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Retirees - 1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Retirees - Page 6

"(Greenspan is) one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington." – Sen. Harry Reid

Duke Energy Retirees Take an Insurance Hit

Employee Advocate - – November 22, 2007

Just because you retire from Duke Energy with certain insurance benefits spelled out, does not mean that you will actually receive them. “Lifetime, fully paid” health insurance continues to cost retirees more and more. Some will lose the insurance completely at age 65. One Duke retiree wrote that his drug insurance premiums will more than double next year. Retiree insurance has gone from fully paid for life, to premiums charged, to premiums that double overnight!

For years, Duke Energy touted the benefits package as an excuse not to pay the very top wages in the industry. But after working thirty or more years, the retirees are not receiving the deferred compensation that they have earned. Employees have had their pockets picked when they first came to work and they have had their pockets picked again when they retired.

What if all the ratepayers used Duke’s methods in paying their obligations? “We know that we promised to pay for the electricity used, but we have changed our minds. We are now only going to pay for half of it.”

How would Duke Energy like it if ratepayers said “Give us all the electricity we want for thirty years. Then we will pay whatever amount we feel like, if anything?”

Orthodontic Insurance – Use It or Lose It

SBC Retirees' Lawsuit Reinstated

Employee Advocate – – May 26, 2005

Two SBC Communications retirees can pursue a class action lawsuit on behalf of certain SBC early retirees, according to the representing law firm: Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll. On May 17, 2005, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the retirees. The lawsuit may affect over 6,000 people.

The covered retirees accepted an "enhanced grandfathered benefit," as provided for in the SBC pension plan. This benefit would allow some employees to escape the ravages of the cash balance pension conversion. Their pensions would be calculated as if under the old defined benefit plan.

As often happens, the retirees did not get exactly what they were promised. Do you think the retirees received more than promise or less? The fact that they are suing is a good tip off that they received less than the promised amount. If there is any discrepancy in what was promised and what is received, employees will always get less. Only CEO’s get more than what is promised. Sometimes a corporation will add free years of service to a CEO’s pension to swell his take.

Plaintiffs alleged that they received less under the "enhanced grandfathered benefit" than those retiring under the ordinary "grandfathered benefit" Plan provision. They further alleged that this action contradicts the plain language of the Plan.

Marc Machiz, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said "The Court's decision is a terrific victory for a large group of early retirees who we believe were shortchanged in their total pension distributions by approximately $30 million dollars. This decision reinstates the Complaint and sends it back to the trial court. There we expect to be able to prove that the Plan treated these early retirees less favorably than regular retirees in violation of their Pension Plan. We'll be looking for the full story of how that discrimination came about."

The retirees were also represented by Eli Gottesdiener and Marka Peterson.

Wire services reported good news for 20,000 current and former Enron employees. They stand to get back $69 million in retirement plans losses. U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon gave final approval to the settlement on Tuesday. Proceeds from two Enron insurance policies will fund the settlement.

Another Retiree Loses a Benefit

Employee Advocate – – April 21, 2005

It is an everyday occurrence to hear of some retiree losing a benefit that had been promised to him. The Associated Press reported another such loss that apparently affects only one employee.

Louise Barney was granted free housing as a retirement benefit by the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority board. She accepted the retirement benefit that she had earned and has been living in the apartment since 1975. Ms. Barney is now 95.

For some reason, employers do not like to see employees benefit from any deal – even if the employer made the deal! Officials now claim that the agency that oversees federally subsidized housing in the area doesn't have the power to make such agreements. They claim that she should have been paying $300 a month for the last 30 years and want Ms. Barney evicted.

Housing authority officials said they're "not physically going to throw anybody out."

In that case, she can stay in her apartment as long as she likes. At least one retiree in the United States should get the retirement benefits that were promised to her.

Sue or Die

Employee Advocate – – April 12, 2005

Nationwide, retirees continue to lose benefits that they have worked for all their lives. Some have lost half of their pensions, due to cash balance conversions. Many are paying premiums for health insurance that has already been fully paid with 30 years of labor. Some will lose all of their health benefits when they turn 65.

Many, maybe most, will not realize what is happening until it is too late. Some retirees have been intimidated by their employers for 30 or more years. Unbelievably, some are still afraid to question anything, even after they have retired!

For a lot of retirees it will come down to the fact that they must sue the corporation for what it owes them or die because of their failure to take action.

