www.DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Duke - Page 3 - 2000
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - September 10, 2000
"Modern-Day Slavery" was published by "The New York Times." The article stated "By a conservative estimate, there are 27 million people working under various forms of slavery in the world today, and the number is growing."
27 MILLION! And yes, some of the slaves are "employed" right here in the United States.
The article mentions some of the tactics the slave runners/employers use to keep their victims oppressed. One method is debt bondage. Employers use the same tactic on ninety percent of the American working population now. It does not really matter who the employee is indebted to; as long as he is kept hopelessly in debt, he will feel obligated to keep toiling for the employer. Keeping wages as low as possible, is a great way to accomplish this.
You may wonder how humans can regress to such behavior as enslaving other humans. Two elements are required: greed and ruthlessness. Duke Energy has proven time and time again that they possess these elements. Think about the pension benefits that Duke has taken from the employees by slight of hand. If they could circumvent more laws, just where would their greed and ruthlessness stop? It could lead to a new motto "Slavery: Our Competitive Advantage."
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - September 10, 2000
"An Apology and a Milestone at Indian Bureau" was published by "The New York Times." The article tells of the general failure of the government program designed to help the American Indians.
After all these years, the program is still a failure. The bureau's director admitted as much, and apologized to the Indians. By the way, the director is an Indian.
This fiasco is a classic example of how programs can be set up to sound and look good, but never seem to accomplish their intended purpose. If the people who oversee the laws and programs do not want them to work, then they never will.
It seem that the pension laws fall into the same category. They sound and look good on the surface. But, consider the staggering sums of pension money that Americans have lost since 1980.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs Director did make an apology. He deserves credit for that. Now, perhaps real improvement can be accomplished; it never can be accomplished based on lies.
The chances are slim that government officials, employers, and the con artist who sold the cash balance schemes will ever offer any apologies to the victimized workers. They will continue to try and build upon the lies of the past and denying everything until their last breath.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - September 4, 2000 - Labor Day
The United States government spends a lot of time trying to set other countries straight. Our government tries to get other countries up to par with us on human rights issues. But, it seems that we need to clean our own house before we lecture the rest of the world. According to a Human Rights Watch report released a few days ago, we are doing poorly in the area of worker rights! "Workers Online" reports: "Human Rights Watch examined United States workers' rights to organize, to bargain collectively, and to strike under international norms. It found widespread labor rights violations across regions, industries and employment status."
Didn't you always expect as much?
The IBM employees have reported that IBM's foreign operations have received much better pension deals that their U. S. counterparts. Why is this? Many foreign countries have much better pension laws than the United States! With all the progress the United States has made, one group has been left behind - the American workers. Think about that this Labor Day. Then resolve to take some action to reverse the situation.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - September 4, 2000 - Labor Day
Bridgestone/Firestone is paying a staggering price for its greed and its arrogance towards the employees. The company could be merrily producing tires, making a profit, and having no problems. But, noooooo! The company thought that they could save a few cents by refusing to bargain collectively with the employees, forcing the employees to strike in 1994.
The company, with typical senior management arrogance, decided to just replace the striking workers. The plan probably looked great on paper. The plan would save a few pennies and punish the striking workers. Managers were probably patting each other on the back and gloating about their shrewdness. You see, to senior management, employees are generic. They have no intrinsic value or unique abilities. They are like a crate of doorknobs, completely interchangeable. Workers are viewed as "warm bodies." If X amount of warm bodies go on strike; no problem, just hire X amount of warm bodies off the street. The solution was soooo easy. Life in management fairytale land was soooo good.
The "suits" making the decisions probably could not mount a tire, let along build one.
What did the company's efforts to save pennies at the expense of the employees gain them? According to "The New York Times" article "Workers Stay on Jobs at Firestone After Strike Deadline" - "Bridgestone/Firestone is facing Congressional investigations and dozens of lawsuits after federal regulators linked its tires to accidents causing at least 88 deaths and more than 250 injuries." The Bridgestone/Firestone management also has employees who hate their guts, which does not bode well for the future.
Well, just what brought about this turn of events? The article also states: "Officials from Ford Motor Company said that most of the defective tires were manufactured in the Decatur plant when the tire company was relying on replacement workers."
Parts are parts. Doorknobs are doorknobs. Warm bodies are warm bodies. And, senior management knows all things.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - August 25, 2000
Bill Coley and Mike Tuckman had a meeting with ESS supervision. A question was asked about the deregulation of electric utilities and outrageously high power bills. It was said that deregulation for Duke probably would not happen until the year 2006.
A group of twenty-one people are trying to iron out the details, seven from Nuclear Generation, seven from Power Generation, and seven from Support Services. E-mail notices are supposed to be sent as decisions are made.
