Lois Jason worked as a secretary at the Yale School of Medicine and the University’s Cowles Foundation. But since retiring nine years ago, Jason said she has become an “economist.”
Jason said she, like many retired Yale workers, carefully counts her spending because of the size of her Yale pension.
As the University and its two largest unions, locals 34 and 35, negotiate new contracts, union leaders have said that pensions for retired workers are one of the most important issues. Union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said pensions are particularly prominent this year because 20 percent of union members will retire before the new contracts expire.
But University officials have said they believe that economic issues could be quickly resolved and argue that the unions are focused on the organizing drives of workers at Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Graduate Employees and Students Organization.
Yale retirees currently receive pensions as a fixed amount of money on a monthly basis. They are calculated by a formula taking into account years of service, salary at age of retirement and a fixed multiplier that is agreed upon during contract talks.
During negotiations this year, the two sides each offered proposals for increasing the pension multipliers, which would carry vastly different price tags. University leaders have said the unions’ proposals are too costly, while union leaders have said University proposals are insubstantial.
The contracts for Yale workers expired in January but have been renewed on a month-by-month basis since then. Yale and the unions began negotiating for new contracts in February, but talks have foundered in recent weeks. Full-table bargaining sessions have not been held since the first week of October.
Workers have not received annual pay raises because new contracts have not been settled.
Locals 34 and 35 represent nearly 4,000 clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers.
University spokesman Tom Conroy said pension issues could be resolved quickly if they were the unions’ primary concern. He said he believes the unions are still focusing on the organizing drives of the hospital workers and GESO.
“I think that economic issues are always important,” Conroy said. “But in our view, none of the economic issues is a daunting obstacle in our contracts — we’re not concerned that it couldn’t be resolved quickly if that were the desire of the unions.”
Union supporters distributed leaflets criticizing Yale’s pension plans outside Woolsey Hall over Parents’ Weekend. The fliers said that no issue is more important to union members in seeking a settlement in these contract talks.
Jason said she receives $358.07 each month after taxes from her pension.
She said she was upset by recent news that Yale Corporation Senior Fellow John Pepper ’60 had proposed an increase of Yale President Richard Levin’s pension by 75 percent of his current salary when many Yale retirees must carefully count their spending.
“To me, it was obscene to learn the amount of money that the president is going to receive,” she said. “It’s very disappointing in the human element of things.”
Chernoff said union members listed pensions as one of the top two concerns during an informal survey before negotiations began.
“A large number of people have to retire and will not have another opportunity to address these issues,” she said.
Union members authorized leaders to call job actions during votes Sept. 4. Leaders originally planned a three-day strike in October, but have not held any job actions. Local 34 members said they will present Levin with a signed petition at noon Thursday at his office, but that further actions or strikes are not currently planned.