On the Political Front

 

Thanks primarily to the help of Lt. Governor and Regent John Garamendi, we are gaining political traction. On July 15, John released a letter to  UC President Yudof asking that the University honor its commitments to us. Below is a copy of the press release.

 

Manuel Perry and John Holzrichter gave presentations on our problem at the Regents’ meeting yesterday. Below are the (slightly edited) reports they sent back to the members of the steering committee that was convened to brainstorm the presentations. Note Manuel’s admonition on legal action!

 

 

John Garamendi’s Letter

 

From: Willon, Beth

Sent: Wed Jul 15 15:49:01 2009

Subject: Press Release: Lt. Governor John Garamendi's Letter to UC for Lab Retirees

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 15, 2009

 

Contact: Beth Willon – (916) 838-9674

 

LT. GOVERNOR JOHN GARAMENDI’S LETTER TO UC FOR LAB RETIREES

 

SAN FRANCISCO – Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, a University of California Regent and former state insurance commissioner, has released a letter to the University of California on behalf of UC Lawrence Livermore National Lab retirees regarding equitable health care benefits:

 

 

“July 15, 2009 - Corrected Version

 

Mark G. Yudof, President

University of California

Office of the President

1111 Franklin Street, 12th Floor

Oakland, CA   94607

 

Dear President Yudof:

 

I am writing on behalf of the nearly 5,500 University of California Lawrence Livermore National Lab (UC/LLNL) retirees who are requesting UC honor its commitment to provide them access to the quality health care benefits they earned and specifically, to reinstate UC/LLNL retirees to a health benefit program the same as UC provides to its retirees.

 

These retired UC/LLNL employees honorably served UC as scientists, engineers and support staff. Throughout their tenures at UC, they were assured, through a negotiated contract, health benefits and a retirement package equal to those valuable benefits offered to UC retirees systemwide.

 

The transfer of LLNL from UC to the new Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS) LLC and subsequent actions, have resulted in reduced and differential health care benefits for UC/LLNL retirees.  As I understand, last September, UC/LLNL retiree health care benefits were significantly reduced with no forewarning, leaving these retirees with benefits inferior to those offered to other UC retirees. 

 

The University of California has an obligation to fulfill its commitment and serve those who chose to serve the university.  I respectfully ask for your immediate attention to this important issue and seek your assistance in finding a resolution that would give UC/LLNL retirees equitable retirement benefits they deserve.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

JOHN GARAMENDI

Lieutenant Governor 

Regent, University of California 

 

CC: Board of Regents”

 

 

Manuel Perry’s Report

 

I have attached a write up of the Regents' meeting.  We will be making contact with the President and Regents' staff.  John Garamendi and his staff have been extremely helpful. 

 

Manuel

 

 

Outcomes of the Regents’ Meeting

Manuel Perry

The UC Regents met in San Francisco on July 16, 2009 for their formal scheduled meeting. As part of their agenda, they had a Public Comment portion of the agenda for the public to speak. Our issue regarding our health benefits was presented during the public comment section.

Before the meeting, John Holtzhichter and I had been told we would have 3 minutes. At the meeting, John and I were given 2 minutes each to make our points. We had to do a quick editing job of the points we wanted to stress to the Regents. John and I were challenged trying to decide what to leave in or take out. Regardless, we made our main point - “Why are we UC LLNL retirees being treated so unequally compared to other UC System wide retirees in respect to health benefits”.

Other retirees from the Lab also came to the meeting and raised some similar points about our health benefits treatment as compared to UC Retirees system wide.

After the meeting, we met with Regent Garamendi, who has been a major asset in having our issue addressed - especially by the Regents. He had arranged for our power point presentation to be distributed to all of the Regents. This presentation contains the details of our health benefits concerns and recommendations. Regent Garamendi said he had spoken to UC President Yudof. The President said that he sees the issue as one of “equity”, which is the point we wanted to make with the Regents.

