Rank and File Scientists Demanding our Rights

Campaign Statement Will Wright for President of CAPS

October 5, 2011


 I thank you and appreciate the time you are taking to read my candidacy statements for the President of CAPS.  I believe by now you have received information about me from a number of sources; however just a couple more elements on my background. I had a brief stent at the Revlon Bio Labs cancer research section, then a Cystic Fibrosis research fellow at Harvard Med Depart of microbiology and Molecular Genetics followed by an NIH genetics research scholar at UC La Jolla.  When you look at the bio for me as well as David you can see that we have both been here for some time, so for what or why are we in this election process. Well on our ways out may be we are just trying to leave some legacy of having contributed to the well being of our fellow scientist many of whom are beginners or not yet at the top of their class. I know David is trying to launch a career in politics and board siting since he ran for a PERS seat at the expense of CAPS and lost; needless to say he is back trying to dress up his resume for another run at something he can go  to after here, the PERS training activity cost CAPS $15,000.

Here is what we perceive from the membership perspective.   CAPS has effectively accomplished nothing but ineffectiveness over the past decade or so. Much of the membership has simply gone to the mandatory minimum dues in frustration and disappointment in the leadership. First and foremost on the minds of the average state scientist over that period has been the issue of comparable pay for comparable work. Like I tell my students when they ask for extra credit, how bout just doing the regular credit  Well how about pay for what state scientist really already do, not compared to an engineer nor to our corporate “counterparts” ,etc. and then isolate aspects of those to say we are deficient.  Here’s why.  First of all we do not do the same job as the others the personnel board wants to compare state scientists to.  The science products that we turn out are unique.

For instance we have to make decisions on science where the impact of the decision is many fold greater than that of a “comparable” other sector scientist.  We have a responsibility to see that the advances in research and industry are imposed on society in the most effective and efficient way to advance the causes of society and the quality of life.  So if someone believes we flip coins to get work done, take a second look.  it is clear that we produce orders of magnitude more science products than do our other sector associates and in many cases with a great deal more complexity.

The evidences of our science products are all around us.  This is in every element of health, safety and environment where basic scientists have a lead and or implementing and sustaining role, from the numbers of endangered species saved to the reductions in morbidity and mortality associated with stressors in the environment or products from industry or other health impacts. Our products reduce the looming potential costs to society through compliance programs that we maintain and compared to the other sector regulatory scientists who generally impact one or a few entities, and in every case earning more than we, our decisions and ongoing responsibilities are several fold greater.
When a chemist tests foods for chemical agents such as lead or a microbiologist tests a food item for the presence of E. coli O157H7 these are not just another routine test or run of the mill routine analysis, these are every bit as much science products as are similar activities in the other  sector. They save lives and generate fees.  When a research scientist develops a policy statement on a public health issue or conducts a study of a particular environment or public health concern, when an environmental scientist or wildlife scientist conducts an investigation, makes an assessment and determines the path forward, these are every bit as much science products as they would be considered so when conducted  by a state contractor or private company.  That is on the science side.
Look at all the revenues state science products bring in. Fees due to CDPH, DTSC, DFG or OEHHA etc. may appear to be simply invoices for doing business. These revenues are based on sound science products. I know because i was there during the early days of DTSC, OEHHA etc. I got the TTU program up and running state wide and wrote some of the first regulations, I got the med waste program for LA region up and running then our committee wrote the statewide emergency regulations. These are science products that bring in revenues. We produce plenty of science products and just because we support 2 to 4 positions with those products administration should not pretend they are collecting fees and we are simply their support.

Recently CAPS announced a success by the current board for what they call a pay adjustment for out of class work. Firstly there should be solid rules in place when the administration decides to shift duties as required to such an extent they agree to pay. Secondly the worst thing about that just in time decision is the change in class. Sounds good but it is not good in that the exact opposite can occur by removal or decrease or level of complexity changes to create or move staff to a lower class. The appropriate solution would have been to incorporate, I assume,  those few additional duties into the original class.  We must take science based approaches to constructing our grievances related to duty statements, pay and classification issues.

The personnel experts are fixated on classifying as much of the natural sciences as possible as physical sciences and in particular chemistry.  This is simply a carryover from the days when government essentially dealt in chemistry, engineering and clinical care.  Since that time the fields of molecular, microbiology and biology have literally exploded into something called biotechnology as a specific example yet the classification scheme and duty statements that i have seen do not adequately reflect this change in staff preparation knowledge, skills and abilities and yes pay status.
When these mis-staffing activities occur the programs suffer from a lack of depth. The synergy that is apparent in the evolution of the collaborations of modern sciences is lost. I will work to change this approach to staffing rather than continue with allowing many of the more interesting as well as important aspects of societies scientific questions be researched by business and academics.

