life in today’s United States. What is unacceptable, however, is for our hardworking members to have their pensions destroyed by financial scams and fraud.
Working On a New Law
I am working with Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and State Senator Eric Schneiderman to pass a law allowing large pension funds to sue financial institutions that participate in illegal activities. Currently, New York law only allows the attorney general to sue for fraud. Our executive board believes that our pension funds should have the same right. If crooks know that the full force of the Teamsters will bear down upon them in a court of law, they may think twice before making off with our money.
Brodsky and Schneiderman are also two of the five candidates for attorney general (the others are Kathleen Rice, Eric DiNallo and Sean Coffey) whom we have been interviewing since our successful Candidates Political Forum last month. I have used this space often to press the importance of choosing our political leaders. This year will be critical to the future of our state, and we must be involved in shaping a new, improved political leadership in Albany. I will keep you updated about our progress over the summer as the elections in November draw near.
As you can see, we have much on our plate. We have the power and the will to be a strong union that gets things done. I will proudly continue leading our efforts on your behalf, the great members of Teamsters Local 237.