President Yudof proposed to Garamendi that a meeting should occur with his Legal Counsel. A meeting is also planned with the Regents’ General Counsel regarding review of contract documents. We will work with Regent Garamendi and his staff to set up these meetings as soon as possible.

Bottom line, I think all went well. Follow up meetings with UC President‘s staff and the Regents’ legal counsel will be held in the near future.

For now, we need to go slowly regarding the legal route in order to determine how worthwhile were our discussions with the President’s staff and the Regents’ legal counsel. I am afraid if we come forth with a legal approach now, the UC legal people may not be willing to meet and talk.

 

 

John Holzrichter’s Report

 

     Thanks for all of your help during our preparations for comments to  the UC Board of Regents meeting this morning.  It went very well, with Lt. Gov Garamendi arranging for us to work with the Regents Legal Counsel to find the legal basis for the transfer of UC/LLNL health benefits to LLNS.  Also, he commented that he thinks the recent benefit reductions are unfair.  

 

    Manuel and I were told to prepare 3 minute talks, but we were given 2 minutes of time at the last minute.  We were able to give our full written talks to the staff for the record.  I have attached my prepared comments to this note, and I know that Manuel will attach his also well prepared (and given) talk to us shortly.

 

    Best,

         John Holzrichter

 

UC Regents and UC/LLNL retirees 

by  John F. Holzrichter, PhD

jfholz@gmail.com   

Thursday July 16, 2009   8:30 AM

 

I am Dr. John Holzrichter, a UC/LLNL retiree. 

     I want to thank you for inviting me to speak on behalf of the 5500 UC/LLNL retirees regarding the unfortunate problems that have arisen with their health and other retiree benefits.  First a little background. 

 

1)   My relationship with UC goes back to 1964 when  I married into a Berkeley family,  becoming a naturalized UC alumnus.  My father-in-law was on the famous Cal crew, which won a gold medal at the 1932 olympics.  I completed my PhD in Physics from Stanford in 1971, under Prof. Arthur Shawlow who with UC’s Charles Townes invented the laser.  I joined UC as a staff member at LLNL in 1972, attracted by UC's technical and academic reputation, by the fabulous laser fusion project, and by UC's stability.  Upon hiring into UC I asked about  second class status at LLNL.  Many of us asked this because Stanford was divesting itself of SRI and its staff in the early 1970s, and we knew 2nd class status was common.  We were assured this would not happen at UC.

 

2)  The LLNL staff worked exceptionally hard for many years ( I for 28 years), accomplishing astonishing things.  I became director of Laser-Fusion and then director of the LLNL internal research program.  The latest manifestation of our early laser fusion work is the NIF laser, which many of you dedicated in late May.  During my career a letter came from UCOP every 2 years or so stating our equality with all UC staff employees.  I declined several other job offers because of those promises.

  

3)  In about 2006 we were shocked to hear that LLNL would be split from UC and be re-contracted, as I know you were as well.  Fortunately, thanks to UC's efforts, only health benefits and some COLA benefits were affected, not our UC pensions.  The DoE LLNLS contact called for substantially equal health and other retirement benefits, comparable to all UC staff  =>   this promise has been broken. 

 

On Sept. 30, 2008 the UC/LLNL retires saw their health benefits reduced to what appears to be the lowest in the DoE lab complex, now lower than LBNL, LANL, and Sandia.  We estimate that the effective health benefit has been reduced by over  $2500/yr for each retiree, and some now have no health care access. Yet this unilateral “take-back” seems to be saving only about $1000/yr/retiree for DoE, due to exceptionally poor management.

 

Total savings to DoE as a result of this astonishing action are in the range of $5M to $10M/yr.  This is not much considering the anguish to so many retirees and the damage to the reputations of great institutions, especially to the UC that we all care so much about.

 

We ask for your help in regaining our UC  staff retiree status. This is not a financial issue for UC, but a fairness issue to its retirees.  We believe we deserve the retirement health care level that our over 50 years of contracts with UC called for.

 

Thank you very much for your time on this important matter of UC/LLNL retiree benefits.