Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Retiree group on UCRP-LANL

Laboratory Retiree Group Considers Legal Options Presented by the Proposed separation of LANL Retirees into a Separate UCRP Pension Plan.

The Board of Directors of the Laboratory Retiree Group, Inc. (LRG) met on 7 February , 2006 to consider its legal options relevant to the proposed split of the LANL Retirees from the UCRP. The Board accepted the recommendations of the Legal Committee and authorized the Committee to retain legal counsel. This meeting was followed by a regular, monthly board meeting on 15 Feb, 2006. At the regular meeting the findings of the Legal Committee were discussed.


The LRG was formed in 1994 after the VERIP III retirement at LANL. The LRG is incorporated as a non profit corporation registered in the State of New Mexico. It has 501(c)(4) status with the IRS. Regulations governing such an organization prevent the organization form lobbying activities but do allow such an organization to take legal actions on behalf of its members. The original By Laws of the LRG stated that the regular members would be comprised of LANL Retirees of the University of California.

For many years the LRG operated under a memo of understanding (MOU) with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Under this MOU the members of the LRG would provide services to LANL on a volunteer basis and in turn LANL would provide access to internal mailings within the laboratory, minimal office space and recognition as a sanctioned organization. The members of the LRG have provided services to LANL including aiding with meetings on Health Issues and Education, serving as trained mediators and communications between the laboratory and the retirees. After a long struggle with the IRS it was decided that the LRG could maintain a database of technical expertise that could be used in times of National Emergency. The members have served on various boards and working groups within LANL and in local communities. One committee that I sat on studied the benefits of interactions of LANL with LANL Retirees.

The LRG has also reached out to local communities in various ways. One of the most visible activities has been centered around Computer Literacy. Members have taught training courses at UNMLA in subjects of particular interest to retirees. Members have conducted computer training, on a volunteer basis, for Los Alamos and Rio Arriba Counties. Above all, the members are proud of the service that they provided during their years at LANL and desire to support the two institutions that they have been associated with during their professional careers. The two organizations are LANL and the University of California.

During the tenure of the previous LANL Director most of the sanctioned organizations were disenfranchised. This action was taken against the LRG despite a record of supporting Laboratory efforts. Despite the objections of a few LANL managers the report produced by the Committee found that there were considerable benefits to the Laboratory (and thus to the Nation) to be gained by a cooperative interaction with LANL Retirees.

Recent Actions by the UC

The loss of sanctioning by LANL and subsequent actions by LANL and UC have continued to erode the trust in LANL and UC on the part of both the retirees and employees. The retirees had been assured that the Benefits received from the UC would be substantially equivalent after the new contract was in effect. The retirees believe that the intent was to preserve their defined pension benefits as they have been defined by the contracts between the retirees and the UC. The action by the Office of the President of the UC requesting that the Regents of the University separate the LANL retirees from the full UCRP system places the LANL Retirees in a marginally untenable situation. Some of the problems that the retirees see:

1. The request to the regents was made in a very suspicious manner. The agenda item 5c for action by the Regents was not fully posted until the vacation weekend before the last Regents meeting. I contacted the two Emeriti professors of the UC who are the interface between the Council of University of California Retiree Associations (CUCRA) and the Council of University of California Emeriti Associations (CUCEA). These gentlemen share duties as ex-officio members of the Regents and they were not aware of the proposal. They in turn contacted two of the Regents who were also unaware of the proposal. The Regents did vote to separate the LANL retirees from the full UCRP on a conditional basis. My CUCEA contacts have since been in contact with members of the Academic Senates of the various Campuses. Their contacts within the Academic Senates were not aware of the proposal and were not at all pleased by the proposals and the way in which the proposal was submitted to the Regents.

To those of the Retirees who have lost trust in both LANL and the UC, these actions by the UC did very little to enhance the remaining trust. Our first fear is that the proposal is an initial attempt to Balkanize the UCRP by dividing UCRP into campus specific plans. Once the LANL - UCRP is separated it would be small enough that the UCRP - LANL might be divested by the UC into a new Pension plan that has no financial backing. Such a small plan (if a $5 Billion pot is small) would be more vulnerable to raids by individuals and entities. The argument might be made that since it is an out of state organization it should no longer be managed by the UC.