It was said that the Duke Temporary Program would remain the same. Duke Energy does not only have first and second class citizens. They have third class, fourth class, fifth class…
It was said that the ESS Travel Policy would not change. This is not good new for the ESS employees, but the employees were not surprised to hear it. The ESS travel policy is inferior to the ones of the assimilating groups.
The supervisors came up with a list of two-hundred or so questions about the merger. The benefit question was in the top three questions.
The ESS employees are less than ecstatic about the benefits news. Some feel that the merger will only amount to a change in letterheads.
Many ESS employees do not feel that the decision to keep segregated benefit policies is morally or ethically the right thing to do.
You have no doubt noticed that morality and ethics are not areas that Duke Energy excels in. More correctly, these are areas that Duke has a long record of disasters in.
Most employees have been around long enough to have seen these same injustices before. Well over a decade ago, Duke merged SMS and SSD. The results was CMD. The SMS employees had better benefits and pay than the SSD employees before the merger. After the merger, the former SMS employees had better benefits and pay than the former SSD employees. For years former SSD employees worked side by side with former SMS employees who made more money and had better benefits.
Years later, the pay and benefit differences began to be equalized. You probably know the direction the equalization went. Yes, the former SMS employees slowly began to lose benefits. Welcome to the exciting, brand new "business as usual."
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - August 21, 2000
What is an enterprising sycophant to do? Try as they will, they can only get in so much apple polishing in an eight or ten hour workday. And, some of that time must be spent doing actual work. Plus, only so many management types are available at any one site. What if an employee longs to avail himself to the whole universe of Duke management?
Fret no more! Duke Energy, in its perpetual effort to satisfy employees every need, has heard your plea to the management gods. Introducing: "Leadership Development Network" (LDN). Rick Priory said: "Leadership. In this exciting time, Duke Energy has never needed it more." (He said it, we didn't.)
LDN will begin on Aug. 23, 2000. If you manage to have any free time after toiling for Duke all day, you can now spend it with LDN. You will now have the opportunity to kowtow, scurry, and cater to the full spectrum of Duke's management. You will be given assignments and a chance to do some of management's dirty work. Naturally such an outstanding opportunity will not come free. You will get to pay annual dues of $20.
Quotes from the announcement: "Members are expected to lend their time and energies to making the LDN a success." "The fee is meant to demonstrate a personal and pro-active commitment to the organization and its achievements." Duke knows that if they can get employees to actually pay for this "opportunity," that they will own them body and soul.
Management must have figured that if Tom Sawyer could charge people to whitewash his fence, that they can charge employees to do extra work on their own time. There was some vague mention of compensation or schedule adjustment for non-exempt employees.
We are trying to grasp the concept. If someone is willing to pay to court management's favor, allow themselves to be completely programmed by management, and mindlessly do management's bidding - they will have conferred upon them the title of leader?
We really hate to burst anyone's bubble, but this disclaimer was at the bottom of the announcement: "While participation in the LDN will enhance leadership skills, membership does not guarantee or imply that promotion or career advancement will be considered on the basis of participation in the LDN."
Securities and Exchange Commission - August 14, 2000
Commitments and Contingencies Litigation.
Duke Energy and its subsidiaries are involved in legal, tax and regulatory proceedings before various courts, regulatory commissions and governmental agencies regarding performance, contracts and other matters arising in the ordinary course of business, some of which involve substantial amounts. Where appropriate, Duke Energy has made accruals in accordance with Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 5, "Accounting for Contingencies," to provide for such matters. Management believes that the final disposition of these proceedings will not have a material adverse effect on consolidated results of operations or financial position. Other Commitments and Contingencies. Periodically, Duke Energy may become involved in contractual disputes with natural gas transmission customers involving potential or threatened abrogation of contracts by the customers. If the customers are successful, Duke Energy may not receive the full value of anticipated benefits under the contracts. Management believes that these commitments and contingencies will not have a material adverse effect on consolidated results of operations or financial position.
Item 1. Legal Proceedings. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has initiated an environmental enforcement proceeding against a former subsidiary of Duke Energy relating to alleged air quality permit violations at a natural gas compressor station. Duke Energy has agreed to indemnify the purchaser of this former subsidiary against liability for any penalty or fines resulting from these alleged violations. This proceeding could result in a penalty in excess of $100,000.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - August 1, 2000
On July 25, 2000, a group of employees, each representing employees of a different large company, went to Washington D. C. We were invited by Department of Labor and Treasury Department officials to discuss our problems with various cash balance plans which were forced upon us. Hitherto this meeting only groups that cater to large employers have had any input to the Treasury Department. The Labor Department has been in contact with us since last year with an ongoing dialog.
