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2003 narse Meeting Minutes

Executive Summary - December 12, 2003
 National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc.

Ron Olbrysh called the Holiday meeting to order at 9:13 a.m. at the HQ office.

In Attendance: Bill Barker, Dick Bruce, Claude Ireson, Ken Johnson, Leo McCormack, George O'Hare, Ron Olbrysh and Mel Schultz.
Conference Call Participants:
Jim Fletcher, Richard Foulke, Jim Griffiths, Art Levin, Gordon Muschett, Tom Nally, Jim Norby (NRLN President), Lloyd Van Schoyck, and Penny Williams.

The Board approved the minutes of the November 14, 2003 minutes. Don Eller¹s monthly financials for NARSE were discussed and approved.

MEMBERSHIP
Leo McCormack reported that our paid membership is up by 101 over the same time last year. Leo also reported that we have e-mail addresses for about 1/2 of our paid membership. We will work with Penny Williams to get these addresses into our e-mail network data base. This will be another means of communicating with our membership in a timely, quick fashion on matters of importance involving retiree issues.

MEDICARE DRUG ACT OF 2003
After significant discussion of this new law, it was decided that we need more hard facts about this Act. We at least know that runaway drug costs were not addressed. One of our members on the West Coast called the new Medicare bill a "placebo in disguise!" He further said that this "flaw(ed) legislation was passed in the Senate¹s rush to adjourn for the Holiday and their thoughts of securing senior votes for them. (The law) will become a munumental muddleŠIt will result in a corporate bailout with company¹s getting rid of the drug costs associated with retirees and shifting the costs to taxpayers. The passage of the Bill will surely encourage large corporations, such as Sears, to dump their own healthcare benefits in favor of this flawed legislation and cut our last tie of long promised benefits from the Company."

During our conference call, Jim Norby, the President of the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN), joined in the discussion. He said that his group is a Washington, D.C. based grassroots coalition of retiree and older worker organizations dedicated to protecting the pension and health benefits of their members. It now represents nearly 2 million individual retirees.

Norby said that his group is working for the repeal of this Act. They want to offer a new piece of legislation that will have bi-partisan support on the Hill. They plan on hiring a part time lobbyist next year to further this effort. He added that this new Medicare bill is being compared to the catastrophic insurance law passed under the Reagan administration, which was quickly repealed after retirees and older Americans started to learn about the new charges contained in the fine print.

"Both Republican and Democrat leaders in Congress have vowed to reopen this legislation next year to work out details in the complex bill and the NRLN intends to be part of that process representing the interest of retirees," Norby said.

There was much spirited discussion by the Board on the Medicare Drug Act. Ron Olbrysh mentioned that William Novelli, AARP President, justified his organization¹s support of the Medicare prescription drug bill in an opinion column appearing in The Wall Street Journal dated December 4, 2003. Novelli said: "AARP is serving notice that we are stepping up our efforts in the states to strengthen Medicaid coverage and supplemental prescription-drug programs and to lower drug costs. We will work with Congress to improve the new legislation, including making legal the importation of prescription drugs from Canada. We will be a watchdog to make sure this new law is properly implemented to improve the lives of people in Medicare and the quality of the Medicare program. And we will keep the heat on to make drugs more affordable and accessible."

2004 NARSE ANNUAL MEETING.
The annual meeting preparation status was reviewed and discussed. Whether to have a lunch or dinner is still under consideration. A number of high profile politicians are being contacted as potential key-note speakers. Most retirees are concerned about the status of their health care with Sears. It was suggested that the speaker from Sears this year should be someone well versed in the benefit area.

The next NARSE monthly meeting is scheduled for Friday, January 9, 2004 at 9 a.m. CST, 8th Floor Conference Room at our Headquarters. A conference call will be available for those not able to attend at 10:30 a.m. CST.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:40 a.m.

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Executive Summary - November 14, 2003 Meeting
National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc.

In Ron Olbrysh’s absence, Dick Bruce called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m. The minutes are being taken by Claude Ireson.

IN ATTENDANCE:
Dick Bruce, Bud Defano, Claude Ireson, Leo McCormack, George O'Hare, and Mel Schultz.

CONFERENCE CALL PARTICIPANTS:
Don Eller, Richard Foulke, Jim Griffiths, Ken Johnson, Art Levin, Gordon Muschett, Dave Micheal, Leo Murphy, Lloyd Van Schoyck, and Penny Williams.

The Board reviewed and approved, as submitted, the minutes of the October 10, 2003 meeting. Dick distributed the financial reports as prepared by Don Eller. A careful review of the reports confirmed that our financial position was sound and the reports were approved by the board.

SEARS 2004 MEDICAL PLANS
Dick reviewed the 2004 medical plans Sears sent to all retiree participants. He pointed out an apparent error in the definition of home delivery non-preferred brand co-pay. One entry illustrated a $60 Home delivery non-preferred co-pay, another page showed $55. Dick called the retiree center and they confirmed that the home delivery co-pay was, indeed, $55.