That is not an exaggeration. Insufficient funds to live on and poor health care will kill as surely as a bullet will. The only difference is that one dies more slowly from substandard living conditions and lack of medical care.

The sad part is that many retirees have earned decent pensions and lifetime health care. They earned it, but will never collect it. Corporations have used every maneuver possible to ensure that retirees never receive their deferred compensation.

Slowly, some retirees are realizing that they muse sue or die before their time. Over 300 Caterpillar retirees met Saturday in Creve Coeur to discuss a health benefits lawsuit, according to The Peoria Journal Star. About 200 retirees met in Decatur to discuss a lawsuit. More retiree are expected to come to a meeting on Wednesday to hear attorney Roger McClow speak in East Peoria. Mr. McClow also represents over 2,000 CNH Inc. retirees, who are pursuing legal action to collect their promised benefits.

The workers claim that Caterpillar promised them lifetime health benefits, but failed to deliver.

Retiree Chauncey Redfield said "It was wrong from the start because they promised me in '88 that when I retired . . . that I would never pay. I gave them 33 years of faithful service for them to rip me apart when (I) retire."

Caterpillar spokesman Ben Cordani said the company declined to comment on a potential lawsuit. Some things are just too hot for even the corporate spin doctors to touch.

Retiree Tom Malcom said "I don't think they believe in God, because otherwise, they wouldn't treat people this way."

Mr. Malcom showed a 1983 retirement benefits guide that stated:

"If you retire and are eligible for immediate receipt of a pension (within at least 5 years of credited service) under Non-Contributory Pension Plan, you will be eligible for the Retired Medical Benefit Plan, continued at no cost."

Employees can generally produce a ponderous of evidence that corporations promised them fully-paid, lifetime healthcare for 30 years of service.

How do corporations get out of paying the deferred compensation?

They use semantics, fine print, hidden documents, and gray areas of the law to avoid payment for labor received from employees. As long as corporations are never challenged, they will keep the employees’ money and come back for even more.

GM Takes Retirees for a Ride

GM Takes Retirees for a Ride

Employee Advocate – – October 26, 2004

It is bad enough when a corporation cuts employees’ future benefits. It is worse when benefits that have already been earned are taken away. What separates taking benefits that have been earned from outright theft?

The lowest of corporate scum take away benefits that retirees have earned. Retiree benefits are not free. Workers pay for them by toiling for 30 or 40 years. The workers receive less pay because the benefits are considered to be part of the salary - deferred compensation.

Retirees have paid for the benefits and are entitled to collect them, but they do not always get them. The millions of dollars lavished on executives must come from somewhere. Employee and retiree benefits are always the first place corporations look for funds to raid.

Retirees are protesting the cut of benefits by General Motors, according to The Detroit News. Some retirees of other corporations are banding together to fight the latest examples of corporate greed. Retirees of some corporations are still asleep. Some retirees are comatose!

Forman Gerald McKouen retired from GM in 1980 at the age of 60. He left GM with a written promise of cost-free health care insurance and a pension. What was the cost? 40 years of labor.

In 1985, GM announced it reserved the right to amend, change or terminate the retirement plans and programs. This revelation was 45 years too late to do Mr. McKouen any good. GM had already collected full payment from him for benefits that he may never receive.

The already paid health insurance suddenly had monthly premiums and co-payments attached for salaried retirees. GM was, in effect, selling the retirees something that had already been paid in full. Why were the hourly retirees not subjected to the double charge? They had union contracts protecting their benefits!

Mr. McKouen is now 83. He said “I want what I was promised…While we were working they treated us great, but once we walked out the door, it was ‘the heck with you.’ ”

On retiree benefits, GM Chief Financial Officer John DeVine told analysts “They’re No. 1 on our hit parade.”

The translation is: “At GM retirees are number one on the hit list!”

Employees who accept management positions often feel that they have joined the elite ruling class. In reality, they often are joining the ranks of the Judas lambs. The Judas lamb leads the other lambs to their slaughter. The Judas lamb is sparred, to lead even more lambs to slaughter.

What happens when the Judas lamb has outlived his usefulness? He will find that his idea of being in the ruling class was a delusion. The Judas lamb made a useful corporate tool. Now he will make mutton just like the rest. And, to make things easier, he already knows the way to the slaughter gate. So, trot on down and reap your just deserts!

John Fox, 70, took early retirement in 1987 at age 53. He said “Why are they taking it all out of salaried employees? They ought to take it out of all employees.”

