New Retiree Council
Jan. 17, 2001

Letter from 
Chmn. Ev.

Dec. 15, 2000

Letter from
CEO Lacy

Dec. 9, 2000

narse meets with Lacy

Sears Participation with Retiree Healthcare Costs

HR 4865

Sears Plan E & PPO Retiree Medical Plan - YEAR 2001
Oct. 21, 2000

Sears PPO & Sears Group Medical Plan E 

Equal Benefits for Retirees
Oct. 2000

Articles from NARSE Straight Talk 
3rd Quarter Newsletter
Oct. 2000

Dean Swift Passing
Aug. 25, 2000

Comments about Martinez's Tenure as CEO
Aug. 25, 2000

Message from Chairman Buckardt - May, 2000

Calling All Sears Retirees . .
May 31, 2000

Shareholder Plan on Elections Goes to Sears Board
May 12, 2000

Martinez's Last Annual Meeting A 'Family" Affair
May 12, 2000

Passing of Arthur "Bud" Few

Judge Rules in Favor of Sears in 1st Round
Mar 20, 2000

narse Website Visitors' Thoughts about Martinez
Mar 20, 2000

Website Statistics
sears.com Regular Visitor

Mar 8, 2000

Arthur Wanted the Plane Shot Down
Mar. 6, 2000

Internal Memo - Q&A With the Presidents- 

Two Issues re: email surcharges

Narse Club/Member Expansion Idea

Chairman Ev Writes to Sears Directors

No Wonder Sears is in Trouble

Chairman Ev's Letter to Mr. Martinez

Can You Name This Company?

Arthur the Financial Genius???

With Sadness

Sophism Defined

Benefit Bandit Can't Stay Put

Sad Day for Sears

Sears Optical

Penney's Sells Credit Card Division

Another Version of Medical Changes

More Laughter

More Laughter for
All to Enjoy

Rally Signage from Mel Schultz

Narse Loses a Valued Member - Don Wright

Ev Comments on the "Store of the Future"

Blood Bath at Sears

Street Talk We've Heard

Rumors Heard in the Prairie Stone Halls

Sears PPO Plan Booklet - Any Catches? 

Heard on the Street   

"Let Them Eat Cake" 

Recommendation for Repeal of Income Tax   

Avoid Spousal Credit Problems

Two Retirees Send their Reaction to "Retiree News"

A Powerful Communication to the Board

Narse Street Rally Speeches to Retirees   




2000 Straight Talk Archives

Lost Sears Friend - Kelly Hodges

I am looking for a lost Sears friend. I last heard he was a Store Manager in Phoenix, Arizona and that was 4-5 years ago. If you have any information, please email me. loudolores@webtv.net

Thank you for any assistance you might have in locating him.

Louis Huggins, President
Sears Retirees,
Tallahassee, Florida

Quick Review: 
Fiduciary Trust Relationship Explanation
By Gordon Muschett - March 20, 2001

Such a relationship exists when a person or entity, such as Sears, acts primarily for another's benefit and well being. An example might be administering a life insurance program as a benefit to attract and retain employees, or as an inducement to retire. This status gives rise to certain legal obligations including to act in the best interests of the other person. In other words, when one places his/her trust and relies upon another to their detriment, such relationship is breached and the person or entity breaching this relationship, such as Sears, may be held legally accountable.

Federal Judge James B. Moran, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, has set a trial date in the Sears Retiree case for September 4, 2001. The Judge will take some time to consider the case and then issue his decision. The documentation and depositions regarding this lawsuit are quite large. The information applies to the Sears Retirees effected by the life insurance reduction by Sears. 

Remember, this lawsuit was not given class action status. If the ruling is for the twelve Sears Retiree plaintiffs we believe that further action will have to be taken by each of us. NARSE is trying to determine what action by you, as an individual, will be necessary if the current lawsuit is successful. 

Our goal is to receive answers by the NARSE Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 9, 2001. NARSE will follow the case and will try to keep you updated on developments.


