Home
narse Misc
     

A Little 
Known Fact 

The dues paying members of NARSE average 32.5 years of service with Sears. Applying that average to our 20,000 person mailing list gives a staggering 650,000 years of service and some insight into the resolve and dedication of our retiree population.


"The National Voice of Local Sears Retiree Clubs and Individual Sears Retirees Everywhere"

NARSE - Purpose, Perseverance
and Persistence

NARSE was formed during the later part of 1997 as a result of a promised life insurance benefit being taken away from retirees by the then CEO of Sears, Arthur Martinez. You may recall that this is the same Arthur who wrote a book with the self-serving title, "The Hard Road To The Softer Side of Sears."

But for the actions of Martinez, NARSE would not have come into existence. The formation of NARSE in 1997 enjoyed the support of more than 40 retired presidents and officers of Sears.

NARSE vigorously supported the efforts of 67 individual retirees when they filed a federal lawsuit against Sears involving Arthur's decision to reduce to a maximum of $5,000 the earned life insurance benefit of Sears retirees. Among other things, this was a breach of a fiduciary duty to all Sears retirees.

With the exception of one meeting with Martinez and the VP of Human Resources, John T. Sloan, during July, 1999, during which NARSE made several requests that were refused, every petition, call, letter, and demonstration during this time had been ignored by Sears. Clearly, it was Arthurıs strategy and operating policy to ignore both the public relations conflagration and Sears retirees.

However, NARSE refused to give up and worked closely with all of plaintiffs' counsel, providing them with documents, affidavits, depositions and insights into the workings of Sears. The status of the insurance lawsuit was continuously reported to our members in the organization's quarterly publication, STRAIGHT TALK. During this period of time, Sears was not communicating with its retirees. NARSE was!

NARSE's Board of Directors meets monthly to continue to monitor Sears actions and to protect retiree benefits. In addition, NARSE has a web site at www.narse.org, provides speakers to bring information to local retiree clubs, and has reunited thousands of retirees with former associates and friends. Also, all of NARSE's monthly meetings include a toll-free conference call that NARSE members around the country can access. Much more recently, Sears started having quarterly Sears Retiree Advisory Council ("SRAC") conference calls.

Over the years, NARSE has sustained and built on press and broadcast media relationships that values our input. The media often turns to NARSE for comment, insights, clarifications and, in some instances, a realistic point of view not always found in Sears pronouncements.

During October, 1999 NARSE disseminated a package of model letters that promoted a very successful nationwide letter writing campaign to the Sears Board of Directors. The "Road to Restoration" postcard campaign, followed in November with prepaid, scheduled mailings of cards sent over a four-week period. The Sears Board could not miss the message that retirees will not go away. Successful demonstrations at the Oak Brook, Illinois store, Sears Headquarters, and at many other locations were also supported by NARSE.

During this period, NARSE took its message of betrayal and breach of trust to the American public with the only means available to it -- through the court of Public Opinion with demonstrations, protests, rallies, signs, letter-writing campaigns, envelope and bumper stickers, fly-overs, media contacts and appeals to government representatives.

Unfortunately, some retirees, and certainly Sears, viewed these actions as negative and destructive toward Sears. For the record, we were only negative about the senior management group running Sears that seemed to have little regard or commitment to the retirees who built the company.

But, NARSE was and still is very positive about Sears, the company, and only wants the best for Sears customers, associates, retirees and shareholders. As we all know, retirees fate, and benefits, will rise and fall with the success or failure of Sears. We want our company to succeed!

During 2000, NARSE continued to pursue the course of reason and fairness. We wanted to give our best efforts to undo the personal and business damage that Sears management inflicted upon the Sears family during the period of 1997 - 2000.

In the June, 2000 issue of Straight Talk, Ev Buckardt, NARSE Chairman, said:

"Hopefully, new senior management will recognize the tremendous value of the Sears retiree family. Hopefully, new management will treat retirees as respected humans rather than as Œburdensı or dinosaurs. Hopefully, Sears new management will treat retirees with the same respect as they wish to be treated. Hopefully, Sears new management will recognize the value of a supportive family. Hopefully, Sears new management will reach out to Sears retirees...Sears former 'Best Customers'..."

