UCLRG Legal Defense Fund
Preserving University of California Livermore Retirees’ Rights
For Immediate Release Contact: Carl Whitaker
Lawrence Livermore Retirees Group Stands Up To University of California
Demanding Restoration of UC Medical Benefits for Lab Retirees
Livermore, California – October 12, 2010 – A legal battle is underway between members of a grass-roots organization of University of California retirees who worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the UC Regents. The retirees filed suit against the Regents in Alameda County Superior Court on August 11. They allege that UC betrayed its trust to more than 5,000 retirees from the Livermore Lab by dropping them from the UC medical benefit program and shifting responsibility for their medical benefits to a private company.
“The Regents’ decision violated what we had been told throughout the time we were employed,” according to Joe Requa, the lead plaintiff, “and deprived us of a vested right to University medical benefits during our retirement.”
“The Livermore Lab was an integral part of the UC system for more than 50 years,” said Requa, who is 71 and retired in 1999 after working 35 years as a computer scientist at the Lab. “My colleagues and I were always treated as full-fledged UC employees. UC pulled the rug out from under us in 2008 by shifting our medical benefits to a for-profit company that provides inferior service and more expensive coverage.”
“The Livermore Lab had some of the most talented scientists and engineers in the country,” according to Wendell Moen, a 71 year-old plaintiff who retired from the Livermore Lab in 2000 after 37 years. “Many could have worked in private industry for more money, but the prestige of the University and the technical challenges provided by the Lab, combined with the excellent benefits package, were strong reasons for many of us to make long term commitments.”
The plaintiffs decided to sue only after exhausting other avenues. “Over the past two years, we tried talking to everyone – from UC President Yudof and the Regents to our local elected officials – and got nowhere. We ultimately decided that we would have to sue the Regents to get them to listen to our demands,” said Requa.
Requa and his organization of retirees – the UCLRG Legal Defense Fund – raised funds and hired attorneys to pursue their case. “I’m guessing that the powers-that-be at UC never thought that we would get this far and that they now think that they can crush us in court,” said Requa. “But we know that we have a strong case and that hundreds of our members contributed money to the legal defense fund so that we could bring this lawsuit. UC should be on notice that we’re not going away anytime soon.”
The retirees feel there is good reason to pursue the lawsuit. “The new procedures for getting healthcare, and then getting reimbursed, are burdensome and confusing, especially for the older members of our group,” said 68-year-old plaintiff Jay Davis, a former associate director at the Lab who retired in 2002. “In contrast to the UC benefits staff, which has a well-earned reputation for looking out for its employees and retirees, dealing with the new company is like a bad joke – or would be if we weren’t the ones on the wrong end of the phone line trying to make sense of the system.”
The lawsuit alleges that the retirees have been seriously disadvantaged by their removal from UC’s large risk pool (which includes current employees and retirees) and placed in a small pool consisting only of retirees.. “With a smaller pool, the cost of our coverage will increase more rapidly than other UC retirees, and our bargaining power with health care providers will diminish,” according to Requa.
“I was a loyal UC employee for 32 years and feel like I’ve been betrayed,” said 64-year-old Donna Ventura, another plaintiff, who worked in human resources and health services at the Lab. “I’m no different than the vast majority of UC employees and retirees – the promise of affordable lifetime medical benefits was a big part of my decision to stay at the university my entire career.”
The Livermore Lab opened in 1952 as a branch of the University of California Radiation Laboratory. Until 2007 the UC Regents operated the Lab under a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy and its predecessors. According to the lawsuit, the Regents authorized medical benefits for UC employees and retirees in the 1960s. Until 2007, the Regents provided the same medical benefits to active and retired employees at the Livermore Lab as to all other UC employees and retirees. In 2008, the Regents shifted responsibility for providing medical benefits to retirees from the Lab to a newly created private consortium, known as Lawrence Livermore National Security (“LLNS”).
The suit alleges that this shift violated the retirees vested right to UC medical benefits, a violation of the Contract Clause of the California Constitution, and asks the Court to restore the retirees the UC system and make them whole for losses suffered. (Requa, et al., v. Regents of University of California, et al., Case No. RG10530492, Superior Court, County of Alameda, California)
The University of California Livermore Retirees Group (“UCLRG”) is a grass-roots organization formed to restore UC medical benefits to more than 5,000 retirees from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who were unfairly and illegally removed from the UC health plan in 2008. This advocacy group has more than 800 members nationwide, many of whom have contributed to the Legal Defense Fund which is bringing the current legal action. For more information visit their website at llnlretiree.com.