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NYC teacher retirees toss out union crew over Medicare coverage

The city’s retired educators, infuriated by proposed changes to the health care system, defeated a union candidate allied with powerful United Teachers Union President Michael Mulgrew.

The United Caucus retirees chapter, which Mulgrew is associated with, sent a notice to supporters on Saturday saying that unofficial results showed he was defeated in a recent election by an opposing retirees advocacy group.

Mulgrew’s loss of control of the UFT’s retired teachers chapter means that the rebel faction will now control about 300 union seats with significant voting and control, while representing tens of thousands of retired teachers, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and other educators.

The United Caucus Retirees chapter, which is associated with Michael Mulgrew, sent a notice to supporters on Saturday saying that unofficial results showed he lost the recent election. Mulgrew is pictured here. Brigitte Stelzer

The move to tamper with retiree health insurance was a “big mistake,” union officials said.

“This is crazy. Why ruin retiree health care? It’s like a bomb has been dropped on the UFT,” the source said.

Bennett Fisher“Wow. A new day for the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter and for the UFT. A good day. A very good day,” the new leader of the retirees chapter said in a statement.

“For the last three years, retirees have been fighting for their lives; they’ve been fighting for the health care benefits they earned; they’ve been fighting against the privatization of health care; they’ve been fighting for the traditional Medicare and supplemental insurance they were promised; and they’ve been fighting for the health and well-being of their future UFT colleagues as they retire,” he said.

Critics argue that moving 250,000 urban retirees onto Medicare Advantage supplemental insurance could raise costs and reduce benefits. Retirement Advocate UFT/Facebook

The unrest comes on the heels of protests by city union leaders representing Mayor Mulgrew and other city employees who agreed to move retirees from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage, run by Aetna, in an effort to cut costs for the city.

Critics argue that moving 250,000 urban retirees onto Medicare Advantage supplemental insurance could raise costs and reduce benefits.

Fisher’s pro-retirement wing defeated Mulgrew’s unification wing by 63 percent to 37 percent, 17,226 votes to 10,114, according to unofficial results.

Tom Murphy was defeated as the longtime leader of the retirees chapter.

Even UFT sources allied with Mulgrew said the results were dire and could become problematic in next year’s elections for president and other top union positions.

Mulgrew has served as UFT president since 2009.

The move to tamper with retiree health insurance was a “big mistake,” union officials said. Retirement Advocate UFT/Facebook

Unlike other unions, thousands of retirees can vote in UFT elections.

The retirees tried to use the courts to block the plan from switching to Medicare Advantage, but the city appealed.

UFT rebels get credit Marianne PizzitolaA former New York City Fire Department emergency medical specialist who now serves as president of the Public Employees Retirement Association, he rallied workers across the city to oppose the move to a Medicare Advantage system.

The issue has become a political thorn in Mayor Eric Adams’ side, who is up for re-election next year.

“This is a story that tells the story of a major shift in voting attitudes among retirees,” UFT activist Norm Scott said of the election results. Retirement Advocate UFT/Facebook

The switch to Medicare Advantage was first proposed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio and was intended to allow the city to tap into an estimated $600 million in federal subsidies available for Medicare Advantage plans and reduce New York City’s costs of providing health care to retired public employees.

Adams pushed ahead with the program with changes approved by the city’s Labor Committee, a coalition of union leaders representing workers and retirees that includes the UFT’s Mulgrew, but the move faced sharp criticism from retirees and New York City Democratic Socialist Assemblywoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called the program a “cash cow” for private insurance companies.

“This is a story that tells the story of a major shift in voting attitudes among retirees,” UFT activist Norm Scott said of the election results. “Will we see the same shift in next year’s general election?”

“We have taken the American Teachers Union back from the hands of those who thought Eric Adams’ budget and Aetna’s profits were more important than our health,” said Arthur Goldstein, vice president-elect of the retirees chapter.

“We have broken free from the shackles imposed on us by superficial leaders and union officials who never put our health at the forefront.”

“The final results will be announced on Tuesday. We congratulate all of the award recipients and thank everyone for their service,” a UFT representative said.

There were also union elections to determine chapter presidents, delegates and paraprofessional representatives for each of the city’s public schools. Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus fared much better in these elections.

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