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Jan., Feb.


Pre-1999 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

News - April 2000

"The American Labor Movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion
to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America." - John F. Kennedy

Retirees Seek Fund Assurance
The Arizona Republic - 4/30/2000

US West retirees packed a hearing room Wednesday to ask the Arizona Corporation Commission to make preservation of their retirement fund and benefit plans a condition of approving the pending merger of their former employer and Qwest Communications International.

It was the first public-comment session in Arizona about the proposed $45 billion merger.

The 4,500 US West retirees living in Arizona are concerned that Qwest will raid the $3.3 billion surplus in the pension fund to pay for severance packages for executives displaced by the merger. They also worry it will be used for retirement benefits for Qwest employees who don't have a pension plan.

"We fear the pension fund we helped build over the years is at great risk," said Phil Graham, chairman of the Telephone Retiree Association of Arizona. 'We have no one to turn to for help except this commission.'

"Our useful life has been spent, and they want to get rid of us,' Wheeler said. 'But we've been paying for this system for 90 years and we deserve something better."

These employees fear losing their pension after the merger. Duke Energy did not leave anything to chance. They helped themselves to our pension BEFORE the merger with Pan Energy!

Wherever there is a large amount of money, the criminal element will be attracted, be it casinos or pension funds. The pension funds in the United States grew, and then came the actuarial firm reps wearing their checkered suits and straw hats. But, they could not run the con alone; it also took greedy firms willing to swallow the bait.

Workers Return E-mail Fire
The Wall Street Journal - 4/26/2000

A desktop revolt is brewing. Many companies may assume they have bulletproof authority to ban all personal use of office computers or to discipline workers for sending e-mail that management considers inappropriate.

And employees certainly haven't made much headway with invasion-of-privacy claims. The nation's courts have basically held that since employers own the computers, they can do whatever they want with them. Last year, for example, a Texas court sided with Microsoft Corp. against an ex-employee who claimed the company had 'broken into' his personal-computer files at work.

But now, some office rebels are beginning to chip away at employers' power over their own computer systems by dusting off the National Labor Relations Act, a Depression-era law passed when the rotary telephone was the last word in desktop technology. The latest wave of activism doesn't spring from the factory floor, but rather from the cubicles of programmers and engineers on the electronic frontier.

In the first such case, the National Labor Relations Board reversed the firing of an Ohio computer programmer -- a 'wise guy,' in the words of the presiding judge -- who disparaged a new company vacation plan via e-mail. In a second, brought by a Florida engineer, Pratt & Whitney was forced to back off a blanket policy barring use of e-mail for nonbusiness purposes.

The Leinweber case represented the NLRB's first ruling that the use of e-mail deserved government protection -- even though Timekeeping Systems had no union, and Leinweber wasn't trying to start one.

Still, the judge was puzzled by the programmer. "Leinweber is, I concede, a rather unusual person, perhaps one of the new breed of cyberspace pioneers,' he wrote in his 1996 decision. 'And at the same time -- how else can I say it -- a bit of a wise guy."

About two years after his dismissal, the NLRB ordered that Leinweber be given back pay, which he accepted, and his old job back, which he refused. Timekeeping Systems' Markwitz declines to discuss the case, except to call it "nasty" and "traumatic." Though vindicated, Leinweber says, "I'm totally gun-shy about e-mail."

This is another area that employers have had everything their way for too long. It looks like some much needed changes are taking place.

Increase in Harassment Cases
The Charlotte Observer - 4/28/2000

As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission turns 35 years old this year, Chairwoman Ida Castro is troubled.

The number of racial, national origin and sexual harassment charges filed with the agency has more than quadrupled between the '80s and '90s. During the last decade, 100,049 charges were filed, compared with 19,500 charges filed during the '80s, according to the EEOC.

GE Investors Reject Pension Changes
Associated Press - 4/26/2000

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Retired General Electric employees who claim they're forced to live on meager pensions while the company sits on a $24 billion pension fund were unable to alter the corporation's pension plan today.