Passing of Two Former Executives
March 10, 2001

We are sad to report the deaths of two former Sears Executives:

 Robert (Bob) Foster
former Zone Manager Pacific Northwest
 died March 9th

Bill Lochmoeller
former Executive Vice President Western Territory 
funeral March 3

Sears Retiree Presidents Meet with Sears Executives 
By Art Levin, Phoenix Retiree Club President & VP of narse
February 17, 2001

Eighteen Sears Retire Club Presidents were invited to attend a Sears Advisory Council meeting with Sears Chairman Alan Lacy on January 31- February 1. The meeting was held in Scottsdale, AZ and was in conjunction with Sears annual executive conference. 

Mr. Lacy presented an overview of Sears performance, current conditions, plans for 2001 and answered retiree questions in an open forum. Retiree Club Presidents challenged the decision to reduce the promised retiree life insurance benefit. Mr. Lacy said he was involve in the decision and the resolution will be determined in the legal process. Retirees made it very clear that a resolution to this sensitive issue is paramount for retirees to return to their former support of the company. Mr. Lacy promised to make every effort to protect remaining retiree benefits. He and the executives, who met with the presidents, assured the attendees this was not an attempt to circumvent NARSE. In fact, he acknowledged NARSE leadership and indicated he would meet with them again in March to further discuss concerns. Lacy also pledged to work with the newly created Sears Advisory Council on retiree issues, should they arise. Art Levin, Phoenix Retiree Club President and NARSE Regional Vice President represented NARSE at the conference. 

The March issue of NARSE Straight Talk will feature a complete recap of the meeting including photos and personal comments of those who attended the Scottsdale meeting. Sears will include a summary of the meeting in their next issue of Sears Retiree News. Attendees were assured the issue would not be a public relations effort to send a message that Sears retiree's are "happy campers" and no longer concerned about the promised retiree life insurance debacle.

New Retiree Council to Advise Sears
January 17, 2001

Seventeen Sears Retiree Club presidents have agreed to be part of the newly established Sears Retiree Advisory Council. The leadership group will meet for the first time January 31-February 1 in Scottsdale, Arizona. New Chairman and CEO Alan Lacy will welcome the group and representatives of his management team will lead the forum which will cover current directions for Sears as well as a variety of retiree issues.

"Our hope is that the Council will help us to better understand the broad range of issues that are important to our retirees," says Steve Mulligan, Sears director of corporate communications. " We will look to them for advice and counsel on current and new Retiree programs and benefit issues, as well as for ideas on how to improve our communications to our 150,000 Sears retirees."

The Council is the latest in a number of retiree communication initiatives that have been launched in the last 18 months, including the Sears Retiree News quarterly newsletter, Sears Retiree Website and monthly communication packets to Sears Retiree Club presidents.

The two-day meeting will include working sessions that will determine the future role of the Council as well as issues to be tackled. Plans are for the Council to serve as a conduit to the 275 plus Sears Retiree Club presidents, bringing their ideas and suggestions to the Council for review and recommendation to Sears.

Council members were invited to be part of the newly formed group based on the stated membership of their Clubs. "We tried to be as democratic as possible by inviting presidents of the largest clubs that represent all regions of the country," says Mulligan. "We've been very pleased with the enthusiastic response."

If you would like to share your comments and ideas for the Council, please e-mail them via the Feedback button. Write703@sears.com.

Sears Retiree Advisory Council

Lewis Babbitt, Sears Retiree Club of Chicagoland 
Francis Bagot, Southwest Florida Sears Retirees 
Roy Davis, Salt Lake City Retirees 
Tom Douglas, Sears Retired Executives (CA) 
Marvin Edwards, Memphis Retail Retirees 
Jim Griffiths, Stark County Sears Retirees (OH) 
Stanley Hreneczko, Sears Detroit Region Retirees Club 
Bob Hunt, Sears Active Employee Retiree Society (CO) 
Art Levin, Sears Arizona Retirees 
June Link, Sears Retiree Club of South Jersey 
James Nally, Sears Retiree Club of Washington (DC) 
Ruth Pilant, Central Texas Sears Retirees 
Lillian Richards, Sears Retirees Lehigh Valley (PA) 
Virginia Ruth-Shawver, Sears Best (KS) 
B.R. Lucky Silva, Sears Coral Gable Retirees (FL) 
Charlotte Sturgill, Fort Wayne Sears Retirees (IN) 
Nadine Trollinger, Kansas City Sears Retirees

Contact your president and ask him to be supportive of narse and at the meeting ask for the reinstatement of our life insurance.