NARSE RETIREE SURVEY
Mel Schultz reported that 75 complete sets of the NARSE retiree survey were printed and copies mailed via prioirty mail to all of the 18 Sears Retiree Advisory Council members and all NARSE Directors and Officers. George O'Hare suggested that we mail a copy to all Sears Directors and Claude suggested we send a copy to all retired Sears Chairmen. A motion was submitted to this purpose, seconded and unanimously passed. It was also suggested that copies of the survey be sent to key news organizations (PBS) and AARP.

NARSE MEMBERSHIP CARDS
Mel reported that the new membership cards were being printed in sufficient time for the 2004 membership dues. He further indicated that upon review the current letterhead will remain as stated. Regarding membership, the next issue of Straight Talk should emphasize that "dues are due." It was suggested that consideration be given to fund raising events and special appeals.

COALITIONS
Dick initiated a general discussion relative to coalitions with other retiree organizations. The dialogue continued with some interest exhibited in the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN). Dick read a statement from Ron Olbrysh about the NRLN:

"Thanks to Tom Nally, I have been in contact with the President of the NATIONAL RETIREE LEGISLATIVE NETWORK ( NRLN). This group has been in existence for about three years. The President of NRLN, Jim Norby, retired from the telephone industry quite a few years ago.

"The NRLN is a District of Columbia nonprofit social welfare organization. It was started by several large retiree organizations representing more than 1,500,000 individual retirees. NRLN's mission is to secure federal legislation that will guarantee the fair and equitable treatment of retirees in private and public sector health and pension programs and which will improve the adequacy of benefits by such programs.

"Also, NRLN is committed to watch for and stop legislation that threatens retiree health and pension programs. NRLN is committed to securing fair treatment for all retirees, regardless of the type of benefit program involved. This will be true for management, as well as rank and file retirees who may have been previously covered by a union negotiated contract.

"It is my understanding that except for one individual, all of the officers and board members of NRLN are volunteers. The only paid person is their Washington, D.C. lobbyist/attorney who testifies before various Congressional committees and contacts Senators and Representatives regarding retiree issues.

"Jim Norby, NRLN president, has agreed to be on our DECEMBER 12 meeting conference call to discuss his organization and answer any questions the Board may have."

It was the general consensus of the board, present, that more input was needed vis-a-vis NRLN's agenda and dues requirement.

2004 NARSE ANNUAL MEETING.
The annual meeting preparation status was reviewed and discussed. George, Dave and Mel are efficiently planning for the scheduled annual meeting of NARSE for May 12, 2004 to be held at the Stonegate Conference Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. George asked the attendees for any additional suggestions for speakers for the Annual Meeting.

CONFERENCE CALL.
The conference call started promptly at 10:30 a.m. Dick welcomed everyone and reviewed, in depth, the subjects covered by the Board prior to the conference call. Art suggested that we send a letter to all club presidents urging their direct involvement to encourage their members to renew their membership in NARSE for 2004. It was suggested that the letter be over Ron's signature. Further, we should let our membership and the clubs know of our efforts on their behalf this past year and our continuing efforts for the protection of all Sears retirees’ benefits. Coalitions and NRLN were discussed in some detail. It was generally concluded that we need to know much more about the various retiree activist organizations.

To that end Lloyd said he had reviewed a number of retiree web sites by typing in, "retiree clubs." Art reported that he was checking with retiree organizations in his area and had arranged a joint meeting between the Sears Arizona Retiree Club and the 300 member Quest Retiree Club in order to attract Arizona legislators as speakers.

Penny reported that our web-site had 1,850 hits last month.

The next NARSE monthly meeting is scheduled for Friday, December 12, 2003 at 9 a.m. CST, 8th Floor Conference Room at our Headquarters. A conference call will be available for those not able to attend at 10:30 a.m. CST.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.

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Executive Summary - September 12, 2003
National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc.

Ron Olbrysh called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m. at the HQ Office.

Attendees included: Dick Bruce, Dick Cofran, Tony Debevitz, Carroll Elijah, Claude Ireson, Leo McCormack, George O’Hare, Ron Olbrysh, Mel Schultz, and Dave Silgers. The conference call participants included: Ev Buckardt, Don Eller, Richard Foulks, Blair Holden, Art Levin, Walter McDude, Gordon Muschett, Tom Nally, Ruth Pilant, Carol Robles, Joe Roberson, Elaine Russell, Lloyd VanSchoyck, and Penny Williams.

The Board approved the minutes of the August 8, 2002 meeting. Carroll Elijah reported that the organization’s financial condition is sound. Since Carroll is moving to Arizona, beginning next month, Don Eller will be preparing the monthly financial reports.

MEMBERSHIP UPDATE
Leo McCormack reported that our paid membership is still ahead of last year. One of our goals is to increase NARSE’s membership by becoming more active with the local Sears retirees’ clubs throughout the country.

WEB SITE
Penny Williams reported on the number of "hits" the NARSE web site has had since its inception. The Board requested her to keep track of the web "hits" on a monthly basis and also where these "hits" are coming from.

HEALTH CARE ISSUES
Ron reported that on September 7 he sent out an e-mail to the NARSE e-mail network entitled: "YOUR HEALTH BENEFITS ARE IN JEOPARDY!!! ACT NOW!!!!" The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with protecting the rights of older workers, recently made a proposal that would significantly impact workers/retirees age 65 and older. Under current law, employers must continue to provide benefits to Medicare eligible retirees (those 65 and older), but can save money by including Medicare and providing a "wrap-around" benefit. Most employers who provide retiree health plans today, such as Sears, already do this.

