UPTE-CWA E-Bulletin: September 21, 2007

(1) Health Premiums Decrease: Third Major UC Union Victory
(2) Dynes Resigns: Big Changes Promised
(3) Immigrant Challenges at UC

(1) Health Care Premiums Decrease: Third Major UC Union Victory
Union members worked long and hard this year on benefits issues, winning a big victory this summer when UC dropped its proposal for new pension contributions. Then just one month ago, responding to union pressure, UC's director of benefits programs announced that UC had backed off on setting up two-tier high-low HMO health plans that could negatively affect employees. Victory number two.

But at the same time, UC announced that employees should brace themselves for a third year of health care premium increases that would far outpace our raises. UPTE-CWA members, joined by others in the Coalition of UC Unions, made strenuous objections to these proposed double digit health care premium increases, coming on the heels of an average 30% increase last year. UPTE negotiators worked behind the scenes, a s hundreds of union members delivered petitions to their UC medical center CEOs on August 23 rd demanding that employees not be stuck with rising health care costs.

This week we got the official numbers and the average premium for UPTE-CWA represented employees will decrease by 4%! Better still, the largest percentage decreases are for lower-paid employees. Comprehensive numbers are posted on our website .

So let's all celebrate these three victories. By working together with our sisters and brothers in the UC Union Coalition, we won a decrease in health premiums, rejection of the two-tier HMO and the postponement of any pension contribution. We have held the line on cost increases that would have eroded the improved wage increases that we negotiated in our contracts.

Next year, we will face the challenge of changing our contract so that UC can no longer make unilateral changes to our benefits. Working together with the other UC unions, let's continue our string of successes.

(2) Dynes Resigns: Big Changes Promised
We deserve at least one " told you so !" Consultants hired by the regents, after billing the university $8 million, concluded that UC's Office of the President is not transparent , inadequate , and suffers from persistent underperformance . They report that while the problems have emerged over many years, President Dynes had done little to address these dramatic failings. Dynes announced his resignation in mid-August --reportedly under pressure from regents unhappy with his management -- and was awarded one-year paid vacation and a tenured faculty position paying more than twice the salary of other senior faculty. Is that adequate compensation for poor performance?

The new chair of the Board of Regents, Richard Blum draws some hopeful conclusions from the consultant's report:

  • UCOP has been too conservative in utilizing financial reserves;
  • UCOP needs to realize significant cost savings through eliminating inefficiencies;
  • And most importantly for us, the additional resources from (1) and (2) need to be utilized to address key priorities like "deferred maintenance, laboratory equipment, obtaining market-based salaries , or pursuing reductions in class size".

While these general promises sound good, we will undoubtedly have to bargain hard to realize them. The successes in keeping down our health care premiums and putting off any pension contribution most likely reflect the beginning of these changes. With member education and participation, we now have a window of opportunity to make UC employment desirable, instead of a mere stepping stone to a real job with decent pay.

(3) Immigrant Challenges at UC
The Department of Homeland Security has announced new rules to fine employers whose employee records do not match those of the Social Security administration (SSA). This means that if UC's record of your Social Security number shows any problem with the SSA, you will be fired. If the SSA has outdated records that do not reflect your right to work in the US, or there is just a date entry error in the number, you will lose your job first and then have a right to appeal. If UC does not enforce this rule, it will be heavily fined.

For now, a joint lawsuit of the UC unions and the American Civil Liberties Union has stalled the implementation of this new rule. Nevertheless, we have already heard several stories of UC supervisors using the new regulations to threaten immigrant employees. Anyone who is threatened or receives any kind of letter should contact the union immediately so that we can resolve the problem.

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.