Retirees Push For Bell Atlantic Proxy Proposal
by Ed Ward
To this end, Ed Ward, Bill Jones and Joe Ristuccia have had numerous telephone conversations relevant to a Bell Atlantic proxy proposal, with Michael Calabrese, a noted Washington D.C. based Attorney with considerable experience in this area. Bell Atlantic has established November 18, 1997 as the deadline for the receipt of all proxy proposals. Mike Calabrese suggests we file our proposal about November 1, 1997 and we should receive a response from B/A within 30-45 days after the deadline date. Should our proposal be rejected, ANR plans to file an appeal through proper legal channels. We will keep all members apprised of the status of this sizable effort. Should we be successful in this important venture, you will be mailed an authorization form assigning your stock voting rights, for this proxy only, when the Association presents this proposal at the Spring 1998 Bell Atlantic Annual Meeting.
No doubt, as we proceed further on this proxy proposal, we will need your help to encourage other shareholders to vote for our proposal.
1998 Bell Atlantic PROXY
On behalf of 165,000 "new" Bell Atlantic retirees, the undersigned Board Members of the association of NYNEX Retirees do support a 1998 proxy proposal effort to make amendment to the bylaws of Bell Atlantic Corporation.
by Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II
Much has been written over the last decade about the growing issue of job security. Corporate profits and the stock market have soared over the last decade, yet employees' real wages and benefits have been flat or have even declined.
The same phenomenon has occurred in the area of pensions. With longer life expectancies, coupled with rising health and nursing care costs, anyone who retirees on a pension with a fixed income faces the challenge of maintaining a reasonable standard of living. That is why it is outrageous that Congress, led by a new Republican majority, has begun an assault on basic government and private pension plans and programs that protect the standard of living of retirees throughout the nation.
Any retiree who sees the cost of food, prescription drugs, and other necessities relentlessly rising knows that any Social Security COLA increase is less than the actual cost of living is nothing more than a real cut in Social Security benefits.
As many Members of Congress sought legislation that essentially amounted to an assault on retirement income (elimination of Social Security COLA's), I was proud to lead the effort in the House of Representatives to block this effort. As such, I organized a large group of lawmakers writing letters to the President and House budget leaders strongly opposing any Social Security COLA cut. I also co-sponsored a resolution -- which was approved by the House -- expressing the sense of the House that it will not tamper with Social Security benefit payments.
But the most outrageous assault on workers' pensions was the attempt in the last Congress to allow corporations to raid worker's pension plans for tens of billions of dollars, solely to prop up corporate profits. We first saw this phenomenon in the 1980's, when countless companies raided pension funds for billions of dollars nationally, to prop up stock prices and to finance leveraged buyouts and corporate takeovers. These buyouts and takeovers led to tremendous corporate downsizing, job cuts, and a precipitous drop in the value of pension funds.
In response, Congress enacted tough penalties to discourage companies from raiding pension funds. These laws worked; the pension raids stopped and pension funds returned to health. However, two years ago, business interests tried to roll back the clock on these tough pension protection rules, by passing legislation to dramatically lower the financial penalties for corporations which raid their pension funds. If it had not been for the strong opposition from Democrats in Congress and a Presidential veto, these business interests would have had their way.
Instead, we were able to preserve pension fund protections in our labor laws. We need to continue this fight that your retiree organization and others like it have begun. Corporations should understand that pension funds are not a piggy bank, that we will never allow them to come to Washington and roll back critical pension protections. Corporations, enjoying record profits, should fully fund pension plans, provide full inflation adjustments and maintain health benefits in the face of inflationary cost increases.
In conclusion, retirees have spent a lifetime earning their private pension benefits, and paying into the Social Security fund. Over the last 30 years, we have made great strides in developing pension and health care protections - both for private and federal plans. In the face of pressures for greater corporate profits and a balanced federal budget, we must remain vigilant that these vital protections are maintained and enhanced. I applaud grassroots efforts by groups such as the Association of NYNEX Retirees to raise retiree awareness of these issues and to put legislators and corporations on notice. The goal is simple: every American deserves a financially secure retirement.
NYNEX "Backgrounder" Laughable
by Eileen Lawrence
NYNEX: Retirement benefits 19% better than competitors.
Association: This is a current comparison, for active employees, and it ignores long-term retirees, many of whom are in financial need, as well as all other retirees who are caught in this deteriorating situation. Further, it ignores the many companies who continue to provide ad hoc and COLA increases.