Carrie J. Biggs-Adams, an NBC editor who spoke on behalf of the union proposal at today's annual shareholder meting, said she was pleased that the proposal gained more support than a year ago, when it received 29 percent support. "We're getting there," Biggs-Adams said.

Karen Friedman, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Pension Rights Center, said GE uses its pension surplus to artificially boost earnings, while some retiree pensions are lower than $400 a month.

"I would say to GE, 'You have a moral obligation to your shareholders and your workers and retirees not just to do the minimum or what you can get away with, but to do what's right. GE should be a light onto corporate America, a leader,' " she said.

The proposal received 33% of the vote. That is a significant percentage, considering that most proposals only get votes in the single digits. The pension issue is getting more publicity on a daily basis.

Pension Choice Nixed
CNBC & The Wall Street Journal - 4/25/2000

April 25 — IBM Corp. shareholders rejected today an employee-driven effort to force the company to offer its traditional pension plan to all workers who want it. The resolution put forward at today’s annual shareholders meeting here had not been expected to pass. But it represented what some see as the first battle over corporate America's move toward cash-balance pension plans, which some say hurt loyal workers who spend their careers at one company.

IBM Shareholders Vote Down Choice
Reuters - 4/25/2000

CLEVELAND, April 25 (Reuters) - Shareholders of International Business Machines Corp. on Tuesday rejected a nonbinding shareholder proposal that would have urged the computer maker to offer all employees the same choice in their pension plans.

The resolution, offered by shareholder employees, was supported by fewer than 30 percent of shareholders voting at IBM's annual meeting here. About 300 million shares were voted in favour of it and more than 755 million voted against it.

The IBM employees have outdone themselves again. To even get the pension resolution on the proxy was a victory over the forces of oppression. A 3% percent vote in favor of the resolution would have been another victory. With a 3% vote, the resolution would appear on next year’s proxy. When you consider that institutions probably own 50% of the stock, and that they usually vote with management, to get nearly 30% of the vote was a notable victory. No matter what the percentage of the vote was, the resolution was non-binding. So the only tangible thing to be gained from the resolution was publicity. They have certainly achieved that! Millions of people across America have lost retirement money due to cash balance conversions. Many of these people still do not realize what has happened to them. With each news article, talk show, and TV show about the issue, more people will have the opportunity to learn what has happened to them and what they can do about it.

IBM Faces Employee Shareholders
CBS MarketWatch - 4/23/2000

ARMONK, NY (CBS.MW) -- What's a corporation to do? You set up employee stock purchase programs, even give some of them options -- and then instead of saying "thank you" and acknowledging that management knows best, they turn around and start acting like they own a piece of the company.

IBM faces a shareholder revolt -- started by employees but now joined by some big institutional backers -- at its annual meeting in Cleveland on Tuesday over the imposition of 'cash balance' pensions rather than the old "defined benefit" plans for most employees.

"We believe that IBM's decision to adopt a so-called cash balance retirement plan and to reduce retirement medical benefits is not only unfair to employees but contrary to shareholders' interests as well," said Proxy Monitor CEO James Heard.

That's the bottom line. While shareholders may be sympathetic, or even supportive, of a company's efforts to compete in the labor marketplace and keep costs down -- it's simply bad business to upset previously loyal current employees and hand the unions a ready-made organizing issue.

Vote May Force Changes to IBM's Pension Plan
L. A. Times - 4/22/2000

ARMONK, N.Y.--International Business Machines Corp. on Tuesday will disclose results of a vote that could repeal changes to its pension plan. The changes had sparked plans for a protest at the annual shareholders meeting.

An employee-led group of shareholders has proposed a resolution that would ensure that all IBM workers get the same pension benefits. Investors will vote on the plan at the meeting in Cleveland. The world's largest computer maker also will unveil a buyback of as much as $3.5 billion of its stock, analysts said.

Investors have been choosing sides on the pension proposal, which is opposed by IBM management. IBM workers, members of Congress and union leaders plan a rally after the meeting.

