Thursday, February 02, 2006

Message from UPTE's President

UPTE-Los Alamos is an advocate for LANL workers. The UPTE web site is a useful resource for those interested in learning more about issues impacting the workplace.

The following provides a glimpse of some of the things UPTE has done for LANL workers:

• UPTE provided formal input with respect to the RFP, plus met with Tyler Przybylek in Washington DC regarding specific concerns related to the RFP.
• UPTE provided formal input to the National Academy of Science Committee regarding the RFP, plus the Blue Ribbon Commission established by the DOE to provide guidance on competing the Management and Operations Contracts for DOE's National Laboratories.
• UPTE testified before the joint New Mexico and California Legislative Oversight Committees on UC.
• UPTE lobbied elected officials in Sacramento CA, Santa Fe NM, and Washington DC regarding Lab worker protections and benefits.
• UPTE helped spearhead a class action lawsuit to eliminate gender and ethnicity pay disparity at LANL.
• UPTE helped create awareness regarding significant shortfalls associated with the Lab’s own salary parity analysis (the Welch Report).
• UPTE provided support and guidance in establishing a LANL retiree's group to address issues under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act.
• UPTE provided input at the UC Regents Meeting in Sacramento regarding the so-called pension spin-off, which would effectively separate from UCRP all past and present LANL employees opting to retire under UCRP.
• UPTE-Los Alamos is a member of UPTE-UC, which has approximately 10,000 UC employees as members. Through it's system-wide affiliation, UPTE-Los Alamos is affiliated as well with the Communication Workers of America (CWA), which itself has a membership exceeding 100,000.
• UPTE has established itself as a strong and credible voice for Lab workers. UPTE will never isolate or pit one segment of the work force against another, recognizing instead that when one worker benefits, all stand to benefit.

The overriding UPTE mission is to protect and enhance employee rights guaranteed by law and principle, including the rights of past, current and future LANL employees and retirees.

With respect to current efforts by UC President Robert Dynes to transfer all LANL retirees from the UCRP Pension Plan to a stand alone "Clone Pension Plan", UPTE strongly objects. This objection was made forcefully and without ambiguity at a recent UC Board of Regents meeting, and fortunately, it did not fall entirely on deaf ears. While the Regents did not reject President Dyne’s proposal outright, the Regent body did require that legal and regulatory implications be fully understood before any further action could be taken by President Dynes in advancing his proposal.

On this UC retirement issue, LANL workers and retirees should be aware that:

• UPTE is currently engaged in discussions with law firms about the prospects of filing a class action lawsuit if necessary.
• UPTE's constitution allows retirees to join UPTE so that they too can participate in UPTE efforts to protect and preserve the pension and benefits of Lab workers.

Many individuals have sent letters and made phone calls alerting UC Regents and elected officials of President Dyne's efforts to segregate LANL workers from the UCRP retirement pool. While these individual efforts have been very important, they can be made significantly more effective by utilizing the combined resources of an organization like UPTE. With united action, commitment rooted in a common interest to improve the workplace, and the dedication of the many individuals who comprise the union, we can preserve the legitimate interests of all LANL workers. Together we can control our own destiny.

This message is not simply an informational sound bite. In order to be effective, UPTE needs a strong membership, reflected both in numbers and in the willingness of individual members to become involved. The purpose of this message is to inform people that they are neither helpless nor alone. We need your commitment for UPTE to continue to confront the challenges facing LANL workers. A united front can make all the difference in the world.

To learn more about how you can get involved in making the Lab a better place, visit the UPTE web site at

-Manuel Trujillo, President of UPTE-LANL

When can we have an update about "UPTE-LANL vs. UCRP-LANL"?
So now how do we get this message from UPTE legally distributed to every employee at both LANL and LLNL so that all are aware of what is going on. From what I can see LLNL people have no clue or are in complete denial. No message traffic on this type on the retirement subject matter has shown up in their e-mails. Are we going to wait until its to late? Any ideas of to do a mass mailing? If for some reason LLNL employees think that they are exempt from this dilemma then they are sadly mistaken. They are NEXT. Now is the time for all of us to come together and join forces with LANL to put UC/DOE on the next train out of town or better yet give them a one way ticket to hell.

