RX/TX Bargaining Report #11
UC Berkeley (August 12-13, 2013)

UPTE members met with UC on August 12 and 13 on the Clark Kerr campus at UC Berkeley. After 8 months of bargaining sessions over a new contract, UC continues to hold the contract hostage until we accept their demand for a new two-tier health and pension article.

On the first day UC’s chief negotiator handed UPTE a “UC Comprehensive FINAL Package Proposal”, which with one exception virtually dismisses all the contract proposals UPTE has made up to this point. The one exception was UC’s long awaited compensation proposal. But it turned out to be a 0% range adjustment and a paltry step increase for each year of the contract. This amounts to roughly 2% a year at a time when UC is asking each employee to once again increase their pension contributionsas well as pay higher parking fees and health care costs. This offer would mean no wage increases at all for many of our members, such as per diem and casual workers or members already at the top step of their job classification.

In the interest of actual bargaining, which involves both give and take, UPTE reviewed UC’s package. We made changes and concessions as necessary from Article 1 through Article 12, which were passed back to UC the next day. In addition, UPTE was able to review and write many of the articles that do not require an RFI (Request For Information) response from UC. Most of UPTE’s RFIs were submitted in November 2012; and without the requested information, the bargaining team cannot craft informed proposals. Due to time restraints of the two-day session, UPTE proposed a follow-up session to work on passing further articles as well as time for UC to produce the information UPTE has been awaiting for over six months. UC responded that they feel the negotiations are at an “impasse” and that future bargaining sessions would be unproductive.

Right now the real sticking point is the University Benefits Article 4 dealing with the pension and retiree health plans. UC says the two-tier plan must be implemented. In spite of UC’s own admission of their failure to use “best practices” in administering our pension plan from 1990 to 2010, they are using this disastrous decision to not fund the UCRP all those years. Now they are pushing to permanently lower benefits for all employees hired in the future, i.e. Tier 2.

Along with other unions, UPTE hired a professional actuarial firm to review UC’s “two-tier” approach and make cost assessments. The actuary’s report revealed that the "two-tier" approach is based on assumptions used by only a small minority of current public pensions to predict future fund performance. UPTE’s position has always been that there are ways to resolve this situation other than the draconian step of adding a second class pension system for the future.

This is also the case for retiree healthcare. Over half of our current members would be affected by UC’s proposed lowering of benefits, which pushes back retirement by 15 years. Do you want to have the benefits promised to you when you were hired to now be received only when you turn age 65?

UPTE has clear objectives during this important contract bargaining process:

  • Protect employees’ health and safety by using the vast workplace experience of both bargaining team and “at-large” members’ to add, clarify and tighten contract language that protects all employees.

    One example; UPTE proposed a common sense clause in Article 11, “Healthy and Safety”. It says all employees should be responsible for stopping any work activities that are found, considered to pose an “imminent danger” and could be expected to cause death, serious injury or environmental harm. UC’s chief bargainer upon reading this was gravely concerned that this might give a lazy employee the ability to shirk his or her work duties for the day by using this responsibility frivolously...
  • Preserve our hard fought pension and retiree health plans from being eroded due to management's neglect and attack. By working with UPTE, UC can strengthen both plans so they continue to provide the benefits for which UC has always been known.

  • Fight for fair wages as we adapt to an increasingly complex work environment while serving the students and people of California.

Our proposal is on the table. We await UC’s response and willingness to partner with us to resolve these issues together. If we, as a union, aren’t willing to fight for these things now, they will be taken away. Because we know UC will not fold without a fight, we are currently collecting strike pledge cards. We may either have our own strike or go out in sympathy with an HX unit strike in the fall. Please contact your union representative to get strike pledge cards and circulate them in your workplace. Want a union rep to come to a meeting to help explain the issues, including how a strike would work at UC? Just let us know.

When your contract expired on June 30th we entered what is called a “dynamic status quo” period. That means almost everything in the contract must remain as is until we reach a new agreement. One major exception is that we now have the right to strike. We are anticipating an HX unit strike sometime in the fall; it will be a legal, post-impasse strike for them. As members in the RX and TX units, you will have the right to participate in a legal sympathy strike with our Healthcare Professional brothers and sisters. Sign a strike pledge card now! See your union rep to get a copy of the strike pledge card.

Except for striking, everything else in the contract must remain as is. UC cannot make any changes to your workplace, scheduling, work rules, uniforms, parking, etc. If UC wants to make a change, they must notify UPTE and allow us the opportunity to bargain each issue separately. Since UC will fail to notify us for the most part, we rely on you to let us know of changes UC makes without our consent. When UC implements new changes after July 1st, say parking rate increases, without notifying us and holding a bargaining session, then it is a status quo violation. Once we get enough status quo violations, we can file an Unfair Labor Practice charge with PERB (Public Employment Relations Board). If there is a change to the terms and conditions at your workplace or if you just aren’t sure if it qualifies as a change, let me know. UC does not need to know how we received the information. For more information, see this primer on Status Quo.

Your bargaining team:
Wendi Felson, UCSF (ret.), Chief Negotiator
Jim Hockridge, Principal Television Technician (TX), Berkeley
Paul Brooks, Spectroscopist (RX), Berkeley
Karen Galbreath, Animal Health Technician (TX), Davis
Vanessa Bakula, Staff Research Associate (RX), Davis
Erik Lawrence, Senior Wardrobe Technician (TX), Irvine
Mike Dupray, Principal Radiation Control Technician (TX), LBNL
Mike Fehr, Computer Resource Specialist (TX), Los Angeles
Jie Luo, Staff Research Associate (RX), Los Angeles
Tonya Greene-Tucker, Clinical Research Coordinator (RX), San Diego
Jimmy Leo-Castillo, Principal Electronic Technician (TX), San Diego
Paul Phojanakong, Laboratory Assistant (TX), San Francisco
Elisa Cleveland, Staff Research Associate (RX), San Francisco
Damion Miller, Principal Electronics Technician (TX), Santa Barbara
Erik Kovacs, Principal Telescope Technician (TX), Santa Cruz