The EEOC’s proposed rule would make it legal for an employer to reduce or deny retiree health benefits if a retiree is eligible for Medicare, even if the employer’s retiree health benefit is substantially better. If the EEOC’s proposal becomes law, employers will be able to simply drop the age 65+ retirees from retiree health plans altogether, leaving them with substantially less benefits than they are currently entitled to receive.

In the e-mail, NARSE urged everyone to contact the EEOC in Washington, D.C. to withdraw the proposed rule that would allow employers with retiree health plans to reduce or eliminate benefits for anyone 65 or over. The response to this e-mail was overwhelming. One California retiree wrote to Senator Boxer, the EEOC and President George W. Bush. He told Senator Boxer that "New Sears management took away our promised paid-up life insurance. I served my country in combat in World War II. Now that I am 78 years of age, I need benefits that were promised for health for my wife and for me and for all retirees in this great country." He told the EEOC that he could "ill afford this loss." And finally, he informed President Bush that the EEOC proposal "will leave all retirees with substantial loss of benefits. If I were younger, I could work more years and prepare, but at 78 it is too late for my wife and for me. Like your father, I served in the Navy in combat during World War II. I have tried my best to serve this country every day, but in my twilight years, I need your help."

STRAIGHT TALK
The next issue of Straight Talk will be published the early part of October. Some of the articles include: "Meet Your Regional VPs" – "Your Health Benefits Are In Jeopardy! Act Now!" – "Why Join NARSE?"

NARSE SEARS RETIREE SURVEY
On Thursday, August 28, Ron, Ken Johnson and Mel Schultz met with Greg Lee, Sears Senior VP of Human Resources, and Bob O’Leary, Sears Senior VP of Public Relations, Communications and Government Affairs, to review the results of NARSE’s National Survey II of Sears Retiree Attitudes and Concerns. The results of this meeting with Sears can be summarized in a letter O’Leary sent to Ron, Ken and Mel. He said he found the session to be "informative" and he appreciated "the opportunity to share our respective views openly and constructively." He added that the "findings…provoked some thoughts on how we can improve our communications with the broad retiree population…We, of course, will seek the views of the Retiree Advisory Council and will keep them informed as we develop our future plans. As you have advised, NARSE has member representation on the council, and through that channel should be aware of the discussions as deemed appropriate by its members."

MISCELLANEOUS
(1) After Board discussion, Ron said that a proposed letter will be posted on NARSE’s web site that may be sent to elected officials about adding drug coverage to Medicare. (2) An editorial drafted, and approved by the Board entitled "New Laws Needed Now To Protect Benefits, Or Forget Retirement – At Any Age," has been sent to the media by George O’Hare and will also appear in the next issue of Straight Talk.

The next NARSE regular meeting is scheduled for Friday, September 12, 2003 at 9 a.m. CST,8th Floor Conference Room of our headquarters. A conference call will be available for those not able to attend at 10:30 a.m. CST.

The meeting adjourned at 11:49 a.m.

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Executive Summary - August 8, 2003
National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc.

Ron Olbrysh called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m. at the Headquarters Office.

Attendees included
Tony Debevitz, Claude Ireson, Ken Johnson, George O’Hare, Ron Olbrysh, and Mel Schultz. The conference call participants included: Stanton Beil, Richard Folulks, Jim Griffiths, Blair Holden, Chuck Lance, Art Levin, Leo Murphy, Gordon Muschett, Tom Nally, Lew Orlow, Ruth Pilant, Elaine Russell, Lloyd Van Schoyck, Ken Winkler, and Lucille Wollan.

The Board approved the minutes of the July 11, 2002 meeting. In our Treasurer’s absence, it was reported that the organization’s financial condition is sound.

MEMBERSHIP UPDATE
Since Leo McCormack was on vacation, he prepared a written report on paid membership. Such membership is still ahead of last year. For 2003 to date, we have a paid membership increase of 35.9% over the same period for 2002. In terms of dollars and cents, we are up 32.8% over last year. However, Leo reported that we will not know the "real story" until "we get through October, November and December to see if our existing members continue to support NARSE."

STRAIGHT TALK
The next issue of Straight Talk will be published either late September or early October. The Board decided to have a "full distribution" of the fall issue of Straight Talk. Since NARSE will be placing added emphasis on legislation protecting retiree benefits, the next Chairman’s Column in Straight Talk will be: "Why Join NARSE?" NARSE is now forming coalitions with other retirement groups and lobbying Washington officials to pass laws protecting retiree benefits.

PENSION RULE CHANGES
Within the past month there has been two landmark court rulings against companies seeking to profit by revising employees’ pension plans. As a result, Congress and the Treasury Department are likely to be forced to decide how to regulate so-called cash-balance pension plans. In both the IBM and Xerox cases, federal courts concluded that the cash-balance plans discriminate against older workers, cut older workers’ benefits and serve to lower the costs and bolster the profits of employers that use them.