Creation of Sears Retiree Advisory Council
December 21, 2000

Stephen C. Mulligan Director, Corporate Communications 
Public Relations end Communications Dept.. 703
Sears, Roebuck and Co, 
3333 Beverly Road, BC-188B - Hoffman Estates, IL 80179 
Phone: (847) 288-3955  - Fax: 847-286-7024 
December 8, 2000

Mr. Art Levin, President 
Sears Arizona Retirees Club 
13302 Serenade Circle 
Sun City West, AZ 85375

Dear Mr. Levin:

We appreciate your commitment to maintaining the bonds between your fellow retirees through your leadership in Sears Retiree Clubs. We would like to further enhance that relationship by inviting you to serve as a member of the new Sears Retiree Advisory Council.

We are establishing a Sears Retiree Advisory Council from elected Retiree Club leadership to open additional lines of communication and further strengthen our relationship with our valued retirees. As a Council member you and nearly two dozen fellow Sears Retiree Club presidents would serve as representative Retiree leadership for Sears. We would turn to the 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. In addition, we would ask the Council to serve as a conduit to other Sears Retiree Club presidents. We would encourage Club Presidents to share their comments and suggestions with Council members.

If Council schedules permit, we would like to meet at least annually with the first meeting scheduled for January 31-February 1, 2001 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sears new president and CEO, Alan Lacy, is looking forward to welcoming the Council. Representatives of his management team will lead the meeting which will include a "State of Sears" presentation, tour of The Great Indoors in Scottsdale, plus ample opportunity for discussion and input.

We hope your calendar will allow you to attend this inaugural meeting of the Sears Retiree Advisory Council. Sears will be covering your expenses including airfare, hotel accommodations for January 30 and 31, hotel transfers and meals. Once you confirm your attendance, we will provide you with additional details plus a toll-free number through which you can make your travel arrangements.

We are excited about the opportunities presented by your participation in the Sears Retiree Advisory Council and hope you will agree to be part of it. We have enclosed a return postcard on which you can indicate your interest. Since January 31 is fast approaching, we ask that you please respond no later than December 21 so we can make final arrangements. In the meantime, if you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me.

Again, thanks for your leadership and commitment to your Sears Retiree Club.


Stephen C. Mulligan

Letter sent by Ev Buckardt, Chairman NARSE 
to all Retiree Clubs

December 15, 2000

Dear Sears Retiree Club President,

Claude Ireson. Clif Hooks, Mel Schultz and I met Saturday morning December 2 with Sears new Chairman Alan Lacy, John Sloan Sr. V.P. Human Resources and Ron Culp V.P. Public Affairs to review the results of a nationwide NARSE survey. Great interest was given to retiree concerns outlined in the survey, with an in-depth discussion as to the cause and remedy of retiree attitudes toward Sears management and business practices. Both sides left the meeting with optimism. and a commitment to further discussion after the holidays. Our personal observation is that the new Chairman is sincere, thoughtful and "cut from a Sears mold." Restoration of the promised life insurance benefit and protection of all retiree benefits remain our primary objective. We will be diligent to that end!

Note: A recap of the retiree survey and the Lacy Dec. 2 meeting will be mailed to our entire membership in a special edition of Straight Talk in early January.

Mr. Lacy sent a letter acknowledging his appreciation for the informative meeting. He indicated "to speed up the process of creating a retiree advisory board (NARSE suggestion) Sears will invite 20 Club Presidents from around the nation to a planning meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona at the end of January." This is a positive step. NARSE is pleased that Sears is finally recognizing retirees as a tremendous resource of goodwill and revenue.

I stated in my reply to the Chairman, "It would be helpful to have the retiree life insurance benefit issue resolved prior to the meeting- if not it must be an item on the agenda. Avoiding the issue makes the meeting merely a retiree public relations gesture on the part of the company."