"Employees will be coming and speaking, telling from the heart why it [the current pension system] is wrong," said Jimmy Leas, an 18-year IBM employee who wrote the proposal.

Even if the resolution doesn't pass, supporters hope to get more than 3% of shareholders' votes. Under Securities and Exchange Commission guidelines, that support would require IBM to put the proposal on the ballot at the annual meeting in 2001.

The proposal is intended to blunt the consequences of a so-called cash-balance pension system that IBM began in July. The plan lets workers accumulate benefits steadily over their careers.

By comparison, employees in IBM's conventional pension plan accrue most of their benefits in the last few years before they stop working.

Duke's Proposed Power Plant Is Deemed Illegal
St. Petersburg Times - 4/21/2000

Apr. 21 (St. Petersburg Times/KRTBN)--TALLAHASSEE, Fla.--In a major victory for the big electric utilities in Florida, the state Supreme Court has pulled the plug on a controversial speculative power plant that would have brought more competition to the state's energy market.

In an unsigned 6-to-1 decision Thursday, the court said that the plant proposed by Duke Energy Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., was illegal under Florida's elaborate laws governing power plants. The ruling overturned an order last year by the Florida Public Service Commission that approved the plant.

Duke Exceeds Profit Expectations
The Charlotte Observer - 4/21/2000

At the meeting, Priory defended Duke’s plan to use plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel, a byproduct of Defense Department weapons programs, as fuel in the Catawba and McGuire nuclear plants, saying it is completely safe. A vote on ending the plan was opposed by 95 percent of the shareholders.

Its supporters included Peter Gill Wylie, the great-grandson of Walker Gill Wylie, a Duke cofounder for whom Lake Wylie is named. Wylie, 53, of East Hampton, N. Y., noted that Duke became the only utility to participate in the program once Virginia Power pulled out this month.

Wylie pledged to sell his shares - inherited from his great-grandfather-if Duke pursues the program. He would not say how many share he holds.

IBM Union Feeling Snub
Poughkeepsie Journal By Craig Wolf - 4/21/2000

Dissident IBMers say a Cleveland hotel where IBM Corp. will hold its annual meeting Tuesday made a big mistake, canceling a meeting room that Alliance@IBM unionists had rented.

The hotel maintains it had already booked the room. IBM won't comment. The union group says it will hold its news conference anyway, 'at or outside the Renaissance hotel.' Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, is listed as one of the speakers.

The glitch, whoever's fault it may be, has done nothing to help the tense relations between the world's largest computer company and a band of employees taking action over cutbacks in benefits, including a controversial cash-balance pension that IBM defends as best for the company's competitiveness.

Some employee stockholders managed to get a proposal on the proxy ballot asking IBM's directors to reconsider the pension and medical changes and restore the old plan as an option.

Alliance@IBM, formed by pro-union IBMers and the Communications Workers of America, rented a room at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel on March 22, reserving it for April 24 and 25, said Lee Conrad, an organizer with the Alliance in Endicott.

Last week a Cleveland CWA contact was told the room was gone.

"We had a signed contract and had talked to them five times over the logistics," Conrad said.

Retirement Rally
IEBAC News Release - 4/21/2000

IBM Employees are converging on Cleveland for IBM's annual shareholder's meeting on Tuesday, April 25 at the Rennaissance Hotel in Cleveland at 10am. One of the main items on the agenda is an employee-sponsored resolution calling on IBM to stop discriminating against older workers, and to reinstate pension and health care coverage to pre-1999 levels. Several large fund owners and advisory services have spoken out in favor of the resolution in recent weeks.

Moving On
Employee Advocate - - April 19, 2000

A survey by Career Network revealed that nearly 60% of workers think they will be in a different job within the next year.

Employees are looking for solid health benefits (73%), excellent retirement (68%), a signing bonus (62%) and flexible hours (56%).

