Legislative Action Alert
by: Joe Ristuccia
The Association Needs Your Help!
hen top NYNEX Corporate officers made that very critical decision to freeze ad-hoc increases indefinitely in 1991, the action taken in the context of the proposed Bell Atlantic merger results in much apprehension for all retirees. We have not only lost the normal periodic increases we had been receiving over the years to keep up with inflation, but now it becomes evident we lose much, much more. Yes, our Pension Security is in jeopardy.
Pension Security is not only adversely affected from within Bell Atlantic/NYNEX, but several well financed pension lobbyist groups, of which the NYNEX Corporation is a full participating member are constantly advancing their agenda to the detriment of all American private pension retirees. One must ask what kind of game is being played? What can we do to protect our pension and benefit interests?
Our Association encourages all members to become active politically. A year and a half ago when we were first organized as a group, we had discovered how close we came to facing a pension meltdown. Had H.R.2491 been passed in December 1995, it would have allowed any company to raid their employee's pension plans by granting reduction of the penalty excise tax to a mere 6%. From our perspective this would have been unthinkable. We must insure that Congressional leaders threats never even get a toe-hold to erode Pension Security.
105th Congress Engaged in New Agenda
Congress is setting policy that will affect the way we will live for years to come. We should contact as many legislators as possible to insure that we are properly represented and to promote Pension Security.
We have an opportunity available to us if we want to grab it. As Association members we have an important message to sell and promote with your House and Senate Representatives. Your help is critical and you are in the ideal leadership position to deliver the message to your legislators.
The Association wants to maintain an informed and united voice for Pension Security with every House and Senate office holder. But we need you to be leaders to contact every legislator where an Association member is a constituent. A recent independent poll of Members of Congress found that the top influence on how a congressional person votes is the communication they receive from constituents, especially face-to-face contacts, in addition to insightful, personal letters. Can you really have an impact? Absolutely. True power on Capital Hill comes from outside the Beltway, Members of Congress listen to their constituents, particularly those who are knowledgeable in the area they are advocating.
The Association is prepared to provide you with the help and details needed to give you the inside track on becoming a leader of Pension Security. We can provide sample letters, strategies and information needed to develop and nurture a strong relationship with your representatives. By calling or writing the Association we can meet with you or provide whatever is needed to find out first hand what roadblocks and opportunities lie ahead for Pension Security in your particular district.
While this activity is going on we are encouraging former Bell System retirees to form their own Association in their Bell locality. Hopefully in a few years this can become a potent lobbying group nationally - strong enough to blunt the lobbying group hired by the Fortune 200 Corporations, including our own former employer, that work against us.
Now here is what you can do. Call Joe Ristuccia on 516 765-1111 or fax him a message on 516 765-1190 or reach him by E-mail at Ristuccia@aol.com. He will be glad to set you up to become an effective lobbyist for our association.
500+ Make Annual Meeting Overwhelming Success
by: Mike Kucklinca
On May 7th, the first annual membership meeting of the Association was held at Antun's Old Country Manor in Hicksville, Long Island. Over 500 enthusiastic retirees gathered for refreshments prior to the meeting. Surprisingly, the parking lot began filling up at 9:00 AM for the 10:30 meeting.
As expected, many retirees were from Nassau and Suffolk counties, but over a third came from the other counties of NYC, upstate New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. In fact, an upstate NY contingent, led by Jack Reardon of Local 1118, left home at 4 AM and helped open Antun's. The "early birds" met fellow workers whom they haven't seen in many years and enjoyed discussing good old times over coffee.
Secretary Mike Kucklinca had a difficult time breaking up these many reunions in order to open the business meeting. But after welcoming everyone and introducing the Board of Directors and guests, Mike asked Treasurer Bob Rehm to present his report. Bob gave a detailed report of Association Income, Expense and explained the Balance Sheet. He also responded to a number of questions from the floor. After Bob's financial report, he introduced President Bill Jones, who conducted the balance of the meeting. Bill covered the evolution of the Association and brought everyone up to date as to the Association activities. Bill then opened the meeting for questions from the floor. This very active question and answer session lasted about one hour and included Medicare Part B, Defined Pension Plan, Combination of Pension Plans after the merger, Ad-Hoc pension increases and medical coverage.
Ed Ward responded to questions pertaining to ANR members speaking at Pioneer meetings and offered some thoughts concerning contacts with state and federal regulators.
At the conclusion of the meeting the Association members agreed that they were well informed as to their health and benefits status and what the Association was doing to protect them. Mike closed the meeting at about noon and encouraged the retirees to stay if they had more questions and to talk with old friends. We wish to thank everyone who attended, participated and gave their enthusiastic support.
