Jan. 12 Independent

 

 

Retirees Need Funds To Continue Lawsuit

            The Livermore Laboratory Retiree Group, which is suing to regain medical coverage by the University of California, is running short of money to pay its attorneys.  It may not be able to proceed unless it raises another $35,000 by March 1.

            To Joe Requa, who founded, organized and still leads the grass roots Retiree Group, having to end the nearly two-year legal effort would be a bitter pill to swallow so soon after encouraging legal news from a parallel lawsuit by Orange County retirees.

In the Orange County case, the California Supreme Court ruled two months ago that an implied contract may exist requiring a public agency to continue providing benefits to its retirees even without a written contract.

The existence of an enforceable implied contract was a big part of what the Lab retirees were trying to prove in their legal effort to make UC take them back into its medical programs.

Because of the Orange County ruling, Requa wrote in an email last week, he is “much more optimistic about winning our appeal” of a decision by Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch to deny the retiree demands.

However, it won’t happen for free, he said.  Attorneys for the UC Livermore Retiree Group are asking a “$75,000 flat fee for the appeal and we have only $40,000.”  Thus, the group needs to raise an additional $35,000.

“Our attorneys have been generous and gracious in helping us, but they are professionals running a business and we have to pay them,” Requa added.

Lawrence Livermore National Lab employees and retirees received UC group health coverage under a succession of contracts that began in 1952 and ended at the beginning of 2008, when a for-profit contractor took over Laboratory management. 

The new contractor, Lawrence Livermore National Security, offers medical insurance that is consistent with industrial standards, which the retirees find more complicated and less attuned to retiree interests and needs than the university system used to be for them – and still is for retirees from UC campuses.

Many Laboratory retirees also fear they may be vulnerable to future cuts by an indifferent management if the Lab's contract changes again.

At the time of the contract change, another retiree organization already existed, the LLNL Retiree Association. 

The Retiree Association was forbidden to engage in legal or political action.  So Requa and other retirees formed their own loose group to try to restore retired Lab employees to University medical programs.

When their first, informal efforts were rebuffed, they created the UC Livermore Retiree Group and a legal defense fund, raised tens of thousand of dollars, hired attorneys and filed suit.

Now, facing the possibility of running out of money, Requa said the group’s attorneys may have other legal options such as filing a class action suit to collect damages, but that these “will not be as beneficial to us and may be unacceptable.”

He believes the suit should proceed and hopes the money will be available for it.

Those who wish to contribute may send checks to the UCLRG Legal Defense Fund at 1144 Xavier Way, Livermore 94550.