Not so! Those who accepted salaried positions have received their thirty pieces of silver; they get no more. After they have retired, it is a little late to realize what has actually been given up. Most employees in this role probably did not have a clue of what they were getting into. But that changes nothing.

One good thing for employees is that there was no cash balance pension conversion. Only employees hired after 2001 go into these sorry plans. But it is not unethical to offer these plans to new hires. They are free to take them or refuse employment. When plans are converted, employees often lose pension money that has already been earned.

Web site is based in Alabama. One retiree posted “GM’s management’s word is worthless.” It is a sad commentary but many corporations have traded their honor for the employees’ benefits.

In a 1988 class-action lawsuit, Lead plaintiff Robert Sprague won the first two rounds. But the ruling was overturned by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

What about Duke Energy? A Duke retiree wrote to say his medical premiums will increase by 63 percent in one whack! He too will be paying again for what has already been fully paid.

The laws can change to protect what employees have already earned. That will only happen when the current corporate-catering crowd is voted out of office!

Retirees -Time to Speak Up

Andy Lang Teaches

Employee Advocate – – October 25, 2004

Retired actuary Andy Lang will be teaching at Widener University:

Mystery Guest Speaker…revealed at last!

What: Saving Capitalism & Democracy by Fixing Social Security & Medical Care

When: Wednesday, October 27, 2004, Noon to 1:00PM

Where: The Academy for Learning in Retirement, Widener University sponsored
              825 Springdale Drive, Exton, PA 19341
              Debra Cunningham Coordinator 484-713-0088

Who: Andy Lang, Mystery Guest 610-738-9678

Cost: FREE to seniors. Everyone else it cost nothing. Press welcome.

Andy Lang will be telling you how to save the world in less than one hour. No, it isn't getting rid of President Bush…although you can see it from there.

Andy is an economic and actuarial Girly-Man--a retired pension and health care consulting actuary, who believes that budget deficits when they are as large as they are, are very important. A news and Internet junkie, self-taught in economics, he was a Principal for the largest international management-consulting firm in the world specializing in human resources, Towers Perrin. He left in 1990 to try and save first private pensions, then Social Security, Medicare, medical care and finally added the corporate crooks at Enron, WorldCom. Global Crossing, RiteAid, etc, etc.,etc. and with them capitalism and democracy too. A full bio is attached.

Social Security alone is one of the top 2-3 issues of every developed nation in the world today--yet, contrary to popular wisdom, it is easy to fix.

And the methods used to fix it are also necessary if we are ever to have a decent affordable health care system.

It doesn't have anything to do with the benefits nor should it. No it's not privatization; it's the opposite of privatization. It's all about the way we finance them and the utter lack of legal protections. It is about making them real defined benefit plans, instead of the Potemkin Village ones they are now.

And the fixes have some nice ancillary benefits too--like improving the economy, mitigating stock market volatility, helping prevent booms and bubbles and best of all, bringing a little democracy to capitalism so that people can place a check on all that accounting, Wall Street and corporate malfeasance you may have heard about.

Andy will be teaching a 10-class course on this at the Academy beginning the week of January 31, 2005, the next semester for The Academy. Look for details on the Bulletin board, or, or on our Academy Newsletter. Don't miss it!

Halliburton Sues Retirees!

Employee Advocate – – August 3, 2004

When you think of scum of the earth companies, which ones come to mind? Not to far behind Enron will probably come Halliburton. This company has pulled almost too many boners for one to count. Halliburton is dodging bullets like it, well, like it was in Iraq.

Halliburton has been charged with exposing employees to asbestos, bilking the taxpayers, serving filthy food to American troops, influence buying, and having a stupid name. How is the company able to blithely continue on its merry way? It probably does not hurt that V. P. Dick Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton. Cheney is doing as good of a job as V. P. as he did as Halliburton's CEO - which is not too good.

A French court is considering indicting Dick Cheney on charges of bribery, money-laundering and misuse of corporate assets. When a fellow senator wanted an investigation of Halliburton, Cheney gave him a few choice curse words – in the Senate!

What new low can Halliburton achieve? What can it do for an encore? Get this, according to the Houston Chronicle, Halliburton is suing its retirees!

What crime did the retirees commit? It seem that they had the unmitigated gall to write a letter to Halliburton, complaining about their health care benefits being revoked! What’s next? Will Dick Cheney cuss them out too?