Because of the enthusiastic response by Association members, the Board is hoping to offer two such meetings next year, one down state New York and another in the Boston area. Since the Association's inception, Board Members have spoken at over 100 luncheons and meetings at the invitation of groups around the country and will continue to do their best to honor all requests.
Retiree: Flex Your Muscles
by: Ed Ward
ANR is asking its members to think long and hard about finally using their own powers to influence the future of their pensions. Some 80-plus percent of Bell System Retirees currently hold shares in several baby bell companies, but few have ever used the real power those shares possess, Stock Voting Rights!
"In most cases, shareholders simply return their proxy to the company which uses that owner's power to further the Board of Director's agenda," said Bill Jones. The ANR is in the process of uniting its own effort with representatives of other former Bell companies to consolidate and vote our shares as a block. Thus far, retiree representatives from Bell Atlantic, US West, Bellcore and Lucent have agreed to go forward with such a strategy. ANR has also held discussions with a leading national pension fund manager about this effort.
Directors of NYNEX, Bell Atlantic and all other former Bell System companies are wary of the power retirees could possess in the board room, should we have the ability to unite an estimated 750,000 retiree/shareholders.
In order for us to fully measure the feasibility of this program, we are asking you to contact the Association confidentially and let us know if you would consider supporting this effort and to advise us of the number of shares you hold in NYNEX and Bell Atlantic. We have enclosed membership forms which can be used to notify the Association. Any information you supply us will be kept confidential.
Notice to Advertisers
The Retiree Advocate plans to begin accepting advertising in the Fall of '97 issue. If you want to Effectively reach over 15,000 NYNEX retirees at home, this publication will be the means to do so. For detailed information including rates, specifications and deadlines. Contact The Advocate Rep, Jim Falborn at 212 260-1731.
Letters To The Advocate
Don't Confuse Us & Bottom Line!
by: Philip Hodges, P.E.
(88 years young, the author retired in 1974 from the NY Tel Building Engineering Department)
There are over 80,000 retirees from the New York Telephone Company and NYNEX. In a short time they will be retirees of Bell Atlantic. The drastic changes in administration of pensions and benefits initiated by the break up of the Bell System continues. Where one call to the Company Benefits Office could once get you an answer to your problem, you now have to deal with a myriad of insurers, HMO's and other disinterested parties. This retiree is left with the impression those persons/computers/voice mail systems on the other end of the line are not really interested in solving your problems.
Retirees find no comfort in the statement "The Company fully intends to continue the Medical Expense Plan indefinitely but reserves the right to end or amend it at any time subject to applicable collective bargaining agreements." The general tone of response from top executives that company retirees are doing fine and no worse than pensioners of other major companies is not reassuring. We are further concerned by the recent attempt to use pension funds for other purposes. There is every indication that the rejection by New York State authorities will not end this drive.
There have been no pension increases in over six years. No reduction in other benefits has occurred. However, the gentle but persistent nudge, by the Company to join other medical plans has this retiree worried. Will the coming merger of Bell Atlantic result in a loss of our benefits? The Association will dedicate its efforts to stop any action that appears to have this as its objective. All NYNEX retirees are not "well fixed" and this includes high level management retirees.
Don't Confuse Us & Bottom Line
We have a retiree with a severe case of diabetes who is just barely
making it in his one room apartment. There is a Building Services
pensioner who qualifies for food stamps. Another with over forty
years service takes the subway for his kidney dialysis treatment
because he can't afford taxis. Many of these older retirees still
have the tugging of the forelock habit toward their former employer.
They have never complained.
Many retirees still retain that precious loyalty for our former employer. We must all face the reality, however, that the bottom line is top priority. No one disputes that the current climate in the communications business makes this axiom of survival. We believe that Bell Atlantic can grow, remain profitable and continue to maintain the benefits to NYNEX retirees, implied or contractual.
Jones & Parente Meet Again with Seidenberg
by: John Parente
As mentioned in the Spring 1997 Retiree Advocate, Bill Jones and John Parente met with Ivan Seidenberg and Don Sacco on February 7th in Chairman Seidenberg's office at the corporate headquarters in Manhattan. The meeting lasted one hour. Bill opened the meeting with several issues including: 1) Why comparisons to other pension plans are unfair. 2) Disparities in Company contributions to health care plan options. 3) Medicare Part B Reimbursements. 4) Problems with managed health care.
A brief overview of the discussion follows:
Ivan listened to our appeal regarding the unfair pension comparisons and responded that the latest review showed that our entire pension and health care package was excellent compared to others (He listened but apparently didn't hear).
Don Sacco, addressing the disparity in health care contributions, agreed that the amounts charged for various health care options were not cost-based. The Company had to abandon the cost-based System almost immediately after Flex Plus was introduced in 1985 because the cost of family coverage became too high. The Company had to revamp the method of recovering costs.
