By Betsy Mason, MEDIANEWS
Inside Bay Area
Article Last Updated:07/11/2007 06:18:11 PM PDT
After much protesting by Lawrence Livermore Lab employees about the
downgrading of their gold-plated retirement benefits under future corporate
management, a better deal has been forged.
A team of California and New Mexico Congress members, led by Rep. Ellen
Tauscher, D-Alamo, have pushed the Department of Energy to change key
provisions in its pension plans for Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos
"This is a huge victory for our security and for the lab employees who have
devoted their careers to keeping us safe," Tauscher said in a statement
The new benefits still won't be as generous as those enjoyed by lab workers
under University of California management for decades, but the benefits
won't take a 20 percent hit as was planned.
Under the new plan, when the new manager takes over Oct. 1, Livermore
workers will be given the same benefits as Los Alamos workers currently have
under their new corporate manager, rather than lesser packages as was
Both lab management contracts were put up for bid by the Department of
Energy after a string of security and safety lapses sparked intense scrutiny
from the media and federal lawmakers. Both labs will be run by newly formed
corporations run by UC along with several corporations including Bechtel
One of the fundamental reforms that had been part of the new management
contracts was a switch to retirement benefits tied to current corporate
Because average corporate benefits have dropped since new management took
over Los Alamos lab a year ago, Livermore employees were set to get pensions
worth less. Now benefits will be the same at both labs through June 2008
when they will be reassessed and set at 105 percent of the corporate
standard at the time.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, the semi-autonomous branch of
the DOE that oversees the nuclear weapons complex, received more than 4,000
comments on benefits in less than two weeks during a comment period that
ended July 2.
"We are committed to making sure that we have the fairest, best package
possible for employees," said NNSA spokeswoman Julianne Smith on Tuesday
before the new plan was announced.
The new deal will also give lab managers a say in the selection of
corporations to base the benefits assessment on, which will presumably
result in more favorable choices for workers.
In June, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, co-signed a letter with Tauscher
and others to Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman expressing concerns about
McNerney said his office was receiving more than 10 calls and e-mails an
hour on this issue, and several hundred people showed up at a meeting he
held July 2 to hear employee concerns about their benefits. He said younger
employees gave him the impression that they were ready to leave the lab over
"The real concern is that if they don't offer attractive benefits, they
aren't going to be able to attract and retain the caliber of personnel
needed to assess national security issues," McNerney said.
Representatives Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Tom Lantos,
D-San Mateo; and Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, also signed the letter. Tauscher
had also led several meetings with Energy Department officials on the matter
and wrote a second letter to Secretary Bodman along with Democratic Sen.
Dianne Feinstein and New Mexico senators, Democrat Jeff Bingaman and
Republican Pete Domenici.
Contact Betsy Mason at (925) 847-2158 or firstname.lastname@example.org.