Retiree case heads to mediation

Apr 30, 2012 by

 

The federal judge involved in our retiree health care case against Lee Enterprises recently ordered the parties to participate in mediation.  His hope, obviously, is that both sides can come to some sort of arrangement and put an end to all this suing and counter-suing.  Towards that end, tomorrow morning (May 1) the Guild and Lee will sit down with a federal mediator and discuss settlement possibilities.  Two days of meetings are scheduled.

 

Though the mediation was mandated, a settlement was not required by the judge.  Therefore, if these discussions bear no fruit, the case will continue as before.  Currently, depositions are scheduled for later this month.  We will keep you advised.

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After paying big bonuses, Lee delays funding pensions

Apr 23, 2012 by

 

Not that there was any question before, but there should be no question whatsoever about their values now…

 

Over the weekend, Guild members – active and retirees alike – received a letter from Lee Enterprises about their Pulitzer Pension Plan, which states,  “The employer sponsoring your pension plan has made an election permitted under Federal law to delay funding for the plan. The election applies to the plan year beginning on January 1, 2011 and ending on December 31, 2011.

“Without the election, Federal law generally requires that any increase in the amount by which the plan is underfunded for a plan year be paid off over seven years. However, the election allows the increase in the amount by which the plan is underfunded for each of these plan years to be paid off in smaller annual payments over 15 years.”

Such language understandably has caused many to wonder just how secure their pensions are.  For the record, pensions of $40,000-plus are protected 100% by the PBGC and I believe that covers all our members.  In fact, the Pension Protection Act of 2006 strengthened pension protections and caused financial reporting about their funding levels to change dramatically in 2009 and could explain why we’re learning this.  But what also appears to be occurring is that Lee seems to be taking advantage of some delayed -funding mechanism under the law in order to hang onto cash a little longer (gotta find SOME way to pay for those bonuses, right?).  Obviously the Guild is disappointed that the employer would delay fully funding pensions – something our members spent a lifetime earning and something that needs to be there for them at the end of their careers – and wishes they wouldn’t engage in such financial sleight-of-hand but they are within their rights, it appears.  Nevertheless, the Guild has sent notice to our pension attorneys and we will keep you apprised and advised on events as they occur.  If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to call the Guild Office at 314-241-7046 or contact the shop steward in your department.

Source: http://goodwinbarrett.co.uk/mis-sold-pensions/.

 

 

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Lee reports lousy quarter (from Romenesko)

Apr 18, 2012 by

as PD employees circulate petitions calling for LEE CEO Mary Junck and CFO Carl Schmidt to return their bonuses, it appears that Lee employees aren’t the only ones outraged by such blatant hypocrisy.  Here, then, is the latest from Romenesko…

 

Lee reports lousy quarter:

Lee CEO Mary Junck (Disclosure: Image was altered) 

Just three weeks ago it was announced that Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck received a $500,000 bonus for …well, who knows what? … while her longtime sidekick, CFO Carl Schmidt, was handed $250,000. Today we get news the Mary and Carl didn’t do so well the last quarter. Some highlights today’s Lee Enterprises Q2 earnings report:

* The newspaper chain lost $26.6 million, compared with a $1.5 million in the 2011 quarter.
* Revenue fell 3.6% to $172.3 million, from $178.7 million a year ago.
* Advertising revenue declined 5.3%.
* Employee compensation decreased 5.2%
* Average number of full-time equivalent employees was down 7.5%.

* Lee Enterprises second quarter loss widens
* Lee Enterprises reports results for second fiscal quarter (Lee release)
* Lee shares down 13.61% on bleak earnings report

UPDATE: On my Facebook page, I noted that “in the middle of the Lee bankruptcy mess, she was named AP board chairman. A very clubby group those newspaper execs!” One person, who asked not to be named, sent this email in reaction:

Many of us AP retirees shudder at the thought of Gary Pruitt coming in as AP CEO and Junck taking over as the new board chair. The venerable news cooperative that has served the industry, and the world, well for 166 years will be led by two CEOs who made huge misjudgments along the way that put the survival of their companies in jeopardy and saddled them with debt that they are continuing to struggle with. I guess we can hope they learned from their mistakes and will bring a more rational approach to a worldwide news organization.