As background, cash-balance pension plans have been substituted for traditional pension plans at hundreds of U.S. companies, which benefit these companies in several ways. First, rather than paying a pension based on a worker’s years of service and final salary, which provides a pension that increases rapidly in value in the later years on the job, cash-balance plans use a formula that has the appearance of a retirement account. They give each worker a hypothetical "account" into which the company places credits of, say, 2% to 5% of salary a year, plus interest. One effect of the shift in plans was to immediately lower pensions for people in their 40s and older who have many years at a company.

Another benefit to companies was to give a lift to their earnings. Because the amount the companies faced in future pension liabilities would drop, their current costs also would fall and the pension plans would send pension "income" to the bottom line. The judges in both federal cases refuted a key defense of employers, that cash-balance plans aren’t pension plans that should be subject to the usual pension regulations because they are hybrids that are modeled on 401(k) plans controlled by employees. However, Judge Richard Posner, in ruling against Xerox, wrote, "For ‘hybrid,’ read ‘unlawful.’"

NARSE SEARS RETIREE SURVEY
Ron reviewed the Suggestions for NARSE and the Suggestions for Sears as set forth in the retiree survey. As part of this discussion, he shared with the Board the letter received from Lloyd VanSchoyck who said in part:

"My #1 priority regarding relations between NARSE and Sears is that Sears must recognize NARSE. This is not negotiatable. If Sears genuinely wants good relations with the people who built the business, it must pursue a strategic relationship with the organization that represents the largest single block of those people…Suggested legislative objectives/priorities seem to me a logical place where Sears management and Sears retirees might find common ground. No business can ignore the benefits to be had by reducing the cost of business. And it has long been accepted government policy to combine tax policy with social engineering. Sears, its stockholders, associates and retirees might all benefit if:

*income tax were eliminated on Social Security benefits.

*all health care (including insurance) costs were tax deductible.

*favorable tax policy granted to Sears medical and prescription plans.

"If Sears management and the largest block of its retirees (NARSE) could be allies in developing new tax policies favorable to the corporate ‘bottome line’ and the well being of associates and retirees, it could help erase lingering bitterness over the life insurance fiasco."

Ron also informed the Board that on Thursday, August 28, he, along with Ken Johnson and Mel Schultz would be meeting with Greg Lee, Sears Senior VP of Human Resources, and Bob O’Leary, Sears Senior VP of Public Relations, Communications and Government Affairs, to review the results of NARSE’s National Survey II of Sears Retiree Attitudes and Concerns.

MISCELLANEOUS
(1) George O’Hare will be attending the Mayor’s Department of Aging Meeting in Chicago on August 26-28;
(2) Ron will draft a proposed legislative letter to be sent to various Congressional representatives regarding NARSE’s position on retiree benefits. It will be reviewed by Ken & Mel;
(3) Art Levin reported that Mark Crosby will be at his October 14 Retiree Club meeting in Arizona;
(4) NARSE could still use representatives for the states of North Carolina, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Wisconsin; and
(5) It was suggested that NARSE’s regional vice presidents establish good relations with their local Sears store managers. Among other things, this could assist when establishing new local Sears retiree clubs.

The next NARSE regular meeting is scheduled for Friday, September 12, 2003 at 9 a.m. CST, 8th Floor Conference Room of our headquarters. A conference call will be available for those not able to attend at 10:30 a.m. CST.

The meeting adjourned at 11:49 a.m.

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Executive Summary - July 11, 2003
National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc.

Ron Olbrysh called the meeting to order at 9:09 a.m. at the HQ office.

Attendees included
Dick Bruce, Bud Defano, Carroll Elijah, Ken Johnson, Leo McCormack, George O’Hare, Ron Olbrysh, and Mel Schultz. The conference call participants included: Jim Griffiths, Art Levin, Tom Nally, Ruth Pilant, Lloyd Van Schoyck, Penny Williams, and Ken Winkler.

The Board approved the minutes of the June 13, 2002 meeting. Carroll Elijah reviewed NARSE’s Balance Sheet as of June 30, 2003, and also Revenue & Expenses for June 2003 and for January through June 2003. The organization’s financial condition is sound. All expenses have been paid for the May Annual Meeting. Carroll will be moving to Arizona within the next two months. For the time being, he will continue to prepare the monthly reports. Leo McCormack will issue any checks that are written. In addition, NARSE is still searching for a Secretary for the organization.

NEW REGIONAL VICE PRESIDENTS
 Ron reported on his selection of four new Regional Vice Presidents. They are as follows: JIM GRIFFITHS, Canton, Ohio. Jim will be NARSE’s contact for the state of Ohio. He has been a member of the Sears Advisory Board since it was formed several years ago. TOM NALLY, Springfield, Virginia. Tom will represent NARSE in Washington, D.C., Virgina and Maryland. He was with Sears for about 30 years, serving all of his time at the same store in Virginia. He is also a member of the Sears Advisory Board. RUTH PILANT, Waco, Texas. Ruth will be NARSE’s contact in the state of Texas. She is also a member of the Sears Advisory Board. And finally, BOB SEARS, Louisville, Kentucky will be NARSE’s contact in Kentucky and Indiana. Prior to his retirement, he worked for Sears about 21 years, all in the field organization.

