Monday Memo: news & views about working at UC
For the Week of February 04, 2013

UC employees and their supporters turned out last Thursday to demonstrate against management’s proposals for a two-tier retirement system. Here’s some of the press coverage, from Berkeley and Davis in the north, to Los Angeles and San Diego in the south. Several participants pointed to UC’s plans to reduce pension payouts to frontline employees by as much as $1000 a month, while maintaining executive perks like UC president Mark Yudof’s additional $230,000 in pension benefits each year after working only 5 years.
Statewide Unity Action
Photo by Autumn Grace

Latest figures from the UC Union Coalition found that UC’s top 140 executives will cost the system’s pension fund $400 million. “These same 140 executives get an additional $1.5 million into a separate fund, which no other UC workers get,” the coalition’s leaflet reports. These same executives also “want to put half of current employees on the new retiree benefits tier, which pushes back the age for the maximum benefit 15 years. Yes, you’d have to wait until you are 65 (when UC only has to supplement your Medicare benefits).”

The latest figures on UC management's "super-sized growth," covering 1991–2010, show "a new upward surge" according to Charles Schwartz, UCB Professor Emeritus of Physics, who provides a systemwide chart and links to graphs for individual campuses. Over the 21-year-period Schwartz analyzes, the number of employees classified in Senior Management Group and Management & Senior Professionals "grew by 252% . . . while total employee numbers grew by a mere 51%."  

Meanwhile, the public pension program that nearly all working Americans depend on – Social Security – celebrated its 73rd birthday last week. The program narrowly escaped a proposed cut by the Obama administration during so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations that would have reduced future cost-of-living increases for beneficiaries. A new study covered by the Washington Post shows that a sizable majority of Americans want to strengthen, rather than cut, Social Security – by raising payroll taxes or lifting the payroll tax cap for those making over $113,700.

It’s no secret that unions have been struggling nationwide to keep their numbers up. But recent statistics show surprisingly strong growth among labor’s ranks in California. The Bureau of Labor Statistics “reported a jump of 110,000 in the number of union members in California, to 2.49 million,” wrote Steve Greenhouse in the New York Times. “’There is a significant organizing consciousness among unions in California that I haven’t seen in other parts of the country,’” said Kent Wong, director of the Labor Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, adding that a major factor in labor’s success in the state can be chalked up to organizing immigrant workers.

An Obamacare loophole threatens students at UC and about 30 universities that self-fund their health plans, reveals the San Francisco Chronicle. Reporters Nanette Asimov and Victoria Colliver describe the case of a Berkeley graduate student whose cancer treatment exceeded the plan's $400,000 limit, and how UC is "weighing the options." These plans are considered to meet the Affordable Care Act's "minimum essential coverage" even if they "commit a number of consumer abuses that the ACA was designed to eliminate," explains Doug Lederman in Inside Higher Ed.
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