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Tristar

Apr 13, 2012 by

Some of our members have expressed difficulties getting their company-funded deductibles reimbursed this year.  For the record, this is how its supposed to work…

 

Employees with the low or mid-deductible plans pay a certain amount and then their company-funded deductible kicks in.  In the case of the low-deductible plan, the employee pays the first $350 ($700 per family).  The company-deductible then comes into play and reimburses the next $750 ($1500 for family).  After that it’s a 90/10 (in-network) split.  That plan has a maximum out-of-pocket of $1500 per person ($3000 per family) – which does not include your deductible.

 

In the case of the mid-deductible, the first $1000 is paid by the employee ($2,000 per family) and then the company-funded $750 kicks in ($1500 for family) and, like the low-deductible plan, you get reimbursed with a check in the mail.  After that it’s an 80/20 (in-network) split.  That plan has an maximum out-of-pocket of $2000 per person and $4000 per family – which does not include your deductible.

 

Again, the high deductible ($2500 deductible per person, $3500 per family) has no company-funded deductible and it is an 80/20 (in-network) split with a maximum out-of-pocket maximum of $1000 per person and $3000 per family – which does not include your rather high deductible.

 

The system is designed to flow from your doctors office to United Health Care.  United Health Care is a third party administer (TPA) as Lee Enterprises is actually self-insured.  Then, if the claim concerns a flexible spending account or a company-funded deductible, it moves on to Tristar and that’s where the glitch has developed  – between UHC and Tristar.

 

No one actually knows what is causing the glitch but it seems that the money has not been put into the Tristar account.  No one can say why and the company has made repeated assurances that the company has the money but, for some reason, it’s just not going through.

 

This problem is not just confined to Guild members but seems to be affecting union and non-union alike.  If you have any questions about your plan or are having difficulty getting your company-funded deductible reimbursed, please call Bruce Benson of PD Human Resources at 314-340-8065.  Bruce has been working with several of our members on this and has been quite helpful in getting their issues resolved – as he has in the past.

 

We will keep you apprised of developments as they occur.

 

 

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Let them eat cake – a protest against corporate greed

Apr 11, 2012 by

Employees of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch will gather outside their newspaper at noon on Thursday, April 12, to protest the outrageous bonuses awarded Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck (who received $500,000) and CFO Carl Schmidt (who received $250,000).

 

Noting that the bonuses were awarded the same day as layoffs at several Lee papers were announced, the event is billed as the “Let Them Eat Cake” protest, as the Guild contends those running Lee Enterprises are as out of touch as eighteenth century French Royalty and promises that “all who attend will receive a delicious cupcake” from a union bakery.

 

“Since when does tanking a company rate a bonus?” asks Shannon Duffy, business representative of the United Media Guild, the largest union at the Post-Dispatch.  “For a corporation that saw its stock plummet from $40 per share when it purchased the Pulitzer chain in 2005 to just over a buck-a-share today, it’s unbelievable that Lee’s board of directors would reward that kind of performance.”

 

Speakers will include Duffy, Guild Local President Jeff Gordon, Post-Dispatch retirees and Erica Douglas, daughter of Robert Douglas, a 40-year employee who died one year after having his retiree medical coverage cut off by Lee.  Douglas recently returned from attending Lee’s annual shareholder’s meeting in Davenport, Iowa where she read a letter to Lee’s Board of Directors about her father and his life.  It was a powerful moment and Douglas has vowed that her father’s death will not be in vain as she continues to speak out about the callous disregard that Lee has for its retirees.

 

WHAT:  “Let Them Eat Cake”  – –  a protest against corporate greed

WHEN:   Thursday, April 12, at noon

WHERE:  Side entrance of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch building, 900 N. Tucker

 

 

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