Livermore & Los Alamos retirees Talk, while court case continues
The health care court case brought by Livermore Lab retirees against the University of California will continue at least through May, according to schedules set in Superior Court in Oakland. Meanwhile, the UC Livermore Lab Retiree Group started exchanging information with some of its Los Alamos counterparts, as the two widely separated groups of retirees wondered whether they could help each other. In the Livermore-UC court case, attorneys representing the two sides have started exchanging documents, according to Joe Requa, head of the Livermore Lab Retiree Group.
UC is responding to a public records request by the retirees, and in turn the retirees plan to provide documents sought by the University’s attorneys. Earlier this month, it was thought that a March 24 hearing might be the final one on the question of whether the retirees could pursue their effort to force the University to take them back into the UC health care system. However, attorneys for the two sides “agreed to a third round of filings before a hearing occurs,” Requa said. The Livermore Retiree Group believes University records going back to the 1960s could support its contention that UC is legally required to continue providing retiree health despite a change of contract that moved the Laboratory under new management starting in 2008.
The University argues that it has no such obligation because the Laboratory’s federal sponsor, the U.S. Department of Energy, decided to move health care responsibilities to the new contractor. The next court hearing is scheduled for May 5 or later to consider the University’s motion to dismiss the case. In the meantime, the Livermore Retiree Group has been exchanging emails with its Los Alamos counterpart, called the Laboratory Retiree Group. The New Mexico group intends to fight a plan by the National Nuclear Security Administration – the branch of the Department of Energy that funds Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories – to reduce support for Los Alamos retiree health care by 20 percent.
The Los Alamos operating contract was changed a year earlier than Livermore’s; in fact the 2008 Livermore change was modeled on the Los Alamos experience. However, Los Alamos contract wording has continued to specify that retirees get health care that is “substantially equivalent” to that provided by the previous contractor, the University of California. Thus, the Los Alamos LRG argues, NNSA should be legally bound to maintain its support for health care at the higher level that the University continues to offer to its retirees.
The Livermore contract that took effect in 2008 initially specified “substantially equivalent” health care, but it was modified a year later under circumstances that have never been explained to allow a lower “industrial standard” of health care for retirees. This change has been part of the dissatisfaction among many Livermore retirees, leading to formation of the Livermore Retiree Group and fund-raising leading to legal action.
The official LLNL Retirees Organization is not allowed to participate in political activities. As Livermore retiree leader Requa told members of his group, the Los Alamos LRG was established under conditions that permit lobbying and other political activity. “They are in a different position than our official LLNL Retirees Organization because they are formed under IRS code section 501(c)(4) and are allowed to participate in political activities,” Requa wrote. “We are looking into the possibility of working with them,” he added, without specifying what form acollaboration might take.