The things that these employees want, Duke does not have. They had them, but threw them away. The site title,, implies that those who log on may be not be 100% satisfied with their current employer. That would explain the high number who expect to have a different job within the next year. But, Duke has advertised that job hoppers are the type of employees that they now want. How well would Duke enjoy a 60% turnover of employees?

A decade ago, there was a Duke employee who was sent out of state for 3 weeks of training. The employee was getting 3 weeks of highly technical training entirely at the expense of Duke. During each class break, this employee was on the phone auctioning himself off to the highest bidding vendor. At the end of the 3 weeks, the employee had his training and a nice job offer. He phoned in his resignation to Duke and never went back! This employee was ahead of his time! Now that is what Duke wants. So, new employees, here is what the company wants: Get all the training that you want and then drop Duke like a hot potato. Duke will stand ready to hire more job hoppers. You will just be giving them what they want.

Bill Lee came to the company with the intentions of only working a few years. If the new pension policy had been in place, he may have indeed left after a few years. The company has been searching ever since for someone to fill his shoes - with no success so far.

$1.15 Billion Class Action Suit
Employee Advocate - - April 19, 2000

Eighteen current and former SBC Communications employees are suing the company for $1.15 billion, according to News Dash. The class action suit accuses SBC of improperly selling over $600 million of employee holdings and investing it in SBC stock.

SBC allegedly did not want the money invested in a competitor.

Has anyone noticed a pattern with pension funds? It seems that companies feel that it is OK to take the employees pension money any way they can. The best excuse Duke Energy could come up with for raiding the pension fund was that everybody else was doing it! You may have noticed another pattern. More employees are demanding that the companies answer to federal courts. $1.15 billion - that's a nice lawsuit.

'Business as Usual' Challenge
CWA Press Release - 4/18/2000

WASHINGTON, April 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Shareholders and employees are challenging the treatment of working people by two of America's biggest corporations -- General Electric and IBM -- at annual meetings next week.

At GE, shareholders in Richmond, Va., on April 25 will be looking at whether GE's strategy for growth is "globalization gone wrong," specifically looking at the company's tactic of shifting jobs from country to country to evade labor and environmental standards.

Also on the agenda: why GE maintains a hugely overfunded pension plan that feeds the company's bottom line, rather than providing adequate pensions for the workers who helped earn record profits of $10.7 billion last year.

IBM Corp.'s broken promises are topic A at the April 24 meeting in Cleveland, where shareholders will consider a resolution that restores to employees the pension and retiree medical benefits choice they had before IBM threw out employees' existing pension plan last summer, substituting an inferior cash balance plan. Last fall, a nationwide mobilization by members of Alliance@IBM, an organization of IBM employees seeking a voice in the policies that affect their workplace, careers and future, and other employees forced IBM to restore some of the lost benefits.

At both meetings, workers will hold news conferences, rallies and other events before the meetings to focus attention on these issues and will speak in support of these initiatives inside the shareholder meetings.

"It's important to recognize that more than half of IBM's workforce still doesn't have a choice on the pension plan, or on any other issues that are important to us. IBM's chief executive officer Lou Gerstner has an employment contract with the board of directors. We deserve one too," said Linda Guyer, project manager at IBM's Endicott, N.Y. facility and an Alliance activist.

Both GE and IBM are taking advantage of a "vapor profits" accounting scheme -- using their pension plans to generate paper profits that aren't available for investment. At GE, retirees still earn poverty level pensions despite being part of a plan that is overfunded by nearly $25 billion.

"GE's action yesterday giving retirees their first pension increase in four years is a first step, and an important victory, for the union workers and retirees who have focused public attention on the need for pension fairness at GE," said Edward Fire, president of the 14- union Coordinated Bargaining Committee, bargaining with GE this year for a contract covering 40,000 workers.

