|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Retiree Network Seeks Congressional Hearings
To Address US West/Qwest Benefit Cuts
Pattern of Cutbacks Is Creating ‘a Domino Effect’
(WASHINGTON, October 27, 2006) – Officials of the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN) are calling on members of Congress to intervene on behalf of US West and Qwest retirees who are facing newly announced cuts in their health care and life insurance benefits. These benefit cuts will go into effect in January.
In a letter to congressional members, NRLN President A. J. “Jim” Norby requested a “full-blown hearing” by the appropriate committees in both the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. “Retirees from all over America and the NRLN will be delighted to share their concerns with Congress over these issues,” Norby noted. He also urged the elected officials to speak out against the continuing pattern of benefit reductions imposed by Qwest on thousands of its retirees.
According to Norby, Qwest retirees have been advised there will be no future cost-of-living increases in their pensions. In addition, life insurance for all retirees will be capped at $10,000, leaving most of them unable to afford the cost of new coverage. And post-1990 non-union retirees will be required to pay all increased costs for health care insurance.
“Retirees on fixed incomes are among your most vulnerable constituents who least can afford to pay for escalating insurance premiums,” Norby wrote. “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?”
Calling passage of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 “a step in the right direction for retirees across the country,” Norby cautioned, “benefit cutbacks such as these represent two steps backward. 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,” Norby added.
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 http://www.nrln.org/.
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