Constitutional Amendment Proposed
California State Senator Leeland Yee proposed a constitutional amendment to the California State Constitution to reform the UC retirement benefit program and put caps on the amount that former employees can collect. The proposed amendment would apply existing caps for state employees on to UC system. The UC system has a different set of caps on the amount of retirement benefits they may give to employees post-retirement.
Constitutional Amendment No. 15 proposes to institute The California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA) into Article IX of the State Constitution and thus apply it to the state education system. The act was passed in 2012 and signed by Governor Jerry Brown to curb large retirement benefits packages that were contributing to California’s increasing debt.
The amendment is reported to have received bi-partisan support in the state Legislature. If it is passed the Amendment would cap the maximum amount of retirement benefits UC and other university employees receive each year to the same level as other state employees.
The current cap for retirement benefits for non-university state employees is $110,100 for those who can collect Social Security, and $132,120 if they are not able to collect Social Security. These amounts are set to rise each year to compensate for inflation.
The current caps for UC employees are set higher at $375,000 for employees hired before 1994 and $250,000 for those hired after 1994. These amounts are also set to increase with inflation.
According to AFSCME 3299, if the caps for current state employee retirement plans as regulated by PEPRA were enacted for UC employees, the state could save $35 million. If the amendment is passed it would cap the retirement benefits of all UC employees hired after January 1, 2013, but would not apply to current employees who were hired before that date.
The proposed amendment was widely praised by ASFCME 3299, the local branch of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union. ASFCME 3299 has been representing the University of California Patient Care Technical Workers who have been negotiating with the UC Regents for shorter hours, guaranteed breaks and increased staffing.
The negotiations resumed on July 11, almost two months after UC medical workers and AFSCME 3299 members went on strike in front of the UC Irvine Medical Center on May 21 in response to long hours and staff cuts. The strike is reported to have cost the UC system $20 million in temporary hires to cover for striking workers.
AFSMCE 3299 decided to restart negotiations with the UC Regents after hearing of the death of 58-year-old Thomas Vera, a patient at the UC San Diego Medical Center who disappeared from his hospital room on May 27 in part to a lack of staff at the Center.
AFSCME representatives offered to compromise with the UC Regents on their demands for cuts in post-retirement benefits in exchange for increased staffing. The UC Regents rejected their offer and refused to propose a counter offer according to a press release from ASFCME’s website. However if the amendment is passed, the UC system will be forced to lower the caps on its retirement benefits regardless of how future neg otiations with AFSCME representatives turn out.