Log in Subscribe

A few of our stories and columns are now in front of the paywall. We at The Chief-Leader remain committed to independent reporting on labor and civil service. It's been our mission since 1897. You can have a hand in ensuring that our reporting remains relevant in the decades to come. Consider supporting The Chief, which you can do for as little as $3.20 a month.

Privatization by any other name still stinks


I am a movie buff, and find it humorous when life imitates art. A scene from “Sweet Home Alabama” comes to mind, and that’s when Melanie's former husband Jake meets her prospective husband Andrew on the Confederate battlefield re-enactment. Jake says to Melanie, "It must be exhausting living a lie.” He turns to Andrew and says, “We are in love with two different people."  

In The Chief’s Dec. 29 issue, Ron Isaac described his view of District Council 37’s executive director, Henry Garrido. In Isaac’s eyes, Garrido is a valiant labor leader who is defending the rights of union workers from privatization. He writes, "But he also insists that 'city workers should not be the scapegoat, nor the target of these reactionary budget reductions.' ” Issac continues: "He correctly calls the privatization grab ‘costly, short-sighted’ and ‘an illegal disservice to the working-class people.’ Short-sighted to the point of blind." And he is right. But … 

 The Henry I know, has been in a war with his own retired unionists because he attempted to sell off their health plan, a city supplement to traditional Medicare and force them into an inferior, privatized Medicare Advantage plan. We have been in court and won the last seven cases and appeals. Yet Mayor Eric Adams continues to appeal because the “unions want this.”  

“Medicare Dis-Advantage” uses federal tax dollars to pay private, for-profit insurers to administer Medicare. These plans were designed as an option, until a law change in 2003 under President George Bush that permitted unions and employers whose retirees were in Employer Group Waiver Plans (EGWP) to be auto-enrolled for “seamless transition into Medicare Advantage.” 

The unions are paving the way to privatizing Medicare — without the retirees' desire to be in those plans and even as fewer doctors and hospitals accept them. Retirees are being forced into Medicare Advantage, because young, ill-informed union leaders are selling off retiree benefits for value to buy raises for active union workers. The active workers don't even realize this is their future benefit that is being sold off. And it's not just Garrido — the United Federation of Teachers’ Michael Mulgrew and most of the unions that make up the Municipal Labor Committee are equally as guilty. And this is happening around the country. Employers are using retiree health care as a cudgel in bargaining, 

Garrido supported privatizing a federal public health benefit, forcing retirees who are no longer in the union because they are retired, and of course all other unions citywide, into an inferior plan wrought with prior authorization, narrow networks, with no options of plans like we have had for almost 50 years, then tried to make us pay for our supplement if wanted to keep it. 

The kicker? The supplement we have is administered by EmblemHealth, a nonprofit whose employees belong to OPEIU Local 153. He was privatizing a health plan and federal public health benefit at the expense of active union workers and retired union workers! 

Looks like Garrido is in the cesspool of what he should have despised. He failed to heed the warning of DC 37 executive directors who preceded him. "Never touch retiree benefits. EVER." "Never privatize healthcare." "Never privatize Medicare." 

Sadly, Garrido didn't listen to those warnings. His litigation is a show, because if he was truly against privatization, he would not be forcing his retirees into privatized Medicare plans their doctors and hospitals do not accept and for which they would have to fight for authorization to get care, unlike with their current plans. Retirees earned and paid for their benefits. Garrido should honor and respect that. A retired unionist is still union.  

Marianne Pizzitola, a retired emergency medical technician, is president of the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees and the FDNY EMS Retirees Association.

We depend on the support of readers like you to help keep our publication strong and independent. Join us.


4 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Kate8475

    Thank you, Marianne.

    Wednesday, January 10 Report this

  • rmarkey527

    What an excellent opinion piece by Marianne Pizzitola. The Chief should write an article about her and the truly

    unbelievable job she has done to defend retiree rights to Medicare. Without her leading this fight along with others approximately 250,000 retirees would have already been forced into a privatized Medicare Advantage Plan. If there was an Academy Award for outstanding labor leaders she deserves it. Almost non-stop, day in and day out, Marianne has done everything possible to protect our health benefits. Can anyone imagine how difficult it must be to stand up and fight Mayor Adams and the leadership of some of the largest municipal unions on our behalf. It can't be easy. I salute a truly great labor leader. A tip of the cap to Marianne Pizzitola.

    Ray Markey, President (Ret.) NY Public Library Guild Local1930, VP (Ret.) DC37 Exec. Bd., AFSCME

    Member - Labor for Traditional Medicare

    Thursday, January 11 Report this

  • krell1349

    It's not called Medicare Dis-Advantage for nothing. Keep up the good work. Keep up the good fight. I really see the benefits of regular Medicare and don't want those benefits taken away. The Unions, especially the UFT(my wife's for Union) and DC37(my former Union) are very hypocritical. How can they take our benefits away????

    Saturday, January 13 Report this


    You are welcome Kate. And Ray, thank YOU. It is because of what Retirees gave, and all those like you, that we fight. Retirees matter, retiree service matters, the promise that you kept matters, and the one you equally relied on in return matters. You are a proud union retiree, and should not now, in retirement have to fight for your healthcare. We were always protected until Henry Garrido and Michael Mulgrew thought it was ok to sell off retiree healthcare and privatize Medicare and bully the rest of the MLC into going along with it, Its time to bring union leaders back to where they should be - protecting retired unionists benefits and not privatizing healthcare. And then we need to fix the MLC, becuase this should NEVER happen again or the union movement will be irrelavant.

    Saturday, January 13 Report this