NYNEX: We offer "Generous" retiree benefits
Association: Life insurance decreases 10% per year starting at age 65 and is capped at age 71 at 50% of salary at retirement. Inconsistencies in administering concession telephone service and death benefit; no 401K for retirees (as alluded to); stock owned by retirees was purchased by retirees - not a gift as Company claimed.
NYNEX: For Health care - NYNEX pays virtually 100% for retirees.
Association: Medicare is the primary carrier for retirees age 65-plus; NYNEX rarely picks up more than Medicare pays. NYNEX reneged on payment of Part B premium. Retirees under age 65 are paying at the same rate as active employees. The "Cafeteria Plan" was scrapped; individuals & couples are subsidizing families. Some retirees experienced increases of 125% in 1997 over 1996 for their health care plan.
NYNEX: Changing market place; pension plan is not over-funded; need to protect future retirees' benefits.
Association: Changing market argument applies to future retirees and ignores past commitments. Lack of ad hoc increases has introduced insecurity to the retiree body, which undermines the Company position of "...a safe and secure plan...." The $1.2 billion over-funding figure comes from the Company's own annual report and is not debatable.
NYNEX: Cannot risk that the Plan will become under-funded.
Association: What Risk? Without any NYNEX contributions, the funds increased $4.2 Billion since 1990. If they are seriously concerned about under-funding, why are they not contributing?
Ed Ward's outstanding rebuttal was copied to the NYNEX Board of Directors, the regional regulatory bodies, the Justice Dept. Telephone Task force, Soloman Brothers and the Dept. of Labor. We will keep you apprised of its impact.
Evolution Before Your Eyes
Thanks to our continued growth and evolution, the Association newsletter has undergone some changes. We present to you the BellTel Retiree with more information, a new look, photos and guest commentary opportunities. We are also accepting advertising to help defray the cost of production and mailing. If you want to Effectively reach over 20,000 NYNEX retirees at home, this publication will be the means to do so. For information including rates, specifications and deadlines. Contact Sales Rep: Jim Falborn at 212 260-1731.
The Association Begins Home Page on the Web
by Mike Kucklinca
The Association has been working closely with Signal Advertising's Dave Zahn (son of Hank Zahn) to build a state-of-the-art web site for instantaneous and inexpensive communications with members. It also allows new retirees, in and out of the Bell System to reach us, gives access to government leaders or other retiree groups interested in our issues, an opportunity to reach us.
Though only a relatively small percentage of the U.S. population is now on-line, great numbers of people will have access in the near future. If not through a regular computer terminal, by some hybrid means that is becoming more available. New technologies can even allow you to go on-line through your television. The Association wants to be on the leading edge of this new means of communication, putting us in instant contact with all members that are on-line.
To begin, we want to start building our on-line address database by asking all on-line users to call us after November 1, 1997 and give us your E-mail address. You can reach us at www.belltelretirees.org
The Association homepage is structured so anyone interested in pension protection, world-wide, can get us by putting the pension subject in the URL box.
When the homepage comes up the user can click on any area of interest: getting information on joining the Association, facts and figures, newsletter items both current and past, items of interest published in trade journals and newspapers. We are confident the Internet will be a means of enhancing our ability to serve you and others as the use of this technique becomes more comfortable to the general public.
New England Retirees Step Up To The Plate
by Lou Miano
Last month a new force was added to the Association of NYNEX Retirees in the New England area with the creation of a Massachusetts based "satellite board." Three New England retirees joined the national Board of Directors of the ANR in time for the August and September board meetings: Lou Miano, Phil Richer and John Venti.
The trio has developed a plan seeking to grow the membership in the former New England Tel area, create strong Political Action efforts and foster fellowship and sistership activities.
A strong team has been put together with Phil Richer serving as Vice President-Public
New England based board members Lou Miano (l) and Phil Richer at October directors meeting in New York.
We expect the Directors to work as if managing "enterprise zones" with each leader responsible for recruiting new members in their area and providing a communication network for the Association with the fast-growing membership.
The organization is just getting started and needs volunteers for their Political Action Committee. People who could act as communicators with State and Federal legislators. Please call Phil Richer if you are able to help at (508) 540-3246. This is a very important role that some of our retirees have performed effectively in their active years.
