Monday Memo: news & views about working at UC

For the Week of October 10, 2011

Confused by “defined benefit” versus “defined contribution” retirement plans?
The National Institute on Retirement Security has released a new study on defined benefit retirement plans (i.e., pensions like UCRP) versus defined contribution plans (such as 401(k)s or 403(b)s) for public employees.

They found that public employees overwhelmingly choose defined benefit plans when given a choice, and that defined benefit plans are more cost-effective than defined contribution plans. They also found that defined contribution plans do nothing to close funding shortfalls and can actually increase retirement costs. Finally, in defined benefit plans employers bear most of the risk, while in defined contribution plans most of that risk is shifted to the employees.
CWA members join Occupy Wall Street march in Manhattan
CWA members join Occupy Wall Street march in Manhattan

In a blow to UC, California governor Jerry Brown has signed SB 857, overturning a Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) decision that it could award damages to public employers for costs incurred in preparing for a strike, even when no actual strike occurred. UC tried to recover $14.7 million from the California Nurses Association and AFSCME 3299 for threatened strikes that PERB deemed unlawful. Senator Ted Lieu, the bill’s sponsor, said “SB 857 restores this administrative over-reach and helps ensure that workers have the right to strike for better working conditions and fair pay.”

Brown has vetoed SB 185, which would have allowed the UC and CSU systems to consider race, gender and income of applicants. Brown said he supported the goal of the bill but believed the issue the bill addressed was better left to the courts.

A Los Angeles Times editorial voiced alarm at the decline of middle-class students at UC and called on the regents to reformulate aid packages to provide greater assistance for middle-class families. The Times also suggested favoring students who live in the immediate geographical area of campuses as a way of lowering houses costs for students who could live at home.

UC has reached tentative agreement with the university’s 350 librarians and 3,000 lecturers represented by the University Council-American Federation of Teachers. The agreement, which includes salary increases, is expected to be ratified by mid-October. The union’s president, Bob Samuels, said “the tentative contract had two significant gains for his members: A requirement limiting layoffs to scenarios where the classes taught by the lecturers go away, and a provision requiring negotiations” when UC seeks changes in work duties due to the creation of online teaching programs.

More than a dozen national unions, including AFSCME, the United Steel Workers, the Teamsters, SEIU, and UPTE’s national union CWA have endorsed the Occupy Wall Street movement, turning out members during a demonstration in New York City on October 5 that swelled crowds to an estimated 20,000. Many UPTE members have also joined occupations in California’s cities.

The goals of Occupy Wall Street have also been endorsed by the American Association of University Professors and more than 200 Columbia University faculty. Even Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke expressed understanding of people who blame “the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess.” The movement’s website,, now lists actions in more than 1300 cities.

The Monday Memo is edited collectively by a group of UC administrative professionals who are working for union representation with UPTE-CWA. We publish most Mondays, unless it is a university holiday, or we just need a mental health day off. We welcome your submissions, either credited or anonymous, at Please feel free to forward this memo to your colleagues.

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If you are a UC administrative professional and haven’t asked your coworkers to sign a commitment card for the union, please do so today. All administrative professionals are also welcome to become members of UPTE, with all the associated rights and benefits.

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