Retirees protest pension plans

More than two weeks after Yale retirees and their supporters rallied in front of Woodbridge Hall to protest pensions they alleged were unfair, the University and Yale Unions Retirees Association officials have not met or attempted to contact each other about the issue, representatives of both sides said at the end of last week.

At the March 5 gathering, more than 175 retired Yale employees, current members of locals 34 and 35 and community supporters rallied saying pension increases were not adequately discussed with them, were too small and were too narrowly targeted.

“Money is their god. That’s the rule. And human suffering doesn’t enter into it,” YURA President Doris Rogan said of the University Thursday.

At the rally, Rogan said the retirees had requested meetings with Yale President Richard Levin and Yale Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper, but Yale had offered meetings with University Chief Human Resources Officer Robert Schwartz and University Director of Human Resources Information Systems Chuck Paul.

Schwartz said Friday that he was open to a meeting if the retirees requested one but he had not been contacted or attempted to contact them.

“They have not requested a meeting of me, but if they did request a meeting of me, I would be glad to meet with them,” Schwartz said.

The retirees have not decided yet whether they will meet with Schwartz and Paul, Rogan said Thursday. Rogan said the University had promised to increase pensions after settling contracts with locals 34 and 35 last fall. The three-week strike by the University’s clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers ended last Sept. 18. Rogan said the retirees worked on a pension proposal with Paul, but the University did not contact the retirees before the pensions were announced.

“We would like to have the University look at our proposal again,” Rogan said. “It was fair. It was in line with what the current employees are getting.”

There is about a 50 percent difference between the retirees’ pensions and those of the current members of locals 34 and 35, Rogan said.

The two locals are Yale’s largest unions, representing 4,000 workers. The agreement that ended their strike against the University last year nearly doubled the monthly pensions of current union members but not did increase the pensions of workers who had already retired.

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said March 5 that the increases in December were part of voluntary enhancements the University provides from time to time. He said the increases ranged from 5 to 25 percent.

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, Conroy said.

Yale increased the pensions of 800 retirees slightly and did not enhance the pensions of 200 others, according to a flyer handed out by the retirees association at the rally.

The presidents of both unions said they will support the retirees’ efforts.

“I pledge that Yale can’t just give them what Yale thinks is good for them,” Local 35 President Bob Proto said. “We are not going to stop fighting until everyone gets a decent pension.”

At the rally, Proto brought up the idea of a march. Rogan declined to say what the retirees’ next step would be, but promised to do “something.”

“We’re not just to going to lie down and go to sleep and be content,” Rogan said.

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Tom Sullivan
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