2. A standalone LANL - UCRP would be born in a under funded state. The UC has submitted actuarial data that show that a separate LANL - UCRP plan would be born in an under funded state. There have been verbal statements that DOE/NNSA plan to ensure that the LANL portions of the UCRP retirement plan would be kept whole. It is the opinion of the LRG that there have been no written, legal commitments to do so. Moreover, it is the opinion of the LRG that such a commitment has not been mandated by Congress. Without a perpetual Congressional commitment the LANL - UCRP pension plan will be left in a tenuous state even if there is a short term commitment to make certain that the plan is left in a whole condition at the closure of the NNSA - UC contract.

3. The Defined Benefit Pension Plan currently provided by the UC is guaranteed by an employment contract between the employees and retirees with the UC. It is our understanding that employment contracts are recognized in the State of California as a legal entity and that the State of New Mexico does not recognize these contracts. The present employees and retirees under the LANL - UC contract have such contracts with the UC and do not have a contractual relationship with the NNSA. Various statements by the NNSA have indicated that the NNSA will maintain the Pension plans for present employees and retirees. Thus far there are indications that future employees will have less well defined pension plan.

Present Status

The review of the legal position of the LRG is ongoing.

In addition, the Board of Directors of the LRG is amending the Corporate by-laws to accept LANL employees that are eligible for retirement under the UCRP to join the LRG as Associate Members. The Associate members would have all of the rights and privileges of regular members with the exception that the Associate members could not vote at regular membership meetings and could not hold office in the corporation. Dues of $12.00 per year would be assessed from Associate members. Membership application forms are available on the LRG web site http:/ .

The LRG is allowed to conduct one fund raising event per year as a non profit corporation. Our event for this year is a fund raising effort to support the Legal actions of the corporation. Please send donations to the “Pension Defense Fund” to P.O. Box 546 Los Alamos, NM 87544. It would be helpful if you note “Pension Defense Fund” on the comment line of your check.

Charles R. Mansfield
President LRG
P.O. Box 546
Los Alamos, NM 87544

I just sent my check in to LRG. What are the rest of you waiting for?

Oh, by the way, if you LRG guys (*us* LRG guys now) set up a legal fund, you can count me in for a preliminary $200. (Yeah, I know; I'm a cheapskate, but I'll bump it up out of guilt when I see some more forthcoming donators.)

Can LLNL people also get involved now in order to stop what is seen to many as inevitable because of what is written in the 5c document?
I am prepared to pledge substantially more than $200. I would, however, like to know more about what *us* LRG guys have done, are doing, plan to do, and hope to accomplish. Is there a reason why Charles R. Mansfield can not post comments here, as opposed to submitting official statements via the editors?

BTW, 'tsup with UPTE/LANL? Haven't heard from Manny Trujillo in a while. Is there a reason why he can't post comments directly?

BTW2, would it make more sense to marshal our resources behind one or the other organization?
b-ohica, what has become of the california law firm?
The last word I saw was something on the blog about UPTE asking us to stay out of it and that they had one lawyer in NM and one in Ca on a retainer. If you need the information again here it is:

Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer
SUITE 1600
510-832-1918 FAX


Sandy Jonas

It's up to UPTE and SPSE to take this bull by the horns and get the job done unless someone else wants to.
Last I heard, the apparent slowness has to do with ongoing legal research, and possibly something to do with the fact, as Tyler Przybylek said, that the UC Regents have merely proposed to study the possibility of splitting off LANL retirees into UCRP-LANL, and have not yet formally proposed anything to DOE/NNSA (who appear 'reluctant' to consider the possibility).

If anyone cares to expand upon these matters, I encourage them to do so, whether anonymously (pseudonymously) or under their own name.

Call me cynical, but could it be that the proponents of UCRP-LANL are biding their time until some of the heat dissipates, and plan to sneak it through, say, over Memorial Day weekend?
"Call me cynical, but could it be that the proponents of UCRP-LANL are biding their time until some of the heat dissipates, and plan to sneak it through, say, over Memorial Day weekend?"

Have I not hinted on that the fact "anyone " who has had the slightest inclination to retire before the new contract goes into affect should have already filed their papers?

You can always pull them, but if you are to late to file; you are going to be SOL for the rest of your life.

So what is it going to be? Do you think DOE / NNSA or the UC Regents could be that conniving? You decide.
The way in which the UCRP-LANL proposal blazed through the Regents is an example of "legislative" blitzkrieg. Conniving is only one of this strategy's tactics.
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