Ms. Leslie Kramerich, Department of Labor, issued the invitation and facilitated the meeting and press briefing afterward. She handled everything flawlessly. Other employees were able to hear the meeting via a conference call. To say the least, a milestone was achieved.
Of the officials attending from the Treasury Department, was Mr. Mark Iwry. He opened the meeting by explaining how the various federal agencies worked together to oversee pension matters. The Treasury Department issues pension plan regulations. The Internal Revenue Service works with the Treasury by handling administration and qualification of plans. The Department of Labor also works with the Treasury Department.
Mr. Iwry explained that employers have received MAJOR tax advantages by participating in various pension plans. Employees can also receive benefits in a tax advantaged way. These benefits must be NON-DISCRIMINATORY - they cannot exists solely for the executives. Major employer groups have been bending the Treasury's ear trying to implement pension simplification. The Treasury's position has been that employers can have simplification, but not if it costs the employees benefits.
The IRS has requested public comments on cash balance plans. Mr. Iwry said that these requests typically generate a dozen or so responses. The IRS cash balance plan request generated hundreds of responses.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the role of enforcing pension age discrimination laws. They have received approximately seven-hundred pension age discrimination charges against thirty companies.
Millions of Americans have been impacted by cash balance plans. In addition to all the employees, think of all of their families and relatives who have an interest in the outcome of the pension issue.
The Treasury Department, Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are very much aware of the public interest in this matter.
Many pension horror stories were related by the attendees. Employers will try to convince you that all pension plans are very different. We did not find that to be the case. The differences are generally cosmetic. A common thread ran through all of the cash balance plans commented on at the meeting. Paramount, the employees lost money and the employers gained money. That is truly the bottom line. Employers and their consultants will twist words and go through all manner of contortions to attempt to hide this fact. But, this fact cannot be hidden. The employers and their consultants are standing on shifting sand. There is no place left for them to hide. Their position is untenable. Would you want to stand before Congress with a straight face and offer some of the employer's excuses for the plans? The employers are attempting to hold onto the illusion that they have created. But, there is nothing left for them to hold on to but thin air. Just too many people know the real story.
The ineptness of the IBM management on the pension issue has been a boon to all employees. IBM had a program for employees to use to estimate future pension benefits. A few days before the cash balance conversion was announced, the program disappeared. It was obvious that IBM did not want the employees to be able to compare pension plans. IBM's feeble excuse was that they were upgrading the program. Sorry, but that will not fly. At the meeting was a former IBM employee who worked in a software lab. This employee stated that it would not be necessary to take the program out of service to upgrade it. In short, more than a few lies have been told by employers. This brings us to the next common thread in cash balance plans: deceitfulness. Every attempt imaginable has been used to keep employees in the dark about their pensions. Information has been hidden, distorted, and generally withheld from employees.
Duke Energy provides a great example of the withholding of information. Many employees complained about the cash balance implementation and how the opening balance was calculated. Duke Energy produced some information about how the calculation was performed. This may sound like a step in the right direction, but keep reading. Duke Energy produced the information, but we have yet to find any employees who were given access to it! We did not obtain the information from Duke Energy! Benevolent sources outside of Duke Energy provided us with the facts. In retrospect, after viewing what they had done to the employees, the company probably felt too ashamed to reveal all. They probably also want to spare themselves the inevitable negative backlash. Some officials appeared shocked at the material. But think about it. All these officials have been exposed to in the past were the large employer groups such as The Association of Private Pension and Welfare Plans (APPWP) and the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) trying to explain everything away! Do you think these employer controlled groups were telling the real story? Hardly! This was the first time that some of these federal officials had heard the truth straight from employees. It probably was shocking to find out what the large employers are actually doing. It was explained that the only concrete information about the Duke Energy conversion was obtained from outside sources. Mr. Iwry commented that even that information was sketchy. It seems that the large employer groups have been trying to convince the federal officials that all of the disclosure problems have been corrected. This meeting exposed that lie.
A comparison of two Duke Energy employees of the same age was presented. One of the employees had almost three times the length of service as the other employee and made a higher salary. Yet, the employee with more years of service and making more money had a lower initial cash balance! It is clear that years of service have been thrown out the window. One employee had a balance of over sixteen-hundred dollars in the old plan. His opening cash balance was eighty-four dollars! Yes, you read that right - his opening balance was $84. Our early retirement subsidy was thrown out the window during these calculations also.
It was learned that these officials are also concerned about the lack of disclosure about lost health related benefits. When most large companies converted to cash balance plans, they took the opportunity to relieve the employees of health benefits also. Human greed knows no bounds!