From what I have read on the Q&A at the LANSLLC site is that the UC Regents have made up their mind and are going to proceed without altercation with their plan to separate all people from the primary UCRP as soon as possible. They continue to use this UCRP-LANL acronym to make people believe that this what we all know as the (primary UCRP ) in hopes that this will all blow over unchallenged. I for one am not going to let them off the hook so easily and I do not believe that it would be designated UCRP_LANL if it were not a separate retirement plan divorced from the primary UCRP that will in fact relieve the UC from all current and future liabilities. Do you?


Q: Explain how retirement payment or burden will be split between UC, LANS and DOE funds.
A: 1) For UC-LANL non-vested employees who elect to work for LANS and transition into the Pension Plan 1 (PP1), and UC vested employees who elect to work for LANS and transition into the PP1, LANL will work with UC to transfer assets and liabilities from the UCRP to the LANS PP1 to support future pension payments from the LANS PP1. Whether contributions will be needed in the future cannot be determined at this time.

2) For UC vested employees who elect to remain in the UCRP-LANL Plan as an “inactive” members and transition to LANS and the Pension Plan 2 (PP2), no transfer of assets from the UCRP Plan will occur, and future pension payments will be from the UCRP Plan. Former LANL employees who retired as UC employees and LANL employees who retire between now and May 31, 2006 will receive pension payments from the (UCRP-LANL Plan). ( THIS DOES NOT SAY THE PRIMARY UCRP MADE UP OF 200,000 PEOPLE ) Employees who participate in LANS PP2 will also receive retirement distributions from PP2 when they elect to retire.

So if this be the case then I say it's time for UPTE from both labs to prepare for the long hall in court.
From a recent past President of UPTE-LANL:

"Every year UPTE sends members to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress. UPTE is part of CWA, the Communications Workers of America, a very strong national union. CWA members are selected from across the nation to attend the CWA lobbying days in March. Ever since LANL employees have been part of UPTE, (this is UPTE's 5th year), the Los Alamos chapter has sent two individuals from UPTE@LANL to attend this union-paid effort. All of the CWA members in attendance are briefed on all CWA issues. Then, individuals have meetings with their own senators and representatives to discuss all the CWA issues. LANL's issues always make the list! For example, a CWA member from Ohio, will bring up the LANL issues (along with their own local issues) to the Ohio delegation. In Ohio, union votes matter in elections so UPTE@LANL gets a lot of mileage out of this.

"While individuals who work for LANL cannot lobby Congress, it is perfectly legal for individuals who are under the mantle of a union to do so. UPTE meets also with DOE and NNSA officials while they are in D.C. UPTE has a powerful voice on the Hill and in NNSA, largely because it is part of 'organized' labor. UPTE members from LANL have never shied away from telling the truth and asking for action from elected officials. Often, they listen. UPTE has worked hard to build credibility and it deserves a lot of credit for what it has been able to accomplish during the past 5 years."
On "The Rat Patrol" thread of Jan. 29, we were encouraged to keep our "eyes peeled" for details about the "growing level of action on behalf of LANL retirees and staff." Are these details still forthcoming?
I am told by lawyerly types that the process of getting a legal team together (more than one law firm) for a class-action lawsuit is not an overnight deal. There are details to be worked out with regard to responsibilities and conflicts of interest among the firms. As you can see from Pres. Trujillo's message, UPTE is deeply into the project. But impatience before the Law is its own reward; one is reminded of the eternal battle over competing wills in the case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce in Dickens' Bleak House--we can hope that "in the fullness of time" does not mean months in our own case.
UPTE is in fact doing something and SPSE were active at the presentation given by Brooks the day before yesterday at LLNL of which is available on the web to hear the entire 1:20 minutes of. It was very good. I gave the URL to Doug and Brad if you haven't found it yourselves.