During the Spring of 2000, NARSE conducted its first national survey of Sears retirees and their spouses. The #1 and #2 issues of greatest concern to most retirees was Sears treatment of retirees and employees, and Sears management policies and the conduct of their business. Other issues in the "top ten" all related to various aspects of health care and life insurance. This entire survey was summarized in the September, 2000 issue of Straight Talk.

Possibly feeling the pressure, during the Summer of 2000, Sears finally resumed communicating with retirees in its Sears RETIREE News publication. However, in this issue, there was NOT one word about the way Martinez cheated thousands of retirees out of their earned and promised life insurance. Nor was there any mention about the thousands of letters from retirees to Martinez and Sears Board of Directors protesting their loss of benefits!

Alan Lacy became Sears CEO during the Fall of 2000. The new management team wanted to find a way to quickly resolve the life insurance litigation and get the retirees back on the companyıs side.

On December 2, 2000 NARSE met with Lacy to discuss the results of its first national survey. Besides discussing the survey, NARSE also proposed that the lifetime limit of $150,000 for medical coverage be increased. The following October, Sears, under Lacy, increased the lifetime limit to $250,000.

From NARSE's perspective, this meeting with Lacy and staff was very pleasant and informative. We expressed our appreciation to Sears and the new Lacy administration for the opportunity to discuss retiree concerns, and we sincerely hoped that the lines of communication would be kept open to the mutual advantage of Sears and Sears retirees everywhere.

Following the meeting with NARSE, Sears, by letter dated December 8, 2000, invited about 20 presidents of local Sears Retiree Clubs throughout the country to attend a meeting at the end of January, 2001 as a member of the new Sears Retiree Advisory Council. According to the letter, the Council was established "to open additional lines of communication and further strengthen our relationship with our valued retirees." In addition, Sears would look to this newly formed Council "for advice and counsel on current and new Retiree programs and benefits issues, as well as for editorial input on Sears Retiree News and Sears Retiree web site."

During the first SRAC meeting, the retiree representatives made it very clear that a resolution to the life insurance issue was paramount for retirees to return to their former support of the company. Lacy and the company executives who met with the club presidents assured the attendees that this Council meeting was not an attempt to circumvent NARSE. In fact, Lacy acknowledged NARSE leadership and indicated he would meet with NARSE again in March to further discuss concerns. This March meeting was to gauge NARSEıs reaction to the Sears RETIREE News and the first SRAC meeting.

Both before and after SRAC was formed, NARSE representatives were working very closely with Sears to resolve the life insurance lawsuit. On October 11, 2001 U.S. District Judge James Moran gave preliminary approval to a proposed settlement that partially restored company-paid life insurance.

NARSE received a letter from the Evansville, Indiana retirees, that was signed by 35 former Sears associates with 1,018 years of service. Their feelings appear to summarize what many other retirees felt about the settlement:

"The pending settlement by the company appears both a token gesture and a disappointment. The agreement to settle is significant in that Sears has acknowledged broken promises and the neglect of moral and fiduciary responsibilities for their employees. This is a victory, albeit a hollow one when one considers the staggering amount of money involved.

"The efforts of NARSE to represent all retirees and protect current and future employees benefits is outstanding, and we urge you to continue to represent us in the future."

At the May, 2002 Sears Annual Meeting, the following dialogue took place between NARSE and Chairman Lacy:

"Mr. Chairman, do you support your staff working with experienced and interested individuals from NARSE to review the Sears health benefit cost problem in an effort to find an affordable solution?"

Lacyıs response was:

"Sears does not recognize NARSE. Sears will work with the Advisory Council as it represents a broader spectrum of interests and more retirees."

The "broader spectrum of interests" and "more retirees" statements are simply not accurate. While NARSE was born out of the life insurance debacle, the organization has expanded into a much "broader spectrum of interests," including medical costs and benefits, retiree discounts, retiree benefit enhancements, Sears Retiree Appreciation Days improvements, stronger store/club relationships, encouraging new retiree clubs and building our own club membership.