An employee of another company developed a spreadsheet to calculate future pension benefits. He had to do this because the company was unwilling for the employees to learn anything about the new plan. He was giving this software to fellow employees until management found out about it. A company attorney made some thinly veiled threats to the employee and demanded that the software distributions cease! The employers want you in the dark. And if anyone strikes a match, they will promptly blow it out!
One employee ran some calculations and found some discrepancies in the pension calculations. After management was confronted, they finally admitted that they had made a mistake. But, that is not all. This employee found more mistakes. When the company corrected these mistakes, even more mistakes were found. It almost seems that numbers were pulled out of thin air, in the belief that no one would ever question them! All of the "mistakes" were in the company's favor.
Employees told of being reprimanded by management for "aggressively seeking pension information"! It is evident why these companies went to such great lengths to disguise the pension changes. The changes were such a total rip off of the employees that widespread mutiny would have developed if everything had been revealed up front. But guess what? It is being revealed anyway. It has not been revealed up front or voluntarily, but it is being revealed. And, the repercussions could be devastating for those who have attempted to circumvent the law and who have no regard for common decency.
Duke Energy and other cash balance conspirators have derived their benefit for the money placed in the pension plans. They received generous tax advantages. They also manipulated the employees into staying with the companies. The plans were "high five" plans. We were forced to stay with the companies until we were fifty-five years old to receive the full benefit of the plan. When many of us were almost at the point of achieving the accelerated benefit, the companies wrecked the plans and started declaring pension money as "excess" and adding it to their bottom lines!
The point was made that if cash balance plans are so great, why has no company started one from scratch? The answer is simple. Employees cannot be robbed by starting one from scratch. Employees can only be robbed of promised pension benefits by converting to a cash balance plan.
At least one thing was accomplished on the spot. The federal agencies realized that more information needs to be gathered from employees. A request for information is going to be made. When the request is made, it will not be a time for employees to hold their opinions back. Duke Energy employees and employees of other companies have been complaining about cash balance conversions for some time. The companies have made it plain that they do not want to hear it. It is time to let someone know who wants to hear it AND has the authority to DO something about it!
We definitely did not receive the bum's rush at the meeting. The meeting was scheduled to conclude at 4 PM. A press briefing was to be held on the steps of the Department of Labor at that time. The Treasury officials also had another meeting scheduled at 4 PM. Mr. Iwry wanted to be sure that all of our concerns were covered, so he called and postponed his 4 PM meeting. The other meeting was on hold until our meeting concluded. Ms. Kramerich knew the press had gathered on the steps at 4 PM, and had them brought to a conference room so they would be more comfortable. When the meeting concluded, we left the agencies with a volume of material. Material that the companies would have NEVER voluntarily provided.
The large conference room was packed with reporters. In addition to employee comments, Ms. Kramerich also answered questions for the press.
The employees who did not have planes to catch, were invited to the Pension Rights Center. It was our pleasure to meet the people there. They also treated us to a fine dinner.
Earlier that morning, all the employees had a meeting at the American Association of Retired Persons. We had a full day of countering the propaganda of the large employers and their front organizations, APPWP and ERIC.
The links below are to media coverage of the meeting:
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - 7/16/2000
The link at the bottom is to an article about Duke Energy's complaining about having to comply with a national pipeline code.
Have you noticed that Duke likes to be completely free of all rules, regulations, and laws? Laws really cramp Duke's style. Rick Priory said at the stockholder's meeting that the reason for buying foreign companies was to be free from the regulations of the United States government. U. S. laws really get into the way when it comes to how Duke treats the employees as well. One method of dealing with annoying laws is to ignore them. That works great - until pesky employees start filing age discrimination charges and visiting Washington to "spill the beans" about the cash balance plan.
Duke Energy Employee Advocate - 7/13/2000
Duke Energy has formulated an Asbestos Policy Statement. Well, great! Only it's about thirty years too late for many deceased asbestosis victims. The policy was approved on 6/15/2000. But Duke does not want to rush things; it will be effective 1/1/2001.
Duke has stonewalled, denied responsibility, and generally tried everything to deprive asbestosis victims a just settlement. Years ago some retired asbestosis victims were approved for health related payments from Duke Energy. Several times, Duke just stopped making the payments!
Current retirees with asbestosis have reported that all companies have settled with them EXCEPT Duke Energy.
If one manages to wrangle an asbestosis settlement out of Duke, the really hard part begins - actually getting any of the money.
Many former Duke employees have suffered untimely deaths due to asbestosis from exposure to asbestos. Next year Duke will have an asbestos policy.