Our Benefits and Retirement On the Chopping Block

Check out UC's projections for slashing our benefits: UC's plan
A mandatory 8% pay cut to support our retirement fund? Massive increases in co-pays for health benefits? The end of UC’s renowned pension plan, that only a few years ago was rolling in cash?
It all sounds too incredible to be true, but we better believe it and get organizing to save our pensions and benefits.

You may have no health benefits after you retire
UC has clearly stated that health benefits are not an entitlement. UC can unilaterally change the monthly premiums, curtail or completely eliminate coverage. Over the past several years, current retirees have seen their monthly premiums increase dramatically.

Your benefits costs may increase by hundreds of dollars per month
UC has projected that it may increase the employee contribution from the current 8% of the cost of benefits to more than 30%. For the average health plan, this means your co-pay would be approximately $250 per month.

UC refused to support health care reform that could have prevented benefit higher costs
UC’s unions all supported the health care reform proposition on last fall’s 2004 ballot, but UC did not. The proposition would have provided health coverage for millions of uninsured Californians. Our benefits costs are currently inflated to account for the care received by these massive numbers of uninsured. Even though UC medical centers end up caring for a disproportionately high percentage of the indigent and uninsured, UC did not support this modest reform to our health care system.

You may end up with a pay cut in order to make contributions to your retirement
UC’s retirement program has been quite healthy for decades, and employees have not been required to make contributions to the defined benefit plan for 15 years. UC is now discussing mandatory employee contributions of up to 8% of our salary. The union has the right to negotiate over such cuts.

UC may cut your defined contribution plan to sustain the defined benefit plan
UC may take away the 2% contributions you currently make to a 401K style defined contribution plan (which adds to your basic retirement), and force you instead to pay it to the UCRP defined benefit plan at no extra benefit to you.
New employees may be excluded from defined benefit plan

UC may exclude employees hired after July 1, 2007 from the defined benefit plan.
Those employees would only be eligible for a 401K-style defined contribution plan. Under such a plan you have no guaranteed retirement check, but have to pay Wall Street money managers to roll the dice with your retirement savings. If no new employees are admitted to the defined benefit plan we currently have, that plan will lose its future funding base, putting our pensions at risk. Setting up a defined contribution plan for new employees could cost a huge amount, and that may also undermine the stability of our current defined benefit plan.

UC is considering a new retirement benefit plan – for executives and faculty only
UC may set up special retirement benefits for executives and faculty. UC argues that this will be necessary to attract the most qualified and talented leadership. But after years of dedication, why should those of us who keep this university running end up with an inferior retirement plan?

UC has mismanaged our retirement fund
In 2000, the UC Regents forced the resignation of long time UC treasurer Patricia Small, who had rung up healthy gains for our fund, with an annual average return of 16% over two decades. UC Regent Gerald Parsky, who chaired Bush’s California reelection campaign, convinced the Regents to give over management our retirement fund to a private firm, Wilshire Associates, run by Dennis Tito, himself a major Bush donor. Tito invested large sums of money in Enron, promptly losing hundreds of millions of dollars of our retirement fund. UC has been suing to get some of this money back. Now our retirement fund has substantially declined in value, and UC is proposing that we make contributions up to 15 years earlier than would have been necessary before Wilshire Associates got our money to play with. Why should we pay for their mistakes?

What can we do about it?

(1) Get informed! Read all the bad news in UC’s own words. The UC web pages, letters, and management presentations from which these alarming projections are extracted are all available on the UPTE website.

(2) Get involved! Talk to your coworkers about this extremely serious situation. Contact your UPTE local to find out how you can help fight these take backs. And post this flyer in your workplace to help spread the word about the threat to our benefits

(3) Act now! Sign the ³Don¹t Chop My Pension and Benefits² petition online at"
Jarndyce lasted for generations until Chancery devoured the inheritance. I think we can agree that such an outcome would be unwelcome by everyone but the lawyers.
I guess the question is, can we get about 8000 signatures from LANL and LLNL or are you so scared that you are about to wet your pants. I am going to bet on the last portion of this comment. Everything I have seen shows that only a few people are standing up for the many.
My depends give me courage.
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