The third and perhaps related to the first issue more so than it has in the past is retirement. I am referring to the latest change in the contributions to PERS for our retirement benefits. I like many of us who began our Wall Street careers in the mid to late 90’s are well aware of the forces of the financial and stock markets and it is precisely those forces that resulted in virtually a 100% increase in our monthly contributions to our retirement plans. Briefly this is what has transpired.  Twice during the 90’s/2000’s there were no matching contributions to the fund. I contacted personnel and was stated that there was no requirement to match contributions just to guarantee a defined benefit. Circa 2000 personnel announced a raise but only if the employee were in tier 1.  This requirement would bring in additional contributions from the tier 2 converters and there were gobs of them due to closure of tier 1 during the 80’s/90’s. Then came the lows of the dot com crash and 911.  Then in 2008 articles began to appear regarding PERS’ forays into the world of commodities and in particular gold. The articles spoke of their efforts to get agents trained in commodities and shortly there after this sector of the market crashed severely. Recently PERS was quoted in an article expressing the glee associated with finally becoming a member of the 20% club which would average to a meager 3% annual return over the past 5 years. That translates to some very negative years.  These negative years along with the lack of contributions during the boom days of the 90’s have lead to this latest request. We must become more involved in the activities of PERS and always resist the notion that traders and brokers can always come to us when the trading accounts have gotten so reduced that substantial gains or recovery can be achieved in a timely manner only by increasing contributions; but 100%, that’s like deja vu all over again.   In that article PERS spoke of it’s severe over staffing and the need to reduce substantially.  May be PERS is to big to succeed, may be we should think about working for the right to select our retirement system manager as a union group or some larger organization. This type of aggressive attachment of wages for PERS leaves many with no 401K or other avenue of meaningful investment. Making money is relatively easy, managing the money and the risk is where the skill and professionalism lay in successful investment and asset management firms and for individuals as well.

On Health and Safety David has the same stance as Patty has; AED’s in everybody’s pockets.  This is a glaring example of a lack of understanding of the science at hand and how to provide a health and safety service program.  This and other such related activities should be used to initiate a State Facilities Act to establish the program. This will cause administration to keep staff in a work environment that provides appropriate and adequate risk reduction and risk management programs. This and a few other workplace health and safety issues are currently for use by managers for pat on the back activities when they need one.

I also believe that there are enough talented and motivated scientists for the institution of term controls.  Presidents nor Vice Presidents should be allowed to run for any board seat until at least one election cycle has passed.  We do not need x-presidents and x-vice presidents pushing their agendas as board members. Nor should x-presidents be allowed to run for vice president until at least one election cycle has passes. Vice Presidents should be allowed to run for president only until at least one election cycle passes.

In the words of Churchill. Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.
Sincerely, Will Wright,III Ph.D.
Staff Toxicologist

Fighting Rank and File Union Caucus endorses the slate of Will Wright for President, Charles Rachlis for Vice President and Giorgio Cosentino for Treasurer

FIRST CAMPAIGN STATEMENT BY WILL WRIGHT III PhD for PRESIDENT OF CAPS  This is the uncensored version.  The censored version can be read in your ballot package.

Will Wright Ph.D. Is currently Staff Toxicologist and Health and Safety Officer located at the CDPH Richmond Campus Laboratories and currently teaching microbiology since 1994 at Chabot College and Merritt College . Background and qualifications include:
●    BS and MS microbiology Howard University; Ph.D. Purdue University Molecular and Microbiology

●    Los Angeles County Public Health as Disease Intervention Specialists; DTSC as Hazardous Material Specialists followed up at OEHHA as Associate Toxicologist and three years later, 1994, I took the Staff Toxicologist position with the Department of Health Services to establish statewide Environment and Occupational Toxicology, Health and Safety program for laboratories. As is evident I have broad experiences and I understand the issues confronting state scientists but more importantly I have a clear and thorough understanding of regulatory sciences, public health and environment programs.

I am a candidate for change. My agenda has several parts to it. First , to have a realistic opportunity for changing what amounts to a political culture that CAPS and the administration have covalently instituted we must remove all pertinent aspects of the current CAPS/Blanning and Baker LLC administration. There should be no recycling of any parts of this group.