GE Boosts Pensioner Pay
CNN - 4/17/2000

NEW YORK (CNNfn) - General Electric on Monday voted to give pensioners their first cost-of-living raise in four years, amid mounting pressure on companies like GE and IBM to initiate pension reform. Both companies are facing shareholder resolutions next week on different issues based on claims that longtime employees are getting short-changed when it comes to their pension benefits. IBM has been on the hot seat for more than a year over its controversial cash-balance pension plan, which can in some cases dramatically cut veteran workers' pensions. Big Blue has been shifting away from a traditional plan, where your benefits accelerate in the last five years of your career, to a cash balance plan, where you accumulate benefits at a steady pace. The two resolutions won support from several camps, including Institutional Shareholder Services, which makes proxy recommendations to large institutional investors of the two companies. "What we're seeing is an employee pension revolution in this country," said Karen Friedman of the Pension Rights Center, a non-profit group based in Washington.

It is interesting that the pension increase was announced just days before the shareholder meeting.

Proxy Monitor Support
Dow Jones - 4/17/2000

NEW YORK -- Proxy Monitor, a voting adviser to institutional investors, threw its support behind a shareholder proposal that seeks to thwart International Business Machines Corp.'s (IBM) plans to switch employees to a cash-based retirement plan.

The employee-led shareholder resolution urges IBM to let employees vote on whether or not to remain in a traditional plan.

Proxy Monitor's opinion follows a similar recommendation issued by another shareholder advisory firm, Institutional Shareholder Services, on Friday.

In a press release Monday, Proxy Monitor called IBM's plan unfair to employees and contrary to shareholder interests. Proxy Monitor said, "In a highly competitive marketplace, it is difficult to see how reducing benefits and creating ill-will will help to attract and retain key employees."

Earlier Monday, a report in The Wall Street Journal said the shareholder proposal faces an uphill battle to win a majority at the company's annual meeting next week. But employees hope the computer giant will cave under the mounting criticism.

IBM had originally proposed switching all employees except those with five years of retirement. Criticism from long-time employees caused the computer company to amend that plan to allow all workers 40 and over, with 10 years of service, to choose between the two plans.

Duke Energy and IBM are almost like two peas in a pod when it comes to pension plans. Duke and IBM were content to deny workers between the ages of 40 and 50 the right to choose between plans. IBM relented and gave their employees at least age 40 a choice of plans. But, they robbed them of retirement health coverage. Duke has not even given employees age 40 a choice and has taken retirement health coverage. Normally age discrimination laws only cover employees over age 40. But, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has exempted Duke employees from the age limit. No matter what you age is, you can file an age discrimination charge against Duke Energy for the cash balance conversion. 1-800-669-4000 is the number to call. The pension you save could be your own.

McCall Support
Poughkeepsie Journal By Craig Wolf - 4/15/2000

ARMONK — IBM Corp. employee shareholders have picked up more support in a quest to ask the board to improve retirement benefits. New York state Comptroller H. Carl McCall will vote the 5.7 million shares owned by the state’s Common Retirement Fund in favor. McCall spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said Friday, "It’s his belief that companies really perform best when they adopt equitable compensation policies that will motivate and reward employees. It’s his feeling that this proposal is designed to help achieve this goal."

Both sides deem passage of the proposition unlikely, but the amount of support will be watched closely as a sign of how the investment community thinks IBM and its CEO, Louis V. Gerstner Jr., are handling the increasingly controversial issue of pensions.

Even though passage of the proposition is unlikely, many victories have already been won. It was a victory to even get the proposition listed on the proxy. The Securities and Exchange Commission forced IBM to allow the pension vote. It is a victory that so many groups have thrown their support behind the IBM employees. Not only that, but if there is a 3% vote for the proposition, it can be voted on again next year. Most important of all, the proposition is a great way to expose the greediness and hypocrisy of the company for the world to see. A price tag cannot be placed on this kind of exposure.

Common Cause Support
Employee Advocate - - 4/14/2000

New York State Common Retirement Fund will vote its 5.7 million shares in favor of the IBM shareholder resolution to restore pension and retirement medical coverage, according to Plan Sponsor.

These are unprecedented events! Do not underestimate their importance. Employees AND stockholders are sick of the corporate good old boy network and its insatiable greed. It does not really matter if the resolution is passed or not. A snowball has started rolling off of a high mountain top. Certain unscrupulous, greedy companies are going to be right in its path.