Special note to club presidents who receive an invitation to attend the Scottsdale meeting: if you want a copy of the survey presented to Lacy to review prior to the meeting, please call me at (847) 234-5283. Time is of the essence.

Have a wonderful holiday season,

Ev Buckardt Chairman NARSE

Letter from Lacy 
re: meeting with narse

December 9, 2000 - Chairman Ev Buckardt

We received a letter from Alan Lacy concerning our meeting last Saturday. It was a positive response. He will meet with us to discuss the issues raised, what Sears can do etc. in early 2001. He indicated they will invite several Retiree Club Presidents to Sears executive meeting this January in Scottsdale, Arizona. They will address issues raised in our survey, benefits, etc. plus a tour of the Great Indoors store. He is aware that the life insurance benefit remains #1 and will be the hot button until it is resolved. 

Hopefully, the Club Presidents will echo that sentiment in Scottsdale. The letter indicated one of the Club Presidents was on our letterhead, therefore I assume it is our own Art Levin! The NARSE fox will be let into the hen house.

NARSE Meets with Lacy

Ev Buckardt, Clif Hooks, Claude Ireson and Mel Schultz met Saturday morning December 2 with Chairman Alan Lacy, John Sloan, Sr. V.P. Human Resources and Ron Culp, V.P. Public Relations to review the results of a nationwide NARSE retiree survey. Great interest was given to the concerns outlined in the survey with an in depth discussion as to the cause and remedy of retiree attitudes toward Sears management and practices. Both sides left the meeting with optimism and a commitment to further discussion after the holidays. 

Our personal observation is that the Chairman is sincere, thoughtful and "cut from a Sears mold". Resolution of the promised retiree life insurance benefit and protection of retiree benefits remains our primary objective and we will be diligent to that end.

Sears Participation in Retiree Health Care Costs
Gordon H. Muschett,  - NARSE Communications 

Over the last months, there has been a number of comments and inquiries to NARSE Communication relevant to the 1993 ERIP. Participants advised their health-care costs appear out of line and very high in what was originally promised. Retirees had called the Retiree Service Center, but until recently no explanations were readily available, but were referred to write a letter to D707BEN. NARSE believed that the ERIP was affected by the 1996 freeze of Sears contribution, and contacted D707BEN by phone and fax. NARSE's inquiries to D/707BEN regarding the situation were met with the following reply from E. Rossman, V/P-Benefits: (quote) "I hope that you can understand that it would be inappropriate for Sears to communicate with its retirees via NARSE. Employee benefit questions should be directed to Sears, either through the Retiree Service Center or the Benefits Department, as appropriate". (end of quote)

In a recent letter from to a retired executive from Stanley Aldis, D707BEN, we quote: "Please keep in mind that the amount Sears contributes for medical coverage on behalf of retirees is based on a number of factors, including the years of service and the year of retirement. The company amount of contribution is capped in the year you retire or at the 1995 level for those who retired before 1996. Therefore, the company contribution remains the same in all subsequent years and future rate increases become the retiree responsibility. You are correct that in 1994 when you retired the policy was that the company contribution was based on the medical cost for that year. Sears would then share 5% of future cost increases. The policy changed on January 1, 1996 and information was sent to all retirees in 1995 explaining the change. As of January 1, 1996 the Sears contribution for retiree's medical benefit has been frozen as explained above.

Sears is not required to release information regarding the amount contributed for individual retiree's medical benefits. The information available regarding the benefit plans offered to Sears retirees would be included in the yearly annual report which will be mailed to you in December. I trust this information is helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write and express your concern". (End of quote). Signed: Stanley Aldis-Benefit Plan Administrator

In the event you are unable to locate your copy of the ERIP and feel a need, advise and NARSE will be pleased to either mail or fax to you. Pages 2 through 6 of the brochure encourages associates to take retirement package. However, we must caution that on the last page, Sears has the usual disclosure: "Although Sears presently intends to continue the Retiree Medical Plan, Sears necessarily reserves the right to modify, amend, suspend, or terminate it at any time or to change the contribution the Company makes or requires from plan participants".

The promise of paid up retiree health care went away without much struggle from retirees prior to Martinez's arrival. With health care costs increases and loyalty to the company, retirees accepted paying for a portion of their heath care.

