Monday Memo: news & views about working at UC
For the Week of August 27, 2012

Looking for background reading on what’s really happening to workers’ pensions? Have a listen to this National Public Radio review of “Retirement Heist: how companies plunder and profit from the nest eggs of American workers” by Ellen Schultz, who investigated changes in pension plans as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. She details the efforts of companies to dump both pensions and older workers, while shifting newer employees to 401k plans, in which employees bear all the risk. Retirement Heist is available from powells.com, a unionized mail order bookshop.

Read it quickly, because both Gov. Brown and the California Legislature are on the road to a major degradation of pension protections for state workers. The pension reforms would scale back pension coverage and replace it in part with inferior 401k plans.

“Bungling Billionaires for Preserving Our Privilege” took issue this week with Proposition 30, the initiative to restore funding for public services and education through a modest tax on California’s wealthy and a slight increase in the state’s sales tax. Protesting that they would have only four yachts instead of five, “Bungling Billionaires” – played by nurses, teachers, and others -- turned out as Tuesday to lampoon an all-too-serious effort by the 1% to kill fair-share tax reform. Meanwhile, UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau predicted a “dark day” with massive cuts at UC if Prop. 30 fails. (UPTE urges a YES vote -- see our Proposition 30 Factsheet.)

California’s public higher education returns $4.50 for every dollar invested in them, according to California’s Economic Payoff, one of two reports on higher education that show the need for adequate investment in public education.

The state legislature has approved bills introduced by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) that would grant collective bargaining rights to 14,000 research assistants at UC and 2,000 at California State University campuses. Republicans objected, blaming employee wage and benefits costs for rising college costs. Governor Jerry Brown has until September 30 to sign the bill.

Tax the Weatlhy
“A fraud to end all frauds” is how the Los Angeles Times described the anti-worker Prop. 32, which claims to restrict campaign contributions but would in fact give corporations a free hand to buy elections while prohibiting union contributions. Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa denounced the deceptive use of his name by Prop. 32 backers, when he in fact opposes the initiative.

What do workers really fear? The annual Gallup Work and Education poll revealed that 40% of workers fear loss of benefits, while 34% of college non-graduates say they worry about being laid off.
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