We are aware that many of you have been coming together informally to discuss the issues important to ANR. With that in mind, we encourage groups to invite their regional member development director to join them during these discussion meetings. To help with Member Development and networking please call the directors in your area:
Metro Boston - Woodside Carroll (617) 698-2407
Southwest Mass - Harold Donnelly - (508) 543-2232
Central Mass - Lou Gusmini
Southeast Mass - Joe Joy
Cape Cod - Don Cleary
Northeast Mass - Gene Wood
Metro West - Brendan Feeney
Western Mass - Jack Briggs
You can also call Lou Miano (617) 444-8080 or write to Association of NYNEX Retirees Ltd., P.O. Box 362, Needham, MA 02192. Your active help and support is very much needed as we attempt to deal with a changing more cynical corporate culture.
1998 Association Annual Meeting To Be In New England
Lou Miano and his New England team are planning for the next Association Annual Meeting to be held in May of 1998. They are presently searching for a New England site which will permit maximum attendance.
The 1997 meeting was held in Long Island and over 500 retirees attended and gave the gathering rave reviews.
Bill Jones, Association President said, "It is important to move the meeting to different areas so that we can address retiree concerns face-to-face."
The next issue of the BellTel Retiree will contain more information on the 1998 meeting.
by Joe Ristuccia
Since the Bell Atlantic - NYNEX merger, we have made contacts with retirees in former Bell Atlantic areas. By sharing our experiences and successes with them they can start forming their own Association. We also have had discussions with other former Bell Company's retirees who are interested in what we are doing and want to help start up in their area.
U.S. West, of course has been a sister retiree organization with similar needs and we have networked with them on a variety of issues. They also see the benefit of a developing Legislative Network in Washington as we retiree organizations grow from coast to coast. The anxiety of pension security effects most worker concerns, yet it has not become a major national issue. This is perhaps partly due to the complexity and diversity of pension plans themselves. But also there is much pressure applied by well organized and heavily financed lobbyists dedicated to eroding pensions.
We certainly can't compete with these corporate lobbyists financially, if only because it would jeopardize our tax-free status, but we can counteract their threat by making ourselves known to every legislator possible. Establishing pressure is essential. Without this we will have great difficulty succeeding.
To accomplish this we need member volunteers to develop strong relationships with their federal legislators. Our collective voice will make an impact and be a profound force in showing legislators that pensioners need to stop the attack on our pension security by corporate CEO's. We are forming a group to counter this threat called "Congressional Networking Volunteers" (CNV). These volunteers will work throughout the year - calling, writing, visiting and holding meetings with their representatives. Those members who are interested in volunteering will be provided with a Advocacy Kit. This will consist of:
This primer will have easy to follow instructions and guidelines for every action, from letter writing and district visits, to media campaigns and coalition building.
Complete list of the Congress and key federal agencies, including key telephone numbers and addresses.
As a CNV member you have an opportunity to make a difference in protecting pension rights. During the course of the year you will receive vital information concerning federal legislation and national issues - updates - what's current, what's proposed. Of course, the advocacy kit will be mailed if you sign up to be a CNV member. Call Joe Ristuccia at 516-765-1111; Fax 516-765-1191; Email: Ristuccia@aol.com
ANR Participates In Washington Conference
Representatives of the Association will be participating in a conference to be held in Washington, DC on October 24th & 25th. The Coalition for Pension Security is hosting the conference which will bring together representatives from the Pension Rights Center, Institute for Electrical & Electronics Engineers, Pan Am, United Airlines, Greyhound, General Electric and others.
Bill Jones has encouraged representatives from US West, Bellcore and Lucent Technologies to attend as a formal Bell delegation.
The agenda includes speakers from the Pension Rights Center, experts on various pension and benefit issues and members of Congress and the Senate.
Former Republican Party Chairman To Association Board
A move is afoot to grow membership in the New England states, a task being undertaken by numerous volunteers and three new members of the Association's Board of Directors.
Lou Miano, who is leading the charge retired from the Company in 1990 as Director of Sales Operations Customer Service and also served as Pioneer Liaison Officer from 1983-85. He started his career as a stockboy and held a variety of line and staff positions. Lou lives in Needham, Massachusetts.
John Venti retired in 1990 as Director of Sales Development in the Customer Service Department and also previously served as Manager of AT&T Long Lines. John lives in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Finally, Philip J. Richer who retired in 1989, brings to the Board a wealth of political experience and knowledge, after serving as the Republican Party Chairman for the State of Massachusetts in the 1970's. Phil who started his career as a pole lineman, held numerous positions in the Plant crafts. He later served in marketing positions ranging from District Sales Manager to Manager, Centrex Products, to Director of Sales Distribution Channels. Phil later joined the Computer Telephone Corporation (CTC) as Vice Chairman and a Member of its Board of Directors. He also gave his industry expertise to the Commtract Corporation, serving as a Director.