Shortly after Arthur Martinez became CEO, he decided to close the Catalog operations and thousands went into early unplanned retirement. In 1993, Arthur Martinez was at the helm when the ERIP offer was made to over 7,000 employees, primarily those at executive level. In 1996, he was responsible for the freeze to Sears contribution to ALL retirees health-care and effectively making ALL retirees, irregardless of the time of retirement, responsible for a larger portion of health care costs. In 1997 Martinez, retroactive to 1978, took away Sears long-promised paid-up life insurance.

It is apparent that some retirees, particularly those in the 1993 ERIP, may be unaware that that Sears had not lived up to its promises made at the time of retirement. Arthur said all these measures were necessary to "Increase Shareholder Value". Has it? One has to look only at the sales record since 1997 when thousands of retiree families, relatives, and their friends stopped shopping at Sears. One may easily contend that Martinez knowingly planned to encourage the ERIP, early retirements, and ........planned to renege on the promises made.

Retirees could be one of the most vital portion of good public relations in the communities they reside. But in this very competitive market today, thousands of badly needed footsteps no longer visit Sears units! Martinez took steps toward reducing benefits for not only retiree but active associates. Where Sears was once a model of industry, Arthur's actions may well go down as a series of the greatest and most costly of blunders in corporate history! He's left Sears with a trail of broken promises to those who once built Sears into the world's largest merchandising firm. It's not a pretty picture to those who dedicated their working lives building and left the incoming CEO, Alan Lacy, with a legacy that will be difficult to overcome.

To further clarify your individual situation, we are suggesting you write to: 
E. Rossman Vice President-Benefits 
Sears, Roebuck & Co. 
Department 707BEN EC131A 3333 Beverly Road 
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179

Sincerely submitted,

Gordon H. Muschett, 
NARSE Communications 
Regional V/P-Pacific Northwest 
12610 SE 49th Street 
Bellevue, WA 98006-2958 
Ph: 425-747-7230 Fax: 425-641-3375 
E-mail: gordonm@seanet.com

e-mail address for Allan Lacy is:
Click on his email address and send him a note!
Let him know how you feel about loss of 
Retiree Life Insurance!

Board of Directors, Sears Roebuck & Company
Here is a list of names & addresses of the Board.
Once again, let them know how you feel!

Alan Lacy, Chairman and CEO 
Sears Roebuck and Company
3333 Beverly Road
Hoffman Estates, Il 60179

Hall Adams, Jr. 
177 Woodley Road
Winnetka, Il 60093

Brenda Barnes, Sears Director 
Office of Chairman 
Sears Roebuck and Co. 
3333 Beverly Rd. 
Hoffman Estates, Il 60179

Warren Batts 
143 Abingdon 
Kenilworth, Il 60043-1202

James R. Cantalupo, Vice Chairman & President
McDonald's Corporation 
McDonald's Plaza 
Oakbrook, Il 60523

W. James Farrell, Chairman and CEO 
Illinois Tool Works 
3600 W. Lake Ave. 
Glenview, Il 60025-5811

Michael A. Miles, Sears Director
Office of Chairman 
Sears Roebuck and Co.
3333 Beverly Rd. 
Hoffman Estates, Il 60179

Huge B. Price, President and CEO 
National Urban League 
21 Trenor Dr. 
New Rochelle, NY 10804-7530

Dorothy A. Terrell, President Service Group
Natural Micro Systems Corp. 
100 Crossing Blvd. 
Framingham, MA 01702-508271-1000

H.R. 4865 - Action Needed Now!
Contact your Senators NOW to roll back Income Tax on Social Security Income!!

Since September 1999, the National Association of Retired Sears Employees (N.A.R.S.E.) has encouraged Sears retirees to contact their Senators and Congressional Representatives, urging them to roll back the unfair tax on Social Security income.

The September 1, 2000 issue of N.A.R.S.E. Straight Talk Newsletter said, "NOW IS THE TIME for retires to renew their efforts. Write, phone, or E-mail your elected representative to roll back or eliminate the income tax on Social Security benefits..."

