UPTE-CWA E-Bulletin: April 20, 2007

(1) HX Contract Ratified, More Equity Raises
(2) Pension Bargaining, Extra 1% Funds for RX/TX
(3) Legislation To Protect Pensions
(4) UC Considering 2-Tier Health Benefits

(1) HX Contract Ratified, More Equity Raises
UPTE-CWA's health care professional (HX) members voted by a margin of 75% to approve a new five year contract , that includes renegotiation of wages in its third year (2009). Members actively debated the provisions of the proposed agreement, resulting in record voter turnout as well as more than 200 new union members (about a 10% increase in the HX unit).

Now that UPTE's membership has ratified the contract, we'll rally together to implement its benefits. First on the agenda will be securing additional equity increases for those with many years of experience in their professions that still lag behind in pay. During the ratification process, the union requested that all voters report their years since licensing or receiving a masters' degree to help determine if they qualify for an additional equity increase. At each medical center (or other location where HX employees work), we will be having meetings to discuss these increases. Please plan to attend, especially if you believe that you are due an equity increase.

(2) RX/TX Pension Bargaining, Extra Funds Raises
In pension negotiations between the university and the UC Union Coalition (which includes UPTE), the university remains without any clear direction or urgency. Pressure from union members, as well as unfair labor practice complaints issued by the state labor board (PERB), and the fact that the state failed to give UC any extra funding for pension contributions, have been major factors in forestalling UC's original plan to implement employee pension contributions on July 1, 2007.

The regents are expected to make a decision on employee contributions at their next meeting in San Francisco on May 15, and we will be there. We encourage all Bay Area members to attend the public input portion of the meeting in the morning (contact your local for transportation options). Locals outside the Bay Area will be having events on the same day to send a clear message to the regents that we can't afford pension contributions while our pay continues to dramatically lag market rates.

Meanwhile, UC added about $300,000 to its additional wage offer, which comes from an extra 1% in funding appropriated by the Legislature for FY 2006-2007. UPTE is currently bargaining with UC over distribution of this money. Yet even with the increase, the proposal provides nothing for about half of UPTE-CWA's members, and it does not distribute all of the money UC received from the state last July for these raises. If you have not already done so, please print out a copy of UPTE's letter to the vice chancellors of research and get your co-workers to sign it. We are encouraging vice chancellors to call UC negotiators and tell them to stop short-changing research-related staff. More detailed bargaining updates are available on UPTE's website.

Delegations of UPTE-CWA members will be visiting key federal legislators that sit on the US House of Representatives' Science Committee, asking them to hold UC accountable for more than $1 billion that the university receives in federal grant money. Let your local UPTE contact know if you'd like to participate in a visit to your congress member's district office.

(3) Legislation to Protect Pensions
Unions at UC have worked with lawmakers to introduce 2 bills in the state Legislature to protect our pensions:

  • Assembly Bill 1333: independent audit and time for public input for all pension changes. Proposed by UPTE-CWA and forwarded by Assemblymember Loni Hancock.
  • Senate Bill 190: all regents' committee meetings open to the public. Sponsored by the UC Union Coalition and written by Senator Leland Yee.

Both of these bills have passed their initial committee hearings. Work also continues on developing legislation to reform the board that oversees our pension fund, which currently consists of only regents. Many other public pension plans have boards that have employee, legislative and public input.

We will be visiting the offices of key legislators (both in Sacramento and in local districts) who will make decisions on these bills. UPTE members are welcome to participate, to help communicate how important our pensions are for keeping quality employees at UC.

(4) UC Considering 2-Tier Health Benefits
UPTE-CWA has obtained a copy of UC's projected health plan design for 2009 . Aside from the concerns raised in a previous UPTE-CWA E-Bulletin about reducing the number of plans and further cost shifting, the design reveals a plan to split HMO coverage into "low " and "high " options.

The "low " option would have a cheaper monthly premium, but would more than double the co-pays for doctors' office visits and other care. Such a plan will be appealing for those who are currently healthy because they will end up with a larger monthly paycheck. However, if they have a health crisis, they would suddenly be hit with higher costs.

In addition, if most of the healthy people select the "low" option and those who require more health care stay in the "high" option, the cost of the "high" will increase because the pool of participants on average requires more health care. Before long the "high" option could go the way of the Prudential High Option preferred provider plan where the premiums are so exorbitantly high that only those with executive paychecks can afford it.

Setting up a 2-tier plan means that, eventually, we will all end up in the "low" tier and hope we don't get sick. If we do get sick, we will be more likely to avoid obtaining health care because the co-pays will be more expensive.

The UC Union Coalition will work together to convince UC not to implement this kind of 2-tier plan.

The UPTE E-Bulletin is prepared by UPTE-CWA President Jelger Kalmijn for all members.
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to write him at president@upte-cwa.org . If you wish to have dialogue with other members about UPTE-CWA issues, sign up for our web forum.