ISS Supports IBM Employees
CWA Communications Press Release - 4/13/2000

Institutional Shareholder Services is recommending support for a shareholder resolution on the agenda of the April 25 IBM Corp. meeting submitted by IBM employees. Resolution No. 5 calls on the board of directors to give all employees, regardless of age, the same retirement medical insurance and pension choice as employees who are within five years of retirement, basically restoring to employees the pension and retiree health care benefits IBM had committed to provide.

ISS, in their analysis of the resolution, stated "The unveiling of the new plan has resulted in negative public sentiment and poor employee morale which, in our opinion, could have a material adverse effect on the company. We believe these potential adverse effects outweigh any gains that the company may recognize on paper as a result of the new retirement plan."

The ISS endorsement is just the latest in a series of announcements of support for the measure by major investors. Earlier today, the New York State Common Retirement Fund announced it would vote its 5.7 million shares in support of the resolution. Other institutional investors and advisers calling for support of the resolution include Calpers, the California state employee retirement system; the founder and former chairman of the Vanguard Funds; the Oregon state fund and a number of jointly managed Taft-Hartley funds. In a press conference earlier this year Calpers president William Crist told a news conference "Calpers supports the resolution because withdrawing promised benefits for any employee is not only morally reprehensible, it's plain bad business."

Companies such as IBM and Duke Energy Corp. are trying to dance around the benefits issue and ignore it away. But, employees are not falling for it. Shareholders are not buying it either.

IBM Pleads
Poughkeepsie Journal By Craig Wolf - 4/13/2000

ARMONK — Shareholders of IBM Corp. are getting letters pleading for a vote against an employee resolution to beef up pension and retirement medical benefits.

The company sent out a second helping of the proxy materials Tuesday, two weeks before the annual meeting in Cleveland, asking shareholders to nix Proposal No. 5.

Letters like this are rare, said Diane Bratcher, communications director at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which works with shareholders on social issues, though not on governance issues like this one.

"This is a very unusual thing in the experience of the Interfaith Center," she said. "It seems like IBM is pretty anxious about this."

One backer took the letter as a sign of success. 'I think the people at the top of the tree are feeling the vibrations of the people shaking the tree at the bottom,' said Tom Steed, an organizer with Communications Workers of America, one of two labor unions working with IBMers.

IBM seems to be running scared. Sending out proxy materials TWICE indicates that IBM is panicking about the pension resolution. Americans generally hate injustice. Americans generally hate liars, who try to weasel out of their commitments. Many people, who have no monetary interest in the pension issue, are siding with the employees. These allies feel that all employees should get what they have been promised for years.

Little Faith in Social Security
Employee Advocate - - 4/12/2000

Only 1% of respondents under age 41 think that Social Security will be a primary source of retirement income, according to Schwab's OneSourceMutual Interest Council survey.

People realize that they will need more than Social Security to retire on. That is why millions of people have been trying to work the required amount of years to receive an early corporate retirement benefit. Just as many people were getting within reach of this goal, many companies said: “We lied.” Many companies now want the employees to work an extra 10 years for zero extra benefits! Duke Energy said the pension conversion was what young people wanted. But, this survey indicated that almost 75% of people under age 41 do NOT plan to work to 65 and 70% do NOT plan to work to 60! Could it be that the company had zero interest in what young or older employees wanted? Could it be that they just wanted their hands on the pension money?

U. S. Skills Shortage Nears Million Mark
Silcon - 4/11/2000

The high-tech industry has been crying wolf for years. What they mean is they cannot find enough skilled employees who will work CHEAP! They then obtain cheap workers by importing foreigners to work temporary assignments at low wages. Unemployment goes up for Americans as big business gets cheap workers.

