protest-crap.jpgUniversity of California workers, students and faculty gathered this morning outside the UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco to protest proposed changes to retirement benefits.

Tanya Smith, a retired editor at the Archaeological Research Facility at UC Berkeley, said there were more than 100 protesters outside the meeting room at the UCSF Mission Bay campus who were waiting for the public comment portion of the meeting to begin sometime around 10 a.m.

“There’s a lot of people here and we’re pretty loud,” Smith said.

The group planned to speak during the public comment period against the proposed changes, which Smith said equates to “stealing from the poor to give more to the rich.”

Protest organizers say the changes, proposed in a report by the UC Post-Employment Benefit Task Force earlier this month, would decrease retirement benefits for ordinary workers while increasing the pensions of university executives.

“People stay for the benefits, so (if the changes go into effect) you’re going to see a lot of turnover,” Smith said. “It’s going to be the Walmart of public education.”

UC spokeswoman Leslie Sepuka said “this is the very beginning of the conversation” about changes to the retirement benefits.

“What we agree on is that something needs to be done,” Sepuka said. “There’s no final answer for how this plan will be reformed.”

Julian Posadas, a food service worker at UC Santa Cruz and the executive vice president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, said the “lowest-paid workers have been excluded from every level of discussion” on the issue.

“We feel that a worker should have a right to work with the university on how employee benefits would work out,” Posadas said.

Sepuka said the university is seeking comments from employees on the proposal.

“We do want input,” she said. “We will have lots of open forums on this, and e-mail addresses and websites for people to communicate about it.”

A UC Web Town Hall on the retirement benefits issue is scheduled for Sept. 24.

Information about the town hall, as well as a link to post a comment or ask a question about the issue is available at

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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