Carroll said that he also had a possible vice president for the states of Iowa, Minnesota and North & South Dakota. His name is DON ELLER. Carroll will furnish Don’s phone number to Ron. The Board unanimously approved the four new regional vice presidents and also confirmed Don Eller if he agrees to assume this position.

MEMBERSHIP UPDATE
Leo McCormack reported that NARSE’s paid membership still is climbing. Currently, paid membership is 14% ahead of last year at this time. Leo said that notes and correspondence are accompanying some of the checks. For instance, one spouse said: "Being the wife of (name of retiree) and receiving his pension, I am happy to help you keep things going." Another retiree said: "We have contacted reps in Washington, D.C. on health issues. I want to say how much a Retirees’ Day was used and appreciated. We no longer drive after dark and could never take advantage of the Sunday 6 p.m. sales for retirees.

STRAIGHT TALK
 The next issue of Straight Talk will be published during September.
A discussion centered on the distribution of the next issue. This will be decided at the August meeting.

NARSE 2004 ANNUAL MEETING
It is never too early to start planning. A committee was formed to start preparing for next year’s annual meeting. The members include George O’Hare, Ron Olbrysh, Mel Schultz (advisor), and Dave Silger. Additional members are being sought.

NARSE SEARS RETIREE SURVEY
At next month’s meeting, the Board will prioritize the Suggestions for Sears and the Suggestions for NARSE that were set forth in this year’s survey. All of the Regional Vice Presidents will be mailed a copy of this report within the next week.

AARP ADVERTISEMENT
Ron shared with the Board a full page ad recently published by AARP in the Chicago Tribune. We assume that this ad had national distribution. To have truly effective legislation, AARP said:

"Please take time to call Congress and let them know that you are not going to be satisifed with the current Medicare proposal until they:

*Make certain that proposed coverage does not threaten the stability of the benefit.
*Make certain that coverage is universal, regardless of where people live.
*Make certain that people in Medicare won’t be faced with unaffordable increases in premiums and deductibles.
*Enact a drug benefit that doesn’t penalize those who remain in traditional Medicare.
*Make sure the proposal will not deny benefits based on income.
*Guarantee the Medicare drug benefit to seniors who are also eligible for the low income Medicaid program.
*Provide incentives for employers to continue private retiree health benefits that work in conjunction with the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
*Make every effort to reduce major gaps in coverage.

Please call 1-800-795-5336 and let Congress know how you feel."

The Board unanimously approved this AARP statement about the Medicare proposal and suggested it be placed on NARSE’s web site. Ron said this will be done and that he will notify AARP about NARSE’s support.

MISCELLANEOUS – (1) Ron Olbrysh will prepare a current list of the names, addresses, and phone numbers of NARSE’s officers, directors and advisors. He will distribute it at the August meeting. (2) It was suggested that the cartoon on the home page of the NARSE web site be moved to an "inside" page.

The next NARSE regular meeting is scheduled for Friday, August 8, 2003 at 9 a.m. CST, 8th Floor Conference Room of our headquarters. A conference call will be available for those not able to attend at 10:30 a.m. CST.

The meeting adjourned at 11:49 a.m.

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Executive Summary - June 13, 2003
National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc.

Ron Olbrysh called the meeting to order at 9:08 a.m. at the HQ office.

Attendees included:
Dick Bruce, Ev Buckardt, Tony Debevitz, Bud Defano, Carroll Elijah, Ken Johnson, Leo McCormack, George O’Hare, Ron Olbrysh, and Mel Schultz. The conference call participants included: Bill Baker, Art Levin, Leo Murphy, Gordon Muschett, Lloyd Van Schoyck, and Ken Winkler.

Ron told the Board that the "minutes" of the May Annual Meeting will appear as articles on the first seven pages of the June issue of Straight Talk. We are still searching for a person to fill the officer position of Secretary for NARSE. Anyone who is interested must be willing to attend the monthly meetings. Candidates should contact Ron Olbrysh at 630/627-7488.

FINANCIAL REPORT
Carroll Elijah reported that NARSE’s financial condition is sound. He also told the Board he is moving to Phoenix next September. However, Carroll is willing to assist in the Treasurer position until a replacement is found. Ron said that the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer positions of NARSE should be members from the Chicago area. Carroll has done a phenomenal job as our Treasurer and his accounting and reporting expertise will be missed.

MEMBERSHIP UPDATE
Leo McCormack reported that NARSE’s paid membership is up more than 10 percent from a year ago. There was a discussion during the executive session as to how to identify and solicit new members from recent Sears retirees. Several viable proposals were suggested and will be implemented.

CERTIFICATE OF APPRECIATION TO KEN JOHNSON
 During the conference call, the Board of Directors presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Ken Johnson in recognition and appreciation of his two years (2001–2003) of service as NARSE Chairman and his many years of dedication to the organization in numerous roles, including the publishing of NARSE’s newsletter, "Straight Talk." In addition, Ken has given generously of his time and experience, and his untiring efforts on behalf of Sears Retirees are recognized and greatly appreciated.