Not everyone loses benefits at Halliburton. When Cheney left for Washington, he was given early-retirement benefits, which he had not earned. You have heard this story before. Employees earn retirement and health benefits, but never get them. Executives do not earn the benefits, but get them anyway. If employees question it, they get sued. If a senator wants an investigation, he gets verbally abused.

You may not believe this, but some employees are said to be developing “bad attitudes.” I know it’s shocking – “bad attitudes.” And after all the corporations have done to, err, for them. Is this a case of biting the hand that picks your pocket?

There is some good news to this story. The three retirees getting sued are former executives. You see, executives are in the click only as long as they continue to bow, scrape, and tout the company line. Should they develop a “bad attitude,” they may get sued for it.

You will remember that the Bush administration was pushing through the idea of cutting out retirees’ health insurance and dumping them on Medicare. Duke Energy was ahead of the take away curve on this. It took health benefits from future retirees in 1999.

One of the retirees who questioned the loss of benefits was Paul Bryant, former Halliburton vice president of human resources. Who better to know when retirees are getting taken for a ride?

America’s Sleeping Giants Awaken

Bull in a China Shop

Medicare Bill Hurting Retirees

Employee Advocate – – February 27, 2004

Retirees are already losing benefits because of the Bush-promoted Medicare bill, according to Ellen E. Schultz and Theo Francis provided of The Wall Street Journal. U.S. Steel Retirees are losing benefits because the company is slashing future obligations for retiree health benefits. Obligation were reduced by $450 million for 2003. The Medicare prescription-drug bill was cited as a compelling reason for the benefit reduction.

Delphi has previously disclosed that its health-plan obligations are may fall by $500 million this year, due to the Medicare prescription-drug law.

U.S. Steel reduced benefits even more by capping the company's annual spending for the retiree medical program, starting in 2007. Increased Co-payments and premiums will cost retirees an extra $136 million.

Corporations will get subsidies because of the Medicare bill. Some corporation will cut retiree benefits because of the bill. The budget deficit will soar because of the bill. Any benefit to retirees from this bill is debatable.

How did a bill designed to help retirees end up as such a convoluted mess? The bill was never intended to benefit retirees. It was designed to benefit corporations and insurance companies. It was designed to appear to help retirees, in a desperate attempt to give the Bush administration a political boost. How does that seem to be working out?

The Ethics Panel Stirs

America’s Sleeping Giants Awaken

Employee Advocate – – January 12, 2004

Employees of major corporations are growing increasingly weary of the endless bait and switch routines. Those who do not pay attention will not know what hit them until they retire. Then they will notice that their pension checks are smaller that what they were promised. Their “free” medical insurance will have premiums attached. These premiums may increase each year. Some will find that at age 65 – they have zero insurance! They will be totally dependant upon whatever is left in the Medicare program, if anything.

Caroline Humer reported for Reuters that former IBM employee, Sandy Anderson, has been bait as switched enough. He is ready to take legal action against International Business Machines for breaching its promise of free health care. Of course, the promised health care was never free. When someone works thirty years to obtains a specifically promised benefit, the benefit is not free. The benefit is deferred compensation.

Corporations can pay employees now or they can pay them later. If they opt to pay later, employees still expect to get what was offered. “Oh by the way, we changed our minds,” is not going to cut it.

Mr. Anderson said “I staunchly believe, as an IBM manager, that I got up and told people that they could rely on this, and so this is a violation of the social contract.”

Here is a man, who not only does not like to get cheated, but does not appreciate the company making a liar out of him. Granted, some in management feel that lying to subordinates is just another job requirement. But not everyone has sacrificed their soul on the corporate alter.

Lee Conrad, of Alliance@IBM-Communications Workers of America, said “Retirees are very upset around the country. For many of them this is drastically cutting into their pension check.”

Some retirees face the worst of all possible worlds. Their pensions have been reduce by cash balance plan conversions, AND medical premiums keep doubling! These retirees are being deprived of what they have already earned through years of labor.

As a former manager, with 36 years of service, Mr. Anderson qualifies as a lifer. When a corporation’s lifers can no longer stomach its lack of ethics, the corporation has problems. Mr. Anderson concedes that he has never done anything like this before.

Employees and retirees are America’s sleeping giants. Enough lies will awaken them; more lies will never put them back to sleep. Firms are finding that once employees are awakened, and engage the injustice, they never back off.

