Congratulations to some 9,000 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory retirees who reached a settlement with University of California that provides support for health care that was promised, but lost after a 2007 contract change. The settlement, valued at $84.5 million, includes provisions for reimbursing past costs and contributing to future premium expenses, as well as insurance against a hypothetical future cutoff of health care support.
The settlement is the outgrowth of a lawsuit filed in 2010. It has been something of a David and Goliath battle, as the retirees had to form a grassroots organization and raise their own funds. UC’s stable of lawyers fought the retirees from the start. Four years ago, they even hired Crowell & Moring, the law firm that defended Blackwater Security Co. when it was accused of killing Iraqi civilians in 2007. But the retirees persevered. They became a certified class, won two key legal appeals and ultimately persuaded the University to negotiate an agreement that is satisfactory to both sides.
Observers tell us that the settlement may have wider implications, as public employers around the state learn about it. If the University of California, with all its resources, was left with an $84.5 million obligation after a decade-long battle, towns and counties considering saving money by abandoning retiree benefits may want to think again.
The settlement is still subject to court approval, after which there will be time for court-directed communications to and from class members. If all goes smoothly, payments to retirees might start in mid-2020. In the meantime, the retirees can feel content that they have fought a worthy fight and brought a measure of justice to thousands of men and women whose work was in the service of their nation.