Fighting the Good Fight

Amnesiac Council Battles Bloomberg, Excuses Unions

The problem for the COIB is that it is only empowered to probe conflicts involving city employees, and Yasser, who was paid $138,099 by HIP for six months' work last year and is listed under her maiden name on state filings, has never been one. The agency is supposed to reply this week to Hanley's request, but is expected to throw up its hands. The more appropriate venue would've been the Department of Investigations, but it is headed by Rose Gill-Hearn, whose father, James Gill, is chairman of the board at GHI, a primary competitor for the contract.

HIP is favored by the unions to win the hospital contract—now held by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Weingarten, who once chaired HIP's board, is so tied to the provider that one of her union's vice presidents, Ron Jones, sits on its board. Her former law firm, Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, earned $3 million in fees from HIP last year, and her mentor at the firm, Charles Moerdler, personally represents both the company and Weingarten's union. Arthur Barnes, the husband of American Federation of Teachers president Sandra Feldman, is listed on state filings as HIP's $340,000-a-year senior vice president for external affairs. Feldman was Weingarten's predecessor at the New York union and installed Weingarten here when she took over the national.

Despite this intertwine, the MLC selected Weingarten's union as one of the four that now sits on the committee to pick the winner of what may well be the largest contract ever awarded by the city. DC 37—where Yasser and Leslie Strassberg, who heads the HIP bid team, once worked—is another member of the selection committee. While the eight-member committee also consists of four city representatives, the union preferences are given great weight, since the contract involves coverage for their members.

Gifford Miller: His focus on protecting child health clinics is a plus; his refusal to deal with the cause of the cuts is a minus.
photo: Robert Miller
Gifford Miller: His focus on protecting child health clinics is a plus; his refusal to deal with the cause of the cuts is a minus.

The unions consider this contract their own to such a degree that Communication Workers Association 1180 president Arthur Cheliotes says that the unions wanted to count the $100 million savings he maintains the city would achieve from this contract as a union "concession." Governor Pataki is also salivating over the contract because HIP is expected to go public as a for-profit corporation once it gets the city deal—a conversion, like Blue Cross's, that Pataki estimates will deliver a billion dollars to state coffers.

The union attempt to lay claim to whatever savings result from this contract is just one more indication of how bizarre the labor bargaining with Bloomberg has been. It's also one more signal that a City Council anguishing over the cuts should focus at least a bit of its ire on the union stonewall that led to them.

Research assistance: Zoe Alsop, Michael Anstendig, Phineas Lambert, Naomi Lindt, Brittany Schaeffer, and Jessica Silver-Greenberg

« Previous Page