Retirees, YOUR CALLS, LETTERS, E-MAILS are having an effect!

On July 17, 2000 the House of Representatives introduced H.R.4865 - Social Security Benefits Tax Relief Act of 2000 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the 1993 income tax increase on Social Security benefits.

The principal change of H.R. 4865 is to reduce the rate of tax from 85% to 50% on base income over $25,000 for single taxpayers, and $32,000 for married couples filing joint returns.

On July 17, H.R.4865 was passed by the House and referred to the Senate Committee On Finance, where it may languish and die, unless retirees everywhere contact their Senators NOW. Urge them to pass H.R. 4865 - Social Security Tax Relief Act of 2000, and provide much needed tax relief for retirees.

If the Senate continues to pigeon-hole H.R. 4865 through the balance of the year 2000, this tax relief for retirees will die with the end of the 106th Congress, and in 2001, the new 107th Congress may or may not want to "start from scratch," and begin all over again to consider the issue.

This important tax relief issue is not confined to Sears retirees - it applies to all retirees everywhere!



Sears Plan E & PPO Retiree Medical Plan - YEAR 2001

by Gordon Muschett, NARSE - Oct. 21, 2000

By this time, if you are covered under Sears Medical Plans, you should have received the following:

bulletA personalized letter outlining the Annual Election for Year 2001.
bulletAll retirees have received a copy of "SEARS NEWS" Corporate newsletter.

The above defines carefully defines the changes for the year. Read both carefully to fully understand changes that may affect you and your family. Sears-Benefits will not issue a new Plan Booklet for 2001, thus you are urged to keep both pieces of the above with the year 1999 booklet. If you wish to make changes to your Sears medical choices as outlined in your Summary, you must contact the Sears Retiree Service Center at 1-800-762-7327 or at Sears retiree web site (www.retirees.sears.com) no later than Nov. 5, 2000. You do not need to call if you do not want to make changes.

We will be referring to several web sites and if you do not have access to a computer, you may wish to ask a friend or visit your local library to assist you in your search.

The BIG news is that many who were previously enrolled in an HMO, you may find yourself without a HMO in year 2001. Many plans are skipping out...again! And those in a Sears supported PPO or Plan "E" may find they do not have an HMO available. Costs have increased due to: HMO increases and Sears 1996 freezing of their portion of your health care contribution. Don't let anger color your better judgment! Your attention is further called to N.A.R.S.E.'s September 2000 edition of "STRAIGHT TALK" which offers further illumination.

MEDICARE, POST- 65 years of age and over

If a managed care plan leaves Medicare, your current plan will expire on December 31, 2000. You will then be covered by the original Medicare Plan. But if you want "extras" not covered in the Medicare program, you'll need to locally determine available Medicare managed care or supplemental plans.

PLAN "E" Changes 
There has been wholesale dropping of HMO coverage's, and cost increases. An example may well be King County Washington's Group Health's average increase from $106 to $343. Plan E deductibles remains as previous. Prescription drug prices have been skyrocketing, thus a $5 increase per prescription of name brand. Generic remain the same as previous.


1. Original Medicare Plan 
If you choose the original Medicare, or if it is the only plan available to you, you don't have to do anything in order to start coverage on January 1, 2001.

2. Medicare supplemental insurance (Medigap)
Medigap is not supported by Sears. Medigap plans cost more than the managed care plans. You can buy a policy in one of two enrollment periods: October 2 - Dec 4, 2000, January 1 - March 4, 2001. There are 10 standardized Medigap Plans, which are lettered 'A' through 'J'. Each policy covers a different set of benefits, ranging from 'A' - the smallest and least expensive, to 'J' - the largest and most expensive. Not all policies are sold in every State. To find a list of insurance companies and their phone numbers that sell Medigap plans in your state contact; www.medicare.gov/MGcompare/Home.asp If you are in a "cost contract" with your present managed care plan, you must wait until Dec. 31, 2000 before applying for a Medigap policy. In this case you have until March 4, 2001 to apply. However, in most cases, it is best to apply early before your current Medicare managed plan runs out to insure that your Medigap coverage commences on January 1, 2001.

