Retirees Prefer Not to Sue, But Legal Fund Grows


By Independent News


UC Livermore Retiree Group has raised nearly $75,000 toward its legal fund goal of $100,000 but continues to hope that it will not have to file suit against the University of California to force readmission of former Livermore Lab employees to UC health plans.

Joe Requa, head of UC Livermore Retiree Group, advised members that legal advisors had made an offer at a reduced rate to evaluate potential claims and chances of success if a lawsuit becomes reality.  He will poll contributors to the legal fund to find out what they think of the offer.

In the meantime, representatives of an informal steering committee that includes members of Livermore Retiree Group as well as other Livermore Lab retirees met with the University’s general counsel.  The meeting came two weeks after the same retirees briefed the full UC Board of Regents.

The briefing was prompted by Lieutenant Governor and Regent John Garamendi, who has taken an interest in the retirees’ plight and who is also a candidate for the 10th Congressional District seat vacated by Ellen Tauscher.

Manuel Perry, a Lab retiree who helped brief the Regents, said that the July 30 meeting with UC general counsel Charles Robinson was “very respectful.”

He is confident that Robinson and staff “heard what we were saying, which is that we hired into the University, we retired from the University and we want to be back in the University” for group health plan coverage.

Perry expressed his appreciation for Garamendi’s effort to be sure the retirees’ viewpoint reached University management.

Lawrence Livermore Lab employees and retirees were able to use UC benefits, including group health care plans, under a succession of contracts that lasted more than 50 years.  Beginning in 2008, a new contract moved retirees out of UC plans but promised benefits “substantially equivalent” to UC’s.

A year later, however, the new contractor, Lawrence Livermore National Security, used a health consulting firm and insurance broker to move most retirees out of group insurance into individual plans that stand to become less secure and more expensive as retirees age.

Manuel Perry, one of the retirees who briefed Regents, expects to hear back from UC general counsel’s office “in the next couple of weeks.”

In another matter of interest to UC employees and retirees, a constitutional amendment to end University autonomy, making its governance subject to legislative control, was effectively sidetracked when state senate president pro tem Darryl Steinberg moved the measure from the education committee to the legislative rules committee.

As a constitutional amendment, the measure would have to be approved by two-thirds of legislators and then put on a public ballot.  It was proposed by state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco and several others who criticize UC management practices, but strongly opposed by the University.

The legislature is scheduled to leave for vacation on Sept. 11.  Given the current economic turmoil it is all but impossible for the measure to be resurrected before then, according to one assembly spokesperson. Unless it is referred out of the rules committee for legislative action, it will die in the committee at the end of next year.

A spokesman for Yee continues to support the proposal, but the logic behind the measure – the claim that the state would force better management on the University – has been undermined by the state’s never-ending financial crisis and recent reminders that the University can borrow money at lower rates than the state can because its credit rating is higher.