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Union workers from The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) held a rally at UCI Medical Center in Orange, joining other University of California campuses statewide today. They are mainly protesting changes to their pension and health care benefits. The main issues are:
* Pension contribution increases
* A increase for the retirement age to 65 instead of 60 for current and new workers
* A change in retiree health care eligibility rules
As of December 3rd, 2012, at least two union contracts are at an impasse with the UC California System which is in charge of collective bargaining for its eleven statewide campuses and five medical schools. The California Nurses Association (CNA) will expire this June. The UC’s current proposal is:
* Current employees pay another 1.5% into their pensions
* New employees pay another 2% into pension and receive a lesser benefit
* Increase retirement age for new workers from 60 to 65
* Increase age for full retiree health benefit from age 60 to 65
* Increase health care premiums from 13% of total premiums to 30% for both current and future retirees
Denise Bamrick, one of those protesting the UC proposals said, ” These share of cost increases to the pension funds and health care benefits will impact employees paychecks. We are already paying more in taxes this year; along with an increase to employee parking fees. Mark Yudof, UC President will receive an annual pension of $230,000 after only working for five years (that’s all that is required to qualify for pension benefits). He is retiring this fall claiming health reasons but he got hired at UC Berkeley as a law professor.”
I contacted Public Information Officer, John Murray to find out more about this dispute. He told me that currently the UC System has a 24 billion dollar unfunded liability and these increases are necessary to be fair to all employees. UC is asking employees at all their institutions to contribute 5% toward pensions and another 2% this summer. UC wants to attract the most qualified candidates and in order to be competitive, they have to look at employees share of cost increases towards retirement packages, in order to keep the promises they already made.
That sounds reasonable because the cost of everything is always going up, but this scenario is becoming all to familiar… Public and private companies declaring their pension funds are underfunded, but who is to blame for that? Granted twenty years ago more of us seemed to enjoy having more money to spend. But did the problems start back then with the rise of 401Ks? Did those in charge of pensions put too much trust with employees money to Wall Street, hoping to get a bigger bang-for-the-buck in a shorter amount of time? What about CEOs and their pensions? Shouldn’t they be asked to give up more? After all, getting $230,000 year for life like Yudof, for working at a particular entity for only five years does sound a bit much, doesn’t it? Compare that to the average UC worker who will receive an annual pension of $19,000 after twenty years of employment. Sure, Yudof has a contract that states he is entitled to that annual amount, but what about the average hourly worker? They were offered a contract when they started, that said they were entitled to ‘x’ amount of dollars and now through no-fault of their own, they are asked to live on less money now and in retirement.
Those employees belonging to UPTE are the ones who read scans and test blood work; clinical social workers and dietitians. They are licensed professionals who have to take ongoing classes to keep up with technology and advancements. Their class fees are not paid for by anyone but themselves and like everything else, these classes continue to cost more. Many of them have families and all the expenses that go along with that. Living in California is expensive. How much can workers really be expected to give up before they decide it isn’t worth all the trouble? The gap between most CEO wages and the average employee is certainly enough to raise an eyebrow over.
Lets take another look at Yudof’s work history… I am not intentionally ‘beating up’ on Yudof. I am merely using him as an example of the 1,000s of of other CEO’s in academia today.
Yudof, a native of Philadelphia, earned a bachelor’s degree and an LL.B. degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He began his academic career at UT Austin in 1971 as an assistant professor of law and later became dean of the School of Law from 1984 to 1994 and executive vice president and provost from 1994 to 1997, when he left for the University of Minnesota.
After reading that impressive resume, I would think he already has a pension from the University of Minnesota. His paycheck from UC California is over $600,000 annually and like I mentioned earlier, he will receive $230,000 a year when he retires, and I am sure a nice health care package as well, and let’s not forget he has a job with UC Berkeley when he retires in August. I’m positive there are plenty of qualified unemployed professors who are not currently receiving a nice retirement package that would love to teach law at UC Berkeley! Why not offer that position to them?
I certainly understand that our current financial woes are not simple to fix but I also understand why hourly wage employees…who work very hard (especially with all the cutbacks and increased work load) are angry to watch CEOs earn ridiculous paychecks and retire in luxury when they have to worry about paying daily living expenses.