Teamsters protest retirement plan, unfair wages

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Chanting and banging drums, Teamsters Local 2010 protesters made themselves heard Wednesday morning outside UC executive offices in Downtown Oakland protesting unfair wages for UC workers and a new 401(k)-style retirement plan.

In March 2016, UC Regents adopted a new retirement tier at the request of UC President Janet Napolitano, which included a “capped” version of the existing pension, aligning it with the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2012. Teamsters are pushing back against the component that introduces a 401(k)-style retirement plan according to Timothy Mathews, a research analyst for Teamsters Local 2010.

“Anyone hired on or before June 30, 2016 (the vast majority of clerical employees) will have the same retirement benefits they do now,” said UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez in an email. “These newer employees in the 2016 Retirement Program would still be free to choose which retirement plan they enroll in — a traditional pension plan or a 401(K)-style plan.”

UC negotiators and Teamster representatives are currently in the bargaining stage for new contracts.

“Sure, they call it a choice — but the workers in our units are members of the union,” Matthews said in an email. “We are collectively choosing the Defined Benefit pension. That is the only vehicle to a secure and dignified retirement.”

Prior to the protest, union representatives met with Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblymember Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, in Sacramento to discuss ongoing grievances.

More than 70 percent of UC’s full-time administrative and clerical support workers have experienced hunger or food insecurity, according to an October 2016 Occidental College report. Additionally, more than 92 percent are not paid enough afford the basic needs, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute. Workers have seen wages decline by 24 percent over the past two decades when interest is taken into account, said a Teamster 2010 press release.

About 60 Teamster protesters gathered in front of the UCOP building, sporting an oversized fake check for $500 million signed by Napolitano and made out to “Wall Street and High Paid UC Executives,” with a memo reading, “Risky 401(k)-style Option — 2016 Tier” — referencing the new plan, which protesters said will cost the university $500 million. Protesters hoped to present the check for Napolitano to void.

Teamster representatives, however, did not meet with the president. Instead, Executive Vice President of UC Health John Stobo spoke with Teamster leaders, listening intently and promising to relay their message to Napolitano, according to Teamsters Local 2010 Secretary-Treasurer Jason Rabinowitz.

Union representatives and a UC bargaining team will meet again Thursday. The last negotiation, which occurred Feb. 1 and 2, resulted in the UC offering an average 18 percent wage increase over a six-year contract and the choice between existing pensions or a 401(k) plan.

“We think this is the first step to getting rid of a pension plan altogether,” Rabinowitz said.

Audrey McNamara is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @McNamaraAud.