Lockheed Machinists Vote To Strike
InfoBeat - 4/10/2000

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ Pickets went up early today at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.'s massive plant after about 2,300 machinists voted to strike over better wages and benefits. Pat Lane, president of Local 776 of the International Association of Machinists, was on the line with about 140 other picketers as workers arrived after midnight at the plant's 10 gates for the third shift, the Lockheed machinist said. Angry that their wages and bonuses from the defense contractor have fallen behind rival Boeing Co. machinists, union members voted 1,392-275 to go on strike against the jet fighter manufacturer. From the crowd of International Association of Machinists members gathered at the Cowtown Coliseum, a cheer arose when Lane announced the vote. 'We're on strike. We did it!' workers yelled as they emerged from the building.

Health care benefits were also a major issue for workers. In February, Lane said Lockheed was asking workers to pay higher premiums for fewer benefits.

Higher premiums for fewer benefits? That sounds vaguely familiar.

Power Co. Pulls Out of Fuel Program
Associated Press - 4/7/2000

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Virginia Power Co. has decided to pull out of a government program to burn plutonium-derived fuel in two of its nuclear power reactors, the utility said Friday.

The decision raises questions about whether the government will be able to dispose of as much as two tons of plutonium a year by burning it as a mixed oxide fuel in civilian power reactors as planned.

"We regret the decision by Virginia power to leave the consortium," the Energy Department said in a statement. But the department said another utility, Duke Power, "remains committed to this important nonproliferation initiative."

A department source, who declined to be named, said there are various options available including finding a new utility to replace Virginia Power or increasing the number of Duke Power reactors in the program.

The government a year ago awarded a $130 million contract to a consortium comprised of the French nuclear fuel manufacturer, Cogema, Virginia Power and Duke Power, for the burning of the MOX fuel in the six reactors, beginning in 2007.

Duke Power will use two reactors at its McGuire plant south of Charlotte, N.C., and two reactors at its Catawba plant near Rock Hill, S.C. Virginia Power had planned to use its two North Anna reactors near Mineral Va.

Duke Power will now be forced to pull out also. Don't we have to always do what North Anna does? North Anna, North Anna, rah, rah, rah! After the age discrimination, retirement cash balance plan fiasco, just how much confidence can be placed in ANY decision made by senior management?

Needing a Change
Employee Advocate - - 4/05/2000

About a third of employees are not committed to their current employer, according to a study by the Hudson Institute and Walker Information. They are looking for ways to get out within the next 48 months.

Only 25% feel committed and plan to stay.

Only 25% are committed and planning on staying with their companies? We are appalled at these statistics! Unless, of course, they happen to be employed by a scheming company who has robbed their pension fund and gutted their health insurance coverage.

Explosion Kills Power Plant Worker
Associated Press - April 5, 2000

(4/5/00) - SPENCER, N.C. (AP) - A worker at a Duke Energy Corp. plant died Tuesday, hours after being severely burned when an electric transformer exploded, authorities said.

The explosion happened shortly after 11 a.m. at Buck Steam Station, one of Duke Power's eight steam plants.

Emergency workers said the employee suffered chemical burns on the hands and face. Utility spokeswoman Guynn Savage said the employee died later at a Winston-Salem hospital. The name was not released.

The explosion occurred as the employee performed routine maintenance on a transformer near the plant's main building, Duke officials said.

There was no interruption of electric power and no damage to the plant itself, Savage said. She said the cause of the explosion was not immediately evident.

Re-examining Cash Balance Conversions
Press & Sun-Bulletin - 4/04/2000

WASHINGTON - Stockholders at IBM and the Carolina Power & Light Co. will son vote on requests to investigate whether age discrimination and benefit reductions occurred when the companies converted traditional pension plans to cash balance hybrids.

Institutional investors and pension experts say the two upcoming votes - April 25 at IBM's meeting in Cleveland and CP&L's May 10 stockholder session at Coker College in Hartsville, S.C. - could be the beginning of a trend.

Corporate executives and boards will be forced to re-examine whether these conversions make long-term business sense, the experts say.

"It's an issue that's going to remain front burner for a while, at least until we hear from the IRS and it clarifies whether conversions to cash balance plans are discriminatory or not," said Paul Yakoboski of the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington.