"You Can't Go Home Again"
by Al Wood
As someone who spent over a quarter of a century working for New York Telephone, I have a vested interest in the Association of NYNEX Retirees. I have been an active member since its inception. It's my hope that the organization will grow to include all former Bell System Retirees.
I feel the disquiet that most members feel about being in an Association that is in dispute with NYNEX Management. We were all trained to view the Telephone Company as a special place. It was much more than just a job to us. So it's quite natural that many retirees feel it's "wrong" to be in disagreement with the current management - many of whom we knew or trained in their younger days.
But something is definitely wrong with the current Management's approach to the Pension Fund. It's our fund not theirs. We need to stand up and be counted on how it's being managed. The Pension Fund was built by retirees.
Many of us spent sleepless nights wrestling with budgets that always required a significant contribution to the Fund. When we lagged in salary increases we were told that the Pension Fund was part of the reason we were always held in the mid-range of wages when compared to equivalent companies. We were proud to have a fully-funded pension fund. We were proud that our retirees regularly received small increases in their annual pensions.
What has happened? Why has a fully-funded pension fund stopped treating retirees fairly? Why should we feel free to hold NYNEX executives accountable?
They don't need us to kick them when they are down. The PSC and Market Place are doing that. But we do need to hold them accountable for what they have done with "our" money.
Throughout the past decade NYNEX results, as poor as they have been, have been enhanced by not having to contribute to the Pension Fund. It boggles the mind to think that since divestiture, high level NYNEX executives sat around the table and decided that one way to increase net revenue was to stop pension cost of living increases.
This decision befuddles those of us who know many of the top executives of NYNEX. They're smart, ethical, well trained managers. The current CEO is well known for his people skills and concern for employees. What happened? Have they lost their way in the dark forest of the competitive environment?
It may have been a short term business decision -- legal but devoid of any sense of history, tradition or morality. Particularly as it called for a sacrifice of former employees for the benefit of present executives. Let's look at some facts:
In almost 10 years there has been no contribution to the pension fund. During that time the CPI has risen substantially. But the shocking figure is that executive compensation has sky-rocketed.
Forbes Magazine cites NYNEX's Chief Executive as receiving a total of $7,163,000 for the last three years of work. During that same time Fortune Magazine rated NYNEX as the "least admired" of the former Bell Companies. The PSC has leveled severe service fines on the company. In a raging Bull Market NYNEX has been left in the dust.
There's just something very wrong at NYNEX as top executives have enriched themselves, established their own private health plan, don't answer letters and can't be reached by phone. You may say that is the norm for the modern executive, but I say it goes deeper than that.
Instead of looking at other pension plans and legalisms, what they need to look at what is right and what is wrong. Retirees know a great truth in life. The three most important things in retirement are family, health and reputation. 15 years from now not a single NYNEX executive will be remembered for making the 1997 revenue estimate. It's not that important in the scheme of life, so what will they be remembered for? I leave that to their individual conscience.
To my fellow retirees who cling to the notion that it is "wrong" to join an organization that's in dispute with their "old" company, I ask only that you look at the facts. Ma Bell is dead and we are her orphans.
Al Wood is a Lucent Technology retiree. His last position with NY Telephone was G.M., Business Services State Region. He retired in 1984 as V.P., Managing Director, Saudi Arabia, AT&T International. He is also former Mayor of Rockville Centre, NY. He resides in Grantham, NH and Dataw Is., SC.
At this writing it was announced that the former NYNEX, now Bell
Atlantic North, has changed its pension plan for active employees
to a cash balance plan effective December 31, 1997. This is essentially
the end of the defined benefit pension plan as we knew it, for
those who retire after the effective date. This move also mirrors
a change instituted effective December 31, 1996 for active Bell
Atlantic "South" employees.
Bell Atlantic "NORTH" Switches To Cash Balance Pension Plan
At this writing it was announced that the former NYNEX, now Bell Atlantic North, has changed its pension plan for active employees to a cash balance plan effective December 31, 1997. This is essentially the end of the defined benefit pension plan as we knew it, for those who retire after the effective date. This move also mirrors a change instituted effective December 31, 1996 for active Bell Atlantic "South" employees.
Another Slap In The Face
As we go to press, information is pouring in from around the country about major changes in medical plan coverage of some NYNEX retirees.