Ivan agreed to review the Medicare Part B reimbursement issue in light of the information provided to him at our meeting.
Ivan and Don agreed that there are problems with the managed health care plans but that they were working hard to make our plans the best they can be. The changing environment and medical care costs present a challenge.
John asked Ivan if a review of the pension levels was conducted as promised after the merger vote? Ivan indicated that pension and health benefits were reviewed periodically. The next review will be conducted in the Fall or when appropriate.
Ivan stated that after our meeting he was to meet with the NY State Attorney General, Dennis C. Vacco. We asked if the retirees could help in anyway to offset unfavorable publicity by the Attorney General. He did not want to call on the retirees at this time and indicated that NYNEX employees were requested to help a week prior to our meeting. We expressed our willingness at the shareholders meetings in Boston, NYC and Richmond, and through all correspondences. Ivan agreed to meet again if we felt it necessary.
In closing, Bill left a one page list of specific technical questions regarding pensions and healthcare benefits with Don Sacco. (The Company response to these questions, which took over a month and a follow-up call to Don Sacco, was completely evasive and unenlightening.)
by: Bill Jones
A lot of activity has taken place since our last newsletter. We have appeared and spoken at the Bell Atlantic Annual Shareholder Meeting, held our own annual meeting, had correspondence with the New York State Public Service Commission and the Pioneers. We will report on all of these activities as well as our face-to-face meeting with Chairman Seidenberg and Don Sacco and our visit to the Pension Rights Center in Washington, DC
However, what I want to highlight to you in my message is a very exciting new initiative that we have just started State Representatives. We have established, as of the close of this letter, 13 Representatives in 14 states. They are as follows:
State(s) Name Contact Number
Florida (407/561) Dorothy A. Luder (561) 798-2011
(941) Arthur L. Harradon (941) 474-0457
(352) Rodney Pierce (352) 628-7244
Maine Alan S. Johnston (207) 236-4796
New Hampshire Dorothy A. Skarda (603) 356-3857
New Mexico, Colorado & Texas Henry Bahnsen (505) 984-2782
Arizona, Nevada, Utah Donald J. LaPine (602) 488-4150
Connecticut John S. Smith (203) 934-2402
New York Central (315/607) Patricia P. George (315) 656-3529
NY Hudson Valley (914) Mary Ellen Flemming (914) 687-0365
New Jersey (908) Robert J. Mulligan (908) 741-3767
North Carolina Pardon N. Dexter (704) 891-7879
Virginia Joseph E. Mullady (804) 589-4003
These dedicated retirees have volunteered to recruit members from their states and help to answer questions and communicate with retirees in their area. As you can see, some handle more than one state while others cover part of a state. They can get others to help them share the load. We see this as a natural progression to involve more people in the process and improve the effectiveness of our organization.
If you would like to help us in your state, please call our office and let us know. You can see that we have only scratched the surface, but the program is already paying off with new members. You will be provided with background information and will receive regular updates on Association activities so that you will be an informed member of the team. We also plan to share with all State Representatives the success stories of others so that we all can benefit from innovative approaches.
I want to thank those who have already stepped forward and volunteered and I look forward to hearing from those of you who want to become involved.
Association Has a New Address & Telephone Number
Listed below are the names and telephone numbers for the Association and its Board of Directors. We welcome your calls and letters, comments, suggestions and offers of help.
Association Telephone (516) 367-3067
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
John A. Parente, Director of Public Relations: (518) 372-0526
Joseph A. Ristuccia, Director of Legislative Relations: (516) 765-1111
Association Directors Speak At Bell Atlantic Annual Meeting
Bill Jones and John Parente attended the Bell Atlantic Annual Meeting of Shareowners on May 2, 1997 in Wilmington, Delaware. Chairman Ray Smith stated at the outset that although the merger was progressing well and he hoped for a finalisation shortly, he would not address specifics at this meeting.
Both Bill and John had the opportunity to address the approximately 1,000 shareowners in attendance. They presented to Ray Smith a brief outline of the grievances that the NYNEX retirees have and voiced their disappointment that they were unable to resolve these issues with Ivan Seidenberg. They notified the Chairman that the Association would be contacting him following the merger to discuss the matter in greater detail.
ANR President Bill Jones' presentation was made only minutes after Chairman Smith's introduction and was well received by the full house in attendance. A number of times during both Bill and John's presentations, the audience applauded, showing their support for our cause.
Chairman Ray Smith graciously thanked Bill and John for coming to the meeting and for their "thoughtful, professional presentations." He agreed to look into the matter following the consummation of the merger.