Tim Smith, executive director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in New York City, predicted the pension issue will generate a groundswell of interest from institutional investors.

Labor unions have been quick to join the campaign on pensions. Jack Barry, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, announced last week that his union's pension funds will vote in favor of the IBM stockholder resolution.

There is no need for institutional investors to be too concerned about gullible companies who made retirement cash balance plan conversions. All they have to do is dump all stock in companies with cash balance pension plans. Then they will not be exposed to unnecessary risk due to the ineptness of the management of those companies. The senior management of those companies can then eat their stock options!

When our own company betrays us through age discrimination, we must find allies where ever we can.

Decrease In Benefits Being Offered
SHRM Press Release - 4/04/2000

Slight decreases in several benefits may be due to employers focusing their resources more effectively," according to SHRM President and CEO Michael R. Losey, SPHR and CAE. "Many employers initially responded to the tight labor market by implementing new and more generous benefits packages in an attempt to boost their recruitment and retention efforts. The slight cut-backs we're seeing this year may be indicative that a number of employers found the new benefits were too costly or not as effective as they had hoped.

New and more generous benefits packages? No, not for Duke Energy employees. Slight decreases? Our losses have been anything but slight; they have been staggering!

Premiums Put Squeeze on Workers
The Dallas Morning News - 4/02/2000
Some companies have been trying to shift insurance costs to employees. Duke Energy has done more than try. They have shifted more cost to us each year. Now we will have no insurance in retirement. People across America are protesting their insurance loss. Cash balance plan losses and health insurance losses are a double whammy for us. Duke will continue to take more and more, as long as we allow it.

So passionate are some American workers about their health benefits that they are willing to strike over changes at a time when such labor actions are becoming increasingly uncommon. Some 17,000 engineers walked off the job at Boeing Co. in Seattle for 40 days this year and thwarted management's plan to pass along 10 percent of the monthly insurance premium.

Indeed, Boeing has tried and failed twice to shift costs to workers. Five years before the engineers strike, Boeing machinists launched a 69-day strike after the company tried to pass along some medical costs to them. "We've had as much evidence as anybody of how important medical benefits are to our employees," says Nancy Cannon, director of employee benefits. Boeing, which spends more than $1 billion annually on health care, says it learned that employee satisfaction often involves health care. After the most recent strike ended, Boeing announced that it would eliminate premium cost-sharing for all employees. "We had so much rhetoric about the contributions, that frankly the cost of removing them and removing that irritant from the work site . . . seemed like a good trade-off," Ms. Cannon says.

"You haven't heard this kind of noise in a while," says Judy Feder, dean of policy studies at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. "In the early '90s, when costs were rising and employers were squeezing employees, it was a recession and employees couldn't do anything about it. Now it's a tight labor market. You may see some changes in behavior because of it." Her assessment paralleled that of health researcher Jon R. Gabel, who described the current climate as the "lull before the storm."

In Omaha, Neb., more than 90 production workers at a macaroni factory walked off their jobs for almost three months after the company proposed eliminating retiree medical benefits. New World Pasta agreed to boost pensions to offset the change.

In Allentown, Pa., about 50 workers at a credit union went on strike for nearly three months, in part because the company wanted to increase workers' medical deductibles to $300 from $100. The company retracted that demand when the strike ended last week.

These people got their health coverage back because they demanded it. Sit silently by, and Duke will take MORE!

Bridging Benefit Gaps
The Dallas Morning News 4/02/2000

Individuals with the richest health insurance benefits typically belong to labor unions.

Thousands of retirees have sued their former employers, saying officials reneged on earlier promises to provide them health benefits for life.

It is strange how that works, is it not? The people with a union negotiating for them end up with more that those who just trust in the good will of their employers. It is not really that strange. Just what else would you expect?

It has come down to this. Duke will only keep their agreements, if legally forced to do so. If you have resolved to take some action, do NOT put it off!

News - March 2000