NARSE continues to communicate with more than 20,000 retirees in all 50 states of the United States. For comparison purposes only, the number of retirees represented by the 18 SRAC members does not exceed 6,000. In addition, NARSE has an up-to-date e-mail network that enables our organization to send immediate news to our thousands of retirees.

During November, 2002 through March, 2003, NARSE conducted its second Sears Retiree National Survey. We wanted to gauge retirees' opinions on the "new administration." The insurance settlement was on the minds of many retirees. Their comments ranged from "Probably the best we could expect under the circumstances" to "We were misguided, misinformed, misled, and cheated."

In summary, we believe that it is highly unlikely that but for the perseverance and persistence of NARSE, retirees would not have the renewed recognition and benefits that they now have from Sears. If NARSE had not put up such a fight about the life insurance a "take-away", Sears management certainly would not have put a proposed settlement on the table.

And all of this has been done with an all-volunteer association with no paid employees. We are funded by retiree membership dues and voluntary contributions. Any traveling that we do to visit local retiree clubs is done at the traveler's own expense. The dues we collect are used to support our communication efforts with the thousands of Sears retirees across the country, with Sears directors, government legislators, the media and the public at large.

NARSE certainly appreciates that the current Sears management appears to be listening to retirees concerns. As a show of good faith, with the appointment of Alan Lacy as Sears CEO about four years ago, NARSE laid down its pickets, put away its yellow "Sears is unfair to Retirees" t-shirts, grounded its "airforce", and worked towards establishing a beneficial relationship with our Company. We did this even though Sears still refuses to publicly acknowledge us.

NARSE praises all the work that SRAC members have done in bringing retirees' concerns to the attention of Sears management. We hope that this will continue. We, in turn, will continue to monitor Sears actions and statements about retiree benefits and provide Straight Talk to all of our members as to NARSE's involvement in the defense of retirees' rights. NARSE's role will continue to involve company persuasion, media assistance, legislative action and coalitions with other national retiree organizations, including the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN).

The NARSE organization represents 133,000 retirees nationwide.

221 local retiree clubs in 49 states respect the national organization as their national voice.

The group includes persons whose titles were secretary, janitor, repair person, vice president, salesperson, catalog associate, CEO, President, director, coordinator...all of the titles that once represented the order of things at the great American company.

We performed well. Phenomenal growth and industry leading profitability characterized our years at Sears. We built a great company on the heritage we got when we got there. We did not tear it apart or make it undesirable for the future.

All are united now as persons concerned for one another. The differences and distinctions that once were important are pale now. What is important is that NARSE has brought together people concerned about people and promises.

The organizations purpose is to preserve and protect the promised and earned benefits accrued in a lifetime of work for Sears, Roebuck and company.

At the time of retirement, Sears retirees (and the company representatives responsible for their retirement) believed that they were secure. Paid up life insurance and medical benefits for themselves and their spouses, discounts at the big store, and so much more were promised.

Many of our members have made commitments and promises to families and institutions based on assurances made by Sears.

The National Association of Retired Sears Employees is based in Illinois.

We intend to employee all public, private, and legal means available to ensure that commitments and contracts are paid in full.

We believe that the company must honor all stakeholders who have invested. This would include stockholders, current Sears associates, retirees, and customers...all of whom invest in the company's success.

We welcome the participation of all interested parties. Other retirees of other companies have also been abandoned at the end of their active working lives and share our interests.

We have joined in the class-action legal suit.

We seek protective legislation. Legislation could ensure that persons would have the ability to plan for their personal welfare apart from capricious and changing actions by the greedy within today's corporations.

NARSE has a tale to tell and a cruel decision to reverse.

We will fight.

 

 


Join Search Suggestions Rules
Questions regarding NARSE should be directed to
cro922@comcast.net
or regarding this web site to
webmaster@narse.org
Copyright İ 2003 National Association of Retired Sears Employees
8700 West Bryn Mawr, S-1300 South, Chicago, IL 60631-3507