October 26, 2006
The National Retiree Legislative Network, NRLN, representing more than 2 million retirees in this country, is outraged over the continuing pattern of benefit reductions imposed by Qwest on thousands of its retirees. Former US West and Qwest retirees were recently told there will be no future cost-of-living increases in their pensions. In addition, post-1990 retirees learned that they will be required to pay all increased costs for health care insurance. And life insurance for all retirees will be capped at $10,000, leaving most of them unable to afford the cost of new coverage. These benefit cuts, which affect nearly 30,000 nonunion US West and Qwest employees, will go into effect in January.
Retirees on fixed incomes are among your most vulnerable constituents who can least afford to pay for escalating insurance premiums. Why are they being singled out to make significant financial sacrifices at the same time Qwest has posted consecutive quarterly profits and is initiating a stock buy-back of up to $2 billion? And why are senior executives of Qwest unwilling to share the same financial burden they are imposing on retirees, who devoted years of loyal service building the communications company?
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 represents a step in the right direction for retirees across the country, but benefit cutbacks such as these represent two steps backward. The NRLN has been an outspoken advocate of pension reform legislation and worked hard to support its passage. If we’re to keep momentum for pension reform headed in the right direction, congressional representatives need to stand up for retirees in their districts against corporate strategies that impose financial sacrifices on those least able to afford them.
Failure to address this issue now will result in an escalating pattern of benefit cutbacks for retirees, creating a domino effect that cancels out any positive gains achieved through recent pension reform legislation. Other options are available for companies to meet the rising cost of health care without imposing onerous burdens on retirees.
On behalf of our members and those retirees from your district who are directly affected by this latest round of benefit cutbacks by Qwest, we ask that you address this latest round of benefit reductions imposed by Qwest on thousands of its retirees. Specifically, we ask that a full-blown congressional hearing be called by the appropriate committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Retirees from all over America and the NRLN will be delighted to share their concerns with Congress over these issues. Additionally, we ask that you notify company CEO and Chairman Richard C. Notebaert of your dissatisfaction with this corporate strategy that contradicts the spirit and intent of true pension reform for all retirees.
The injurious impact of these benefit reductions on retirees from your district cannot be overstated. Companies such as Qwest that are otherwise profitable need to find ways to fund their retiree benefit promises without placing at risk countless numbers of retirees who expect their pensions to remain stable and intact. I urge you to consider the impact these cutbacks will have on retirees in your district and express your concern to Mr. Notebaert and other Qwest officials. In these times of great economic uncertainty, retirees want assurance that they can count on their elected representatives in Washington to protect their interests. We call on your support in this time of great uncertainty for thousands of Qwest retirees.
A. J. (Jim) Norby