LUCENT RETIREES ORGANIZATION
For More Information Contact:
President Ed Beltram, LRO
LUCENT TECHNOLOGIES RETIREES FLOCKING TO NEW ORGANIZATION TO PREVENT FURTHER EROSION OF PENSIONS AND BENEFITS BY COMPANY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – APRIL 22, 2003
NEW YORK — A burgeoning number of Lucent Technologies retirees are rallying around a newly formed organization to prevent further erosion of their pensions and benefits by the struggling telecommunications equipment supplier. They also want to assist Lucent in returning to its former position as the premier telecommunications leader of the world.
“We are uniting to leverage our Lucent stock ownership power, our long-standing relationships with Lucent customers and our clout with lawmakers and regulators to speak with a strong voice,” said Ken Raschke, Lucent Retirees Organization (LRO) president. “Our retirees are upset that Lucent has eliminated a death benefit and could move to cut other pension and health care benefits.”
Raschke, who retired in 1989 and lives in Winston-Salem, N.C., explained that the death benefit, equivalent to one-year’s pay for those who retired before 1998, was eliminated by Lucent on February 1, 2003, with less than one month’s notice.
“The victims of the Lucent executives’ decision will be the widows and widowers of the retirees,” Raschke said. “Our retirees feel betrayed by the company they helped build into the world’s leading supplier of telecommunications equipment.”
Lucent’s commitment to providing the death benefit was a reason many retirees decided not to buy additional life insurance at a time when most retirees likely could have at reasonable rates, Raschke noted.
“In fact, as the company went through several downsizings, Lucent pledged various benefits as inducements for employees to take early retirement,” Raschke said. “When Lucent sent out a letter in January advising retirees that their death benefit would be eliminated, we were disappointed and hurt that that they did not present alternative options for protecting the future well-being of surviving spouses.”
The LRO received its charter in February in the state of New York and is awaiting its nonprofit designation. “Members are asking us to give them a rationale for the bonuses and retention payments that executives are receiving while retirees are suffering the erosion of their benefits and incurring increased costs to keep the level of benefits they still have.”
Raschke said the LRO is encouraged that in the few weeks of its existence it already has in excess of 3,000 dues-paying members. Retirees become LRO members by either paying dues of $25 annually or contributing $350 to become a lifetime member.
“While we have not yet launched a recruiting campaign, our www.lucentretirees.org website and word of mouth communications are producing about 100 new members each week,” he said. “With 127,000 Lucent retirees worldwide, the LRO intends to become a substantial force for retaining what was committed to us.”
Individuals under the Lucent pension and benefits plans embody all Lucent and Bell Labs retirees, including those who retired when the company was known as Western Electric and AT&T Network Systems, plus subsidiaries such as Teletype and Sandia.
When AT&T spun off Lucent in 1996 and placed thousands of its retirees under the Lucent pension and benefits plans, AT&T provided the financial foundation to fully fund the programs. “Our members are saying they don’t want Lucent to balance the company’s books at the expense of eroding what has been promised to them.”
Raschke, who was the head of the AT&T Network Systems telecommunications equipment manufacturing plant in Winston-Salem before he retired, said the LRO is committed to assisting retirees and their families with all issues relating to their Lucent pension, benefits, Social Security and other aspects impacting their quality of life. He said the LRO is exploring how it might work with the NRLN (National Retiree Legislative Network), AARP (American Association of Retired People) and the Association of BellTel Retirees.
“The fact that we are retirees does not in any way diminish our contacts, ideas and ability to influence others,” Raschke said. He pointed to a recent announcement by the Association of BellTel Retirees that Verizon Communications, Inc., one of Lucent’s largest customers, recently accepted terms of a proxy resolution that was pushed by Verizon retirees.
Raschke said an Association bulletin stated that Verizon has agreed to stop its executives from benefiting financially from the growth of pretax pension credits within the retirees’ pension plan. Verizon retirees expect this will encourage Verizon management to use any pension plan surplus for its intended purpose, such as paying benefits, including cost-of-living adjustments to retirees.
“We want Lucent to return to the success it had throughout our working careers and we are committed to helping in all ways possible,” Raschke added. “After all, our retirees have been the most loyal shareowners that Lucent has.”