STRAIGHT TALK
The June issue of NARSE’s newsletter is now being mailed out. This issue of Straight Talk is primarily devoted to our 6th Annual Meeting held May 7, and also the results of the Second Survey of Sears retirees. The lead Annual Meeting article, captioned "What’s Happening in Retailing, Its Impact on Business" summarizes Sid Doolittle’s keynote address. The AARP talk, "Prescription Drugs Date With Destiny – But Social Security is Oka", highlights Steve Carter’s talk. "The New Sears Grand Concept" article summarizes Jerry Post’s discussion of a new full-line Sears store located off mall. "Sears Told Us…We Told Sears" is an article reporting on the presentation by Dan Quaid and Art Levin, Sears Advisory Council members, on their Dallas Council meeting in March with Alan Lacy.

The Second Sears Retiree Survey summary is set forth on pages 8-11 by Mel Schultz. It is "sprinkled" throughout with comments from retirees. There is also a column by Ron Olbrysh about Sears new discount policy, where the NARSE money goes, negative and positive actions and comments about the retiree survey. As Ron said at the annual meeting, "It is in the best interests of all retirees, and NARSE, to have a successful, profitable Sears. NARSE wants Sears to survive!"

NARSE SEARS RETIREE SURVEY
 Mel Schultz presented to the Board, for its approval, the retiree comments and suggestions for NARSE, and the retiree comments and suggestions for Sears consideration. Both reports were overwhelmingly approved by the Board for implementation. They must first be prioritized.

The suggestions for NARSE were divided into seven segments, entitled: "NARSE Relations with Sears," "Sears Retiree Advisory Council," Sears Medical Insurance Plans," "Legislation," "Coalitions with other Organizations," "NARSE Membership," and "Encouragement for NARSE."

The suggestions for Sears were divided into 12 segments entitled: "Sears/Retiree Relations – Why NARSE Was Formed," "Sears Benefit Programs," "Sears Communication with Retirees," "Sears Vacations and Benefits Plus Programs," "Sears Management of the Business & Merchandising Direction," "Retiree Shopping at Sears," "Definition of What Sears Is," "Retiree Clubs, NARSE and Sears Retiree Advisory Council," "Legislation and Coalitions," "The Bottom Line – LACY," "Healing the Breach," and "Sears Future."

In the survey section summary entitled, "NARSE Relations With Sears", the formation of NARSE was explained: "NARSE was initially formed in late 1997 to protest Sears Chairman Arthur Martinez’s reduction of retirees’ earned and promised life insurance, and to protect other medical and pension benefits. This protest was enthusiastically endorsed by many retirees, while some felt that protests were negative and  unprofessional… However, where costs and terms of Sears medical plan benefits are detrimental to retirees, NARSE must speak up. Where company management, merchandising decisions and store operations adversely affect Sears performance, NARSE must speak up. If standing up for the company and Sears retirees is negative, so be it…

"NARSE certainly takes no pleasure in being negative, and welcomes the opportunity to be positive when Sears decisions and performance merit applause." On balance, most comments about NARSE were supportive and encouraged us to be the independent "watchdog" looking out for retirees’ interests.

LEGISLATIVE PROJECT
After Mel Schultz reviewed our legislative itinerary, the NARSE Board approved the following broad legislative agenda that would: (1) Help to reduce health care costs; (2) Protect Social Security benefits; (3) Protect Medicare and add prescription drug coverage; (4) Reduce or eliminate income tax on Social Security benefits; (5) Protect retiree promised/earned medical, insurance and pensions; and (6) Promote corporate responsibility.

The next NARSE regular meeting is scheduled for Friday, July 11, 2003 at 9 a.m. CST, 8th Floor Conference Room of our headquarters. A conference call will be available for those not able to attend at 10:30 a.m. CST.

The meeting adjourned at 12:01 p.m.

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Executive Summary - March 14, 2003
National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc.

In Ken Johnson’s absence, Ron Olbrysh, Secretary and General Counsel of NARSE, called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m., at the Headquarters Office.

Attendees included:
Dick Bruce, Ev Buckardt, Carroll Elijah, Leo McCormack, Ron Olbrysh, Mel Schultz and Dave Silger. The conference call participants included: Claude Ireson, Ken Johnson, Art Levin, Gordon Muschett, and Ken Winkler.

The Board approved the February 14, 2003 minutes of the NARSE meeting. Carroll Elijah reported that NARSE’s financial condition is sound. He also provided the Board with a "Check Detail" for January and February, 2003. Leo McCormack reported that the number of membership dues coming in is up significantly over last year at this same time of the year.

SEARS ADVISORY COUNCIL
The next Sears Advisory Council meeting will be held in Dallas, Texas beginning March 26, 2003.

UPDATE ON SEARS SUMMARY ANNUAL REPORT
 As previously reported, Dick Bruce received a response from Brian Shields, Sears Financial Benefits Administration Consultant, regarding the letter Bruce sent to Sears last December about the company’s Summary Annual Report. Shields, among other things, provided information about the number of life insurance replacement plan participants, the number of retirees participating in the health insurance plan, and the current number of Sears retirees. Based upon the information that Bruce received, he prepared for the Board an analysis of Sears retiree medical costs and enrollment for the period of time covered by this Annual Report.