After the meeting, a number of Bell Atlantic retirees approached Bill and John and indicated that they fully supported our efforts and wanted to join the Association.
Media Spotlight on ANR
Several New York Area and national media outlets have done stories
on the Association in recent weeks. News 12 Long Island and Long
Island News Tonight Television crews attended the ANR annual meeting;
Bloomberg Radio Network interviewed Bill Jones and the United
Press International did a national news story on our annual meeting.
Gannett Newspapers and the Times-Herald Record did feature stories
on the Association. Regional News Network and Dudley Broadcast
Network have also done sympathetic and extensive ANR stories in
recent weeks. Other national news stories on the Association and
its retiree-members are also in the works.
What started as dissatisfaction among NYNEX retirees has become a full-blown movement against the telecommunications giant"
Times-Herald Record, Middletown, NY
Annual Membership Dues Reminder
by: Bob Rehm
Our Spring 1997 Newsletter discussed the need for and decision to establish an annual contribution at a recommended level of $12 per year. Your Board of Directors continues to encourage those of you who can contribute more, and those who are unable to send the suggested $12, to send whatever individual circumstances may permit.
Association plans for 1997 and beyond require a continuing source of funding in order to carry out our mission which is to protect and enhance retiree pensions and benefits.
This reminder is especially directed to our members who may have intended but forgotten to send '97 dues, or may have just not gotten around to mailing their much needed and appreciated donation.
Association Board of Directors are all volunteers that receive absolutely no salary for their many hours of work and efforts to make this Association a strong and effective group of former union represented and management employees. However we do incur significant costs such as printing, postage, data input, attorney/public relations/ accounting fees and office costs. The Association is a not-for-profit corporation, incorporated in the State of NY.
Before you continue reading on, why not stop for a moment and fill in a membership slip and enclose a check now if you haven't already done so for 1997? It will be greatly appreciated and we pledge that all dues and contributions received will be very carefully and wisely used in our efforts and on your behalf.
Should you have any questions concerning membership status, please write or call the Association office, but most importantly, please contribute if you can.
New England Board Members Sought
The Fall 1996 Newsletter stated that ANR is seeking additional officers and would be happy to consider you or someone you might suggest as a candidate. Of special interest is attracting officers from and especially women who wish to be more involved in the New England region.
To date, we have heard from no one in New England who volunteered to represent this vital territory on the ANR Board. Again, we appeal to our New England retirees, men and women, to "step up to the plate" and volunteer to be members of the ANR Board of Directors. We need you now.
Wanted: Office Manager
The Association seeks an office manager to perform daily duties such as: opening mail, responding to correspondence, answering telephones and typing. Computer literacy important. Flexible hours are available, for this paid position. For information contact the Association offices at (516) 367-3067.
by: Ed Ward
OK To Speak at Pioneer Meetings
Ed Ward wrote to Dana Gould, Head of Region 15 Pioneers, concerning ANR LTD. members being permitted from speaking at Life Member Club meetings. Dana readily agreed that our members may speak at these meetings before or after the Pioneer business segment. This was a sensitive issue and is now resolved. Taking this matter one step further, Life Member Clubs present a "GOLDEN" opportunity to increase our membership. The Board of Directors would appreciate if each Life Member Club selects a few "Volunteers" who would update Club members each month on Association activities and to work actively to "spread the word" to increase our membership. It's amazing how many retirees are not aware of our existence and Life Member Club can help tremendously. Ed Ward will be pleased to serve as the contact with the "Volunteers" from each club. He will provide them with the monthly update of Association activities currently being sent to State and Regional Representatives, as well as enrollment forms. Ed is also available to answer any questions you may have over the telephone. Thanks in advance for your help and Ed is anxiously awaiting to hear from enthusiastic volunteers.
Communications with PSC
Ed Ward wrote a second letter to John O'Mara ,NY State Chairman. Ed thanked the Chairman for his assurance to the first letter and Mr. O'Mara's guarantee that the PSC is safe guarding NYNEX dollars. However, Ed expressed displeasure that the PSC does not generally become involved in the administration of pension increases. Ed stated that retirees buying power has diminished 20% since our last increase in 1991 and the surplus in the pension funds have grown in excess of $1.2 billion. Ed stated that we retirees are outraged that NYNEX leadership has awarded themselves lavish increases in compensation, while ignoring our needs at a time when service and stock performance are at unsatisfactory levels. Ed concluded his letter by asking Mr. O'Mara to personally intercede with Mr. Seidenberg on behalf of NYNEX retirees for a fair and immediate Ad-Hoc pension increase. We encourage you to write to your respective State Utility Commissions asking for assistance in contacting Mr. Seidenberg and expressing dissatisfaction that NYNEX is ignoring its retirees.