Retirees rally for pensions

In a rally Friday in front of Woodbridge Hall, more than 175 retired University employees, members of locals 34 and 35, and community supporters rallied against what they said were unfair pensions.

Yale Unions Retirees Association President Doris Rogan said Yale had promised to increase pensions after the strike at the beginning of last semester and representatives of the University and the retirees association had met to develop a proposal. But Rogan said Yale then sent letters at the end of December announcing pension increases that benefited too few retirees and were too small.

“We are here today to tell President Levin we are not satisfied with their increase,” Rogan, who retired from the University in 1997, said. “We’re not going to let them get away with just giving us peanuts.”

According to a flyer handed out by the retirees association, 800 retirees received a small pension increase and 200 were given no increase. Rogan said approximately 50 retirees received increases of up to $400, but she said Yale only gave these people such a large bump because their pensions had been so low before.

Rogan said people with similarly low pensions who had not worked for the University for at least 20 years received much smaller increases.

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said Friday that the University voluntarily enhances retiree pensions from time to time and did so in December. He said the increases ranged from 5 to 25 percent.

“We were glad to do it,” Conroy said. “It cost the University money but our judgement was that we wanted to do a pension increase.”

Conroy said the enhancements only affected employees who retired from Yale, not those who worked for Yale for part of their careers but then left for another job.

Locals 34 and 35 are Yale’s largest unions, representing 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers. Members of both unions participated in a three-week strike last September.

The agreement that ended the job action nearly doubled the monthly pensions of current union members, but not did increase the pensions of workers who were already retired.

Rogan said the University had offered to let the association meet with Yale Chief Human Resources Officer Robert Schwartz and University Director of Human Resources Information Systems Chuck Paul. But she said Yale President Richard Levin and Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper had refused to sit down with the association.

Pepper said he respects the retirees but needs to assess what would be a good use of their and his time. He said he thinks a meeting with Schwartz would be a good first step, since Schwartz specializes in that area.

“I think really it would be most instructive if they met with the head of human resources,” Pepper said.

Local 35 President Bob Proto and Local 34 President Laura Smith also spoke at the rally in support of the retirees.

Proto, describing the University’s response so far as disrespectful, said the unions would fully support the retirees’ efforts to achieve larger pensions.

“I pledge that Yale can’t just give them what Yale thinks is good for them,” Proto said. “We are not going to stop fighting until everyone gets a decent pension.”

Locals 34 and 35 owe the retirees for helping them raise awareness of the pension issue during the September strike, Proto said before speaking to the crowd. During the job action, members of the retirees association held a vigil on Beinecke Plaza.

Repeatedly invoking Levin’s name in her comments, Smith said the Yale president must fulfill his promises to the retirees and work to create a new relationship with labor at the University.

“We call on you, President Levin, to live up to your obligation to the women and men who spent a lifetime serving Yale and are worthy of your honor,” Smith said.

Rev. Emilio Hernandez also spoke at the rally and pledged that the community will support the retirees.

Proto and Hernandez both brought up the idea of a march. Rogan said she did not know what the retirees’ next step would be, but promised to do “something.”

“Let’s see if President Levin does respond to this,” Rogan said. “We hope he will.”

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