NARSE SEARS RETIREE SURVEY
Mel Schultz said that 365 surveys have been received as of yesterday from 18 states. The results of the survey will be shared with NARSE’s membership at its Annual Meeting in May. As was done for the last survey, we will offer to share the results with Alan Lacy before NARSE’s Annual Meeting.

NARSE ANNUAL MEETING
The Sixth Annual Meeting of NARSE is scheduled for Wednesday, May 7. Dave Silger is coordinating the site and activities for the night before the meeting. A number of awards are presented every year. The Board approved three Distinguished Service Awards. The candidate for the Joseph Kehoe Award will be selected shortly. Some of the speakers at this year’s meeting include: Sid Doolittle, founding partner of the Chicago retail consulting firm, McMillan Doolittle; Jerry Post, Sears Senior Vice President in charge of new strategies; Stan Aldis, Sears Health Care Benefits spokesperson; Steve Carter, AARP Illinois State Operating Officer; Don Quaid & Art Levin, Sears Advisory Council members.

NEW SLATE OF OFFICERS
Ken Johnson asked Ev Buckardt to chair the nominating committee to select a slate of officers whose term will begin after this year’s annual meeting. Art Levin said that the CEO of NARSE should be someone from the Chicago area. The Board agreed. The new proposed slate of officers will be presented to the Board at its April 11, 2003 meeting.

NARSE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
Mel Schultz told the Board that the first meeting of NARSE’s Legislative Committee met February 18. Jack Cashman, who was involved in state lobbying activities at Sears was in attendance as a "resource." Mel suggested that the credo for NARSE’s legislative agenda be "influence formation of opinion." There was no objection to this credo.

The next NARSE regular meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 11, 2003 at 9 a.m. CST, 8th Floor Conference Room of HQ. A conference call will be available for those not able to attend at 10:30 a.m. CST.

The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.

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Executive Summary - February 14, 2003
National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc.

Ken Johnson called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m. at the HQ Office.

Attendees included: Dick Bruce, Tony Debevetz, Ken Johnson, Leo McCormack, Ron Olbrysh, Mel Schultz and Dave Silger. The conference call participants included: Art Levin, Lloyd Van Schoyck and Ken Winkler.

The Board approved the January 10, 2003 minutes of the NARSE meeting. In Carroll Elijah’s absence, Ken Johnson reported that NARSE’s financial condition is sound. Dues are still coming in. In fact, Leo McCormack reported that we are up about 15% over last year. Ken also suggested that the Board consider a small gift to David L. Zielke, a retiree who completed his independent review of NARSE’s financial records, "in appreciation of services rendered." The Board approved such a gift.

STRAIGHT TALK - Ken Johnson discussed the latest issue (February 2003) of Straight Talk which is now being mailed to all retirees on our mailing list. Ken reported that "a lot of retirees" rely upon NARSE for information. As usual, this issue deals with many articles of interest to Sears retirees. For instance, there are articles discussing Sears 4th Quarter and Year 2002 Results, Lucent Ends Retirees’ Death Benefit, Fight Over Health-Care Benefits, Names and addresses of Sears Board of Directors, and The Really Unfair Tax, an article appearing in the February 3 issue of Time magazine, to name but a few of the items appearing in this issue.

LETTERS TO NARSE – Ken also read a few letters that NARSE recently received from Sears retirees. The comments from retirees run across the board. Some are very pleased with what our organization is doing to protect retiree’s benefits. Others feel we are wasting our time. One retiree from Ohio said: "It’s a real shame that Sears can’t keep their word (about life insurance benefits)…NARSE’s time is being wasted trying to deal with liars."

UPDATE ON SEARS SUMMARY ANNUAL REPORT – Dick Bruce reported that he received a response from Brian Shields, Sears Financial Benefits Administration Consultant, regarding the letter Bruce sent to Sears last December about the company’s Summary Annual Report. Shields, among other things, provided information about the number of life insurance replacement plan participants, the number of retirees participating in the health insurance plan, and the current number of Sears retirees. Bruce will prepare a summary of this data for NARSE.

NARSE SEARS RETIREE SURVEY – Mel Schultz said that 355 surveys had been received as of yesterday. About 285 have already been tallied. The surveys have come in from 18 states. The results of the survey will be shared with its membership.

NARSE ANNUAL MEETING – The Sixth Annual Meeting of NARSE is scheduled for Wednesday, May 7. Specific information about exact time, place, and agenda will be mailed to members during the latter part of March. Dave Silger is coordinating the site and activities for the night before the meeting.

NARSE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA – Mel Schultz told the Board that the first meeting of NARSE’s Legislative Committee is scheduled for next Tuesday, February 18 at 9:30 a.m. CST at HQ. Jack Cashman, who was involved in state lobbying activities at Sears before he retired, will be in attendance as a "resource."

MISCELLANEOUS - Art Levin reported that the next Sears Advisory Council meeting is set for March 26 – 28, 2003 in Dallas, Texas

The next NARSE regular meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 14, 2003 at 9 a.m. CST, 8th Floor Conference Room of HQ. A conference call will be available for those not able to attend at 10:30 a.m. CST.

The meeting adjourned at 12:20 p.m.

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Executive Summary - January 10, 2003
National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc.