Mr. Anderson operates a Website on behalf of the groups 600-plus members:

Retirees -Time to Speak Up

Retirees -Time to Speak Up

Employee Advocate – – October 3, 2003

Below is a message received:

It's time for all the Duke retirees to speak out. Continued erosion of stock prices, continued large increases in medical premiums and most of all speak up about the cash balance plan.

Bombard the company with e-mails and letters and become a voice to contend with, not just some folks who go to retiree meetings and hear the propaganda about how great it is to be a powerful volunteer.

Be a powerful spokesperson for what's fair and right !! Organized retirees have won some victories lately and maybe Duke needs a dose of the same. I suppose there's no way to have a recall vote on Priory, but it would be a good thing !!

Dumping the Retirees

Dumping the Retirees

Employee Advocate – - September 28, 2003

Lucent Technologies is playing the latest corporate game “Dump the Retirees,” according to Former CEO Henry Schacht is making a whirlwind tour through eight cities, in an attempt to appease the outraged retirees.

The retirees are represented by the Lucent Retirees Organization (LRO). Retirees who do not organize are at the mercy of the whims of greedy CEO’s. Most retirees have not bothered to organize. For that matter, most employees are drifting along without representation. Those who put their trust in a CEO will get what they deserve in the end. But what they get will not likely be what they were promised.

Lucent announced that it will no longer pay subsidies to dependents of certain former management workers who retired on or after March 1, 1990. Some feel that once they reach the ranks of management that they are in the inner circle and will be protected. The only inner circle is the board of directors. Directors use their positions to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. They have no qualms about sacrificing one of their own if it means an extra buck. So, retirees need not feel too secure just because they were once in management. Lower management serves an useful function for the corporate elite. They shield the elitists from too much contact with the masses. Their function is much like that of a condom. When those in lower management have outlived their usefulness, they often suffer the same fate as a used condom. Down the tubes they go.

Lucent also eliminated dental coverage and some Medicare expenses for management retirees and their dependents. 50,000 retirees are wondering what hit them.

LRO president Ken Raschke said “At the same time Lucent has shrunk to 25 percent of its former size, have executive salaries and perks been reduced proportionately by 25 percent? The answer is no. Lucent executives continue to draw multi-million-dollar salaries, retention bonuses and pensions -- all on the backs of its retirees, without whom there would be no Lucent.”

LRO may take legal action against Lucent. Lawsuits are the only thing that most corporations understand. They must like them, because they keep asking for them.

All the former CEO can offer retirees is the one commodity that corporations have no shortage of – rhetoric. If empty words save facing a megabuck lawsuit, Lucent is way ahead of the game.

Retirees' Medical Coverage Disappears

Retirees' Medical Coverage Disappears

Employee Advocate – - June 27, 2003

Pillowtex is continuing its sorry saga, according to The Charlotte Observer. It took away the retiree’s medical coverage.

After working for 30 or 40 years for certain benefits one might think that they would be secure. But people continue to lose benefits – even after they have retired.

These benefit games will stop only when the American people demand it. Pledge that you will not vote for any politician who does support guaranteeing the benefits promised to workers.

Lame Excuses for Pensions and Health Care

Lame Excuses for Pensions and Health Care

Employee Advocate - June 16, 2003

Politicians that want to cater to corporations, but do not want it to be too obvious, all use the same tactics. The lawmakers who refuse to pass meaningful pension legislation, say that they are afraid companies will drop out of their pension plans, if laws are passed.

Senators are now using the same sad refrain concerning retiree drug plans, according to the New York Times. It is time to replace most of the crowd in Washington.

If we had decent politicians in office, they would:

  1. Pass legislation guaranteeing retirees the health and pension benefits that they were promised.

  2. If any CEO tried to get cute and just drop out, they would pass a law to nail him to the wall.

It is just that simple. The weak-kneed crowd in Washington now, feel that they must bow and scrape to the CEO’s to keep the donations and lobbyist perks rolling in.

Many retirees have formed groups to look out after their own benefits. All retirees should form such groups. If retirees keep depending upon the fair-mindedness of CEO’s, they may end up in the dumpster. Then it will be too late.

The main leverage that retirees have is the same one that employees have: the voting booth. Until American workers start electing officials that will vote for laws in their behalf, expect more of the same.

Another election will soon roll around; don’t throw your vote away.

AT&T Retirees Protecting Benefits

Retirees - Page 5