FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For Information Contact:
A. J. (Jim) Norby Bill Kadereit Ed Beltram
760-200-2330 972-722-5289 719-687-6157
National Retiree Group Condemns Corporate Lobbying
To Protect the Stripping of Pension Plans
Congress Urged to ‘Show Resolve’
(WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2006) –The leader of a national retirees organization today condemned corporations that have wrecked their pension plans and are now lobbying Congress for protection from employees’ and retirees’ lawsuits.
“This is a classic case of adding insult to injury,” said A. J. (Jim) Norby, president of the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN). “Blue-chip companies are walking away from their pension obligations to workers and retirees while lobbying Congress to sanction their sins through provisions in pending pension reform legislation.”
A number of companies have scrapped their defined benefit pension plans and converted to cash balance plans that have reduced pension benefits by as much as 50 percent for some workers, Norby said. He noted that many companies are “jumping on the pension freeze bandwagon” that will be particularly harmful to older workers.
“Our members are expecting the U.S. Senators and Representatives who will soon be named to the conference committee on pension reform legislation to show resolve in the face of heavy pressure from corporate special interests,” Norby said.
NRLN members who are retired from IBM and AT&T are very concerned over attempts by their former employers to get retroactive provisions in the pension reform legislation that would derail lawsuits challenging conversions to cash balance pension plans.
“Our entire membership is outraged over an eleventh hour amendment placed in the Senate’s pension reform bill passed in November,” Norby said. “The provision would lower the 125 percent funded threshold for the transfer of dollars out of a pension plan to 115 percent, giving corporations a windfall. This is a recipe for more pension plan failures in the future.”
Norby said workers and retirees are furious over the “snowballing effect” of financially sound companies such as IBM, Verizon Communications and others freezing their defined benefit pension plans, stopping new pension claims from accruing under these long-standing plans.
“These aren’t bankrupt companies like those in the steel and airline industries that are thrusting their pension plans onto the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation,” Norby said. “These are profitable companies that are acting selfishly by pushing congressional action that will enable them to take even more away from what their workers and retirees have earned as deferred compensation during years of service.”
Norby pointed out that members of Congress are covered under a pension plan that is secured by the very taxpayers who are now being stripped of their retirement benefits by corporations.
“When the corporate lobbyists swarm on Capitol Hill, Representatives and Senators should think about what they would do if their pensions were at risk,” Norby said.
Based in Washington, D.C., NRLN is dedicated to securing federal legislation that will guarantee the fair and equitable treatment of retirees in private and public sector health and pension programs. NRLN represents a non-partisan, grass roots coalition of retiree associations with a combined membership of more than 2 million men and women who are seeking to protect their pension and health care benefits. For more information, visit the NRLN Web site at www.nrln.org.
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