So my first order of business as President instituting my change agenda. means policies need to be reworked, the carte blanch authorities the executive director and CAPS staff have must be reconsidered and reestablished in such a manner that they clearly reflect the views and position of the board and above all timely input from the membership perspectives through the holding of regular membership meetings. That means everything from salary and classification issues, to accommodations commensurate with work product expectations of management from staff, to adverse actions and upward mobility. Here to fore such issues have almost exclusively been handled by and from CAPS’ perspective. I can assure you Staff will work for our board and our board will work for state scientists. The current collaboration appears to be self-indulging and politically aspiring in its approach to the issues that concern state scientists most, with pay and quality science programs at the front of the list. They are learning the political process not negotiating.

My second change objective is directed at reclaiming the CAPS membership professional status. Among other actions, this would involve abolishing the lobbying program and the PAC as they currently exist. Those activities could be reworked to make more meaningful contributions to society, perhaps in the form of assistance at the local level to support grassroots efforts to implement our scientific mandates for public health and environment or even supporting staffing or pilot programs to advance the science agenda. This engenders good legislature awareness and a more meaningful influence on the legislative process.    Here are some of the latest examples of the lack of ability of this administration to handle science based activities appropriately. The AED issue at DTSC is a health sciences issue that is just hanging out there instead of part of a science based organized program to assess the need and institute a standardized statewide program for workplace safety involving a designated safety professional class. This administration appears to want to address this as a special consideration for a particular demographic. Another is this lack of staffing scientific questions appropriately, which is the hiring of chemists when the question clearly requires a biologist or any mismatch management so chooses. Appropriate interdisciplinary staffing is critical to professional development and program development and the advancement of the science products that state scientist generate. What has happened with the LPLW initiative for state scientists; well…”DPA administrative ruling that says certain state supervisors are entitled to salary increases that restore historic salary relationships with state engineers”. WHAT? Don’t state scientist supervisors have competencies of their own? This is a case of mixing and matching to our detriment. How can any self-respecting scientist believe, not to mention say it is progress towards competency based compensation which is the crux of the Human Resources Modernization Project….this should be a legislative mandate. Scientists and engineers do possess similar skill sets but professional skills applications are totally different and not substitutable. Equivocating them is an example of curriculum based duty classification. Virtually every negotiation this administration initiated failed and we got more bad news late and at a price.
My third change objective is to work to change the structure for contributions and benefits programs to reflect the realities of the investment markets. Californians for Fiscal Responsibility want to revise this yet again in the interest of reducing taxpayer contributions. Those contributions are still coming in in the form of taxes and simply end up being spent in other ways that don’t necessarily contribute to the states well being in future ways so to speak. Pension benefits are typically spent in the sate where earned. There must be a grater focus on the investment activities that PERS engages in, even though they “did not lose money in ENRON”, they just simply turned around and lost in in gold.    CAPS brought over a candidate it was pushing for the PERS board and he had the nerve to say “they” are trying to decide if during any market and particularly bad markets if relative or absolute performance is the standard. As I stated during the session, we need absolute performance because PERS has to pay people out of that.
MY fourth change objective is directed at supporting and enhancing the long standing effort to have supervisory and managerial positions clearly defined and substantiated with regard to their program objectives. Some of those are as follows:
●    Clearly defined plans to develop and enhance the science of the programs to involve state scientists more along the lines of federal programs with classes and specification that do more than describe a curriculum.
●    Prohibit farming out the larger portion of the real science to universities and others nongovernmental entities and reducing state activities in many programs to monitoring, supplying data and assessment. We could enhance these activities with collaborative programs that involve state scientist participation in a meaningful way. More involvement in federal grant opportunities; this would allow for greater opportunity to express competencies, serve as a source of revenues for pilot and other program support.

●    There would be a stop to cross boundary activities and a mandate to concentration on building the publicly mandated programs along the lines of federal and corporate models as wholly sufficient in their technical and operational necessities still forging cross- discipline collaborations.

●    Budget and power grab initiatives should not be addressed by always combining or eliminating or contracting.

●    Managers should exploit the science of the programs they manage maintaining its integrity instead of selling off parts to the
highest bidder for their upward mobility aspirations.

●    Institute committees that regularly meet with management, the private sector and academia to represent staff involvement
in the evolution of the role of state scientists. State scientists are key to regulatory science programs generated primarily by federal and state initiatives and interpretation of regulations and implemented by local agencies and we need a seat at the table!



September 9, 2011 - Posted by | CAPS election 2011 | , , ,

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