Ken Johnson called the meeting to order at 9:12 a.m. at the HQ Office.

Attendees included: Dick Bruce, Bud Defano, Carroll Elijah, Ken Johnson, Leo McCormack, Ron Olbrysh, Mel Schultz and Dave Silger. The conference call participants included: Bill Barker, Leo Murphy, Art Levin, Lew Orlow, Derek Palmer, and Ken Winkler.

Ken Johnson opened the meeting with a word about Joe A. Reidy, who passed away at the age of 83 on December 26, 2002. He was a "good guy" and a very active member of NARSE. His contributions and participation will be missed.

Carroll Elijah reviewed NARSE’s December and January – December, 2002 financials. The organization is still "financially sound." The year-end report disclosed that the cash in the bank is about the same as last year. The report was discussed and approved by the Board.

Elijah also said that our outside auditor, David L. Zielke, completed his review of NARSE’s 2001 financial records that included postings in the revenue and expense statements for the entire year. Included in the verification were bank balances, expense transactions, income postings and expenses, etc. Mr. Zielke furnished a letter to NARSE that said, "no irregularities were noted."

Ken Johnson called for review and approval of the December Board minutes. The text of the minutes was approved without modification.

Leo McCormack provided an update to the Board on membership. While new members are still signing up, a "Call For Action" insert will be included in the February issue of Straight Talk. The insert will state, in part: "…NARSE is an ‘independent’ organization of retired Sears employees whose goal is to preserve and maintain retiree benefits earned over a lifetime of dedicated loyal service to Sears. Our joining together forming an alliance with our brother and sister retirees and subsequent overt actions played a major role in the company’s decision to settle the reduced ‘life insurance’ lawsuit. Although the results were much less than we had earned and deserved, NARSE believes that without its intervention the company would never have settled the case. It is clear from the federal judge’s comments relating to retiree benefits that legislation is needed to help retirees preserve their benefits and to balance the scales of justice. NARSE supports retiree’s benefits protection legislation. Sears management recognizes NARSE as a force to be reckoned with but we remain strong only as long as we have dedicated members who are ready to fight for their rights. There is strength in numbers. Let Sears management understand, WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY!!!!!!! We need your continued support!!!!!!!"

SEARS MEDICARE PLUS – Dick Bruce told the Board about two favorable changes in retiree healthcare coverage. You can now drop out of the Sears Medicare Plus plan (formerly known as "Plan E") and join a Medicare HMO, if you feel it may have more favorable benefits for you. Previously, when you dropped out of Plan E or now the Sears Medicare Plus program, you could never get back in. However, effective January 1, 2003, if you switch over to a Medicare HMO and this plan is suspended and you lose your eligibility, you may reenroll in the Sears plan. In addition, the Sears Medicare HMO now covers medical services rendered when you are traveling out of the country.

NARSE SEARS RETIREE SURVEY – Mel Schultz said that surveys from several of the regional Vice Presidents of NARSE are still coming in. It is expected that between 350 – 500 surveys should be in hand by mid-February. Most of the surveys are being completed at the various Sears Retiree Club meetings around the country. Mel is working on a format for the recaps, based upon what Gordon Muschett and Lloyd Van Schoyck already submitted. The Board was also told, by some of NARSE’s field representatives, that none of the Sears retirees they talked to have forgiven Sears for the life insurance debacle. In addition, they are totally frustrated with what is happening, or not happening, in the Sears stores. These retirees have said there is a total lack of proper merchandising.

NARSE ANNUAL MEETING – The sixth Annual Meeting of NARSE is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, May 7. Specific information about exact time, place, and agenda should be available at next month’s meeting. However, among other agenda items, the Board is working on assembling panels, consisting of experts in their respective fields, to review (1) the state of the retail industry; and (2) the current situation concerning health care in the United States. As last year, we also hope to have an officer of Sears on our agenda. The Board went into Executive Session to discuss the specifics of the agenda and the proposed speakers and panel members.

NARSE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA – Mel Schultz reiterated that "NARSE has no more important function than the development of a comprehensive Legislative agenda…The goal should be clear, concise and a quotable list of Legislative objectives (like the Ten Commandments) which NARSE can support and which can be implemented." Leo Murphy, NARSE’s Vice President of Government Relations, said that he fully supports Mel’s legislative agenda. It was agreed that Mel, Ron Olbrysh and Leo Murphy would develop a list of legislative goals for consideration by the Board. The Board is hoping that someone that feels strongly about legislation will step forward to coordinate this effort.

MISCELLANEOUS
(1) It was reported that the next Sears Advisory Council meeting is scheduled for March 26 – 27 in Dallas, Texas. It appears, at this time, that Sears will not be inviting the Advisory Council to their 2003 Shareholder’s Annual Meeting in May.
(2) It was also reported that Sears, on their web site, has requested retirees to send their questions and comments by e-mail to the Sears Advisory Council. However, no procedure was established for answering such e-mails.

The next NARSE regular meeting is scheduled for Friday, February 14, 2003 at 9 a.m. CST, 8th Floor Conference Room of HQ. A conference call will be available for those not able to attend at 10:30 a.m. CST.

The meeting adjourned at 12:19 p.m.

 


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