As far as we can tell, changes effect post 1985 retirees and vary with age, management/non-management, place of residence and date of retirement.
One member was appalled to receive a letter from Thomas E. Burns, V. P. of Employee Benefits & Compensation, that said because currently no Medicare HMO's are offered by Bell Atlantic in your area, "You may move to an area where Medicare HMO's are already available." Our retiree noted, "Imagine the gall of the Company to tell me to move from the home in which I raised my children, scrimped and saved to pay a mortgage - because the location (Long Island, NY) is not convenient for them - Preposterous!
This is another sad commentary on the direction in which the Company, we retirees built, is heading!
If you are as upset as we are about this outrageous action by the Company, write to Raymond Smith, Chairman & CEO, Bell Atlantic Corporation, 1095 Avenue of Americas, 41st Fl., New York, N.Y. 10036. Tell him want you think!
The Treasurer's Chest
by Bob Rehm
Your Associations' Board of Directors wishes to thank each and every member who made a 1997 contribution.
Our fiscal year is Jan. 1 - Dec. 31 and our objective and plans for 1997 and beyond require a continuous source of funds in order to succeed at our mission to protect and enhance retiree pensions and benefits. The recommended $12.00 annual contribution, more if you can and less if you can't, is tax deductible. The Association of NYNEX Retirees Ltd. is a not-for-profit, 501 C3 IRS tax-exempt corporation.
Your Board of Directors donate their time - they receive no compensation for their devoted and tireless efforts on behalf of retirees and surviving spouses. Your strong support, financial assistance and efforts to help recruit membership is greatly appreciated. We sincerely promise and constantly endeavor to use your contributions wisely and efficiently. If you haven't gotten around to mailing your 1997 contribution it would really help us if you did so today.
The size of our membership and necessary financing of our efforts is extremely important in getting the attention of the new top executives of Bell Atlantic since the two telecommunications giants merged on August 15, 1997. Top executives received huge compensation bonus' most of which would have been awarded even if the marriage did not take place. It's a shame they don't treat the retirees in a like fashion.
How about putting your 1997 contribution check in the mailbox right now before you finish reading this newsletter (if you haven't already done so)? We, and the entire 1997 paid membership would really appreciate your consideration and continued support. Rest assured, we retirees WILL succeed in our commitment to protect and enhance retirement benefits. Again, Thanks to everyone for their on-going help and support.
by C. William Jones
Your Association has already written to Chairman, Ray Smith, asking him to review the many issues that concern retirees. Further, at the October Association Board meeting, a strategy was approved which will systematically increase the pressure over the next year on the new Bell Atlantic to properly care for retirees.
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Many retirees have raised the question of changing the name of the Association of NYNEX Retirees Ltd. This is being addressed, but as you might expect, there are many considerations. We are in the process of discussing with retirees from the old Bell Atlantic how we might best organize to properly and efficiently represent the retirees of the new Bell Atlantic. There are a number of options that are being explored. In the meantime, we will continue to operate under our present name.
As part of our transition, you can see that the newsletter has a new name and look. We hope that this shows that we are broadening our focus. It also ties in with our new web site which is discussed in this newsletter.
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We are approaching the end of our second year in operation. We have worked extremely hard on your behalf and we are proud of our many accomplishments. However we are equally disappointed that the Company has steadfastly refused to grant an ad hoc pension increase and is down-grading our health care benefits. You can be sure that we will continue to work towards that end and also to assure that our hard earned benefits are protected. Your support is appreciated by us and by the retirees who are in desperate need of help.
Association of NYNEX Retirees Ltd. P.O. Box 33
Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724 * (516) 367-3067
www.belltelretirees.org A 501 C 3 IRS Tax Exempt Corporation
C. William Jones, President: (516) 549-3555
Edwin J. Ward, Executive Vice President: (516) 666-4207
Donald H. Elitharp, Vice President: (516) 581-1572
Robert A Rehm, Treasurer: (516) 462-6172
Michael S. Kucklinca, Secretary: (516) 741-2424
Eileen T. Lawrence, Director of Benefits: (718) 229-6078
Louis Miano, Director of Membership: (617) 444-8080
John A. Parente, Director of Public Relations:(518) 372-0526
Philip J. Richer, Director of Public Affairs: (508) 540-3246
Joseph A. Ristuccia, Director of Legislative Relations: (516) 765-1111
John Venti, Director of Planning: (617) 326-4212