3. Medicare Managed Care 
You should by now determined if one is being offered in your area. You can also locate what is available in your area by contacting your State's Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) or (SHIBA), the State Health Insurance Benefit Advisor in the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. In the State of Washington, phone: 1-800-397-4422, or L/D 1-360-407-0409 or check the web site: www.shiba.org Some states are conducting public meetings in your area. Carefully watch the local newspapers and make plans to attend. Many states have established Senior Rights Assistance that will assist you with specific details. For those residing in Washington, call 206-448-5720 and ask them to send their brochure package and if they have a listing in your area. Review your phone directory for local like organizations or call Medicare at: 1-800-633-4227. Additional information is on the web: www.medicare.gov/Contacts/Overview.asp

4. The proceeding is not to be considered a solicitation or support of AARP by N.A.R.S.E., but intended as resource information only. 
AARP offers a group of plans available by State such as: Hospital Advantage, Medicare Select Plan, Medicare Supplement Plans, Long-Term Care Insurance, etc. that you may compare with others available in your area. AARP can be called at; 1-800-523-5800 or found on the web site: www.aarphealthcare.com

5. Sears has added a new retiree web site that offers excellent links to appropriate areas. 
The web site address is: www.retirees.sears.com The site can be also reached through: www.resources.hewitt.com/sears A link to Mayo Clinic is planned during the first quarter of 2001.

PRE-65 PPO Plan- ages 50 to 64

It is particularly troubling for those who are pre-65, and who did not previously continue with Sears PPO. Hopefully if you are not with Sears PPO Plan, you are able to research and locate a compatible HMO in your region. The following comment is not to be considered a solicitation nor support of AARP by N.A.R.S.E., but you may wish to call AARP at: 1-800-523-5800 to review Group plans they have available or visit their web site at: www.aarphealthcare.com/screen.asp?ReturnURL=hoption/options.asp

Sears PPO Plan changes Sears has made some good enhancements to this year's plan. While there has been dropping of coverage's by some carriers, Sears-Benefits has lowered the Annual Deductible for individuals from $300 to $150 and cut in half the Annual Maximum of Pocket Deductible individuals from $2,000 to $1,000 and family from $4,000 to $2,000. Again, drug costs for name brand has increased by $5 with generic being held at the prior cost.

Suggestions to look for before you join a plan

Ask if your current physicians are in the network. Call the health plan's customer service for that Information, as most directories are outdated.

Ask your doctors whether they are satisfied with the plan they are in and how long the contract runs. Doctors move in and out of networks depending on their level of satisfaction.

Ask about prescription coverage or discount drugs. 
If the plan tells you it offers discounts, ask whether there is a contract with the pharmacies and where you can obtain a listing. Like most retirees, we travel considerably and spend winters elsewhere. Determine coverage policies outside your home area.

A word of caution - Some HMO's have been dropped by Sears. 
Look carefully at your Annual Election Form from Sears. Some HMO's are attempting to pickup those lost by sending you their marketing brochure. This does not mean they are supported by Sears if not indicated on your personalized form and may confuse some.

Sears PPO & Sears Group Medical Plan E 

Watch for the "Sears Retiree News" which the company is now in the process of mailing its Fall issue. It contains very important information which you will want read carefully and retain regarding the upcoming annual election period and Sears Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and Group Medical Plan E.

Sears-Benefits has advised that there will not be a new booklet this year, thus you should retain and mark any changes in the latest booklet issued in October 1999 upon receipt of your election kit. Annual election kits will be sent out in three waves commencing on October 9 through the 26th and some area elections can be made until Nov. 17. They are working on enrollment over the web. Allow for sufficient mailing time to your area. If there are questions regarding the Plans, please do not call the Retiree Service Center until you receive your package and had an opportunity to thoroughly review. There are some good enhancements in the Pre-65 PPO Plan.

But, some HMO's for Post-65 Medicare have increased the rates so significantly that they have been dropped.

Prescription drug prices from the manufacturers are skyrocketing. Those in Plan E will find an increase in prescription drug rates. 30-day supply retail over the counter will increase to $15 for generic and $20 for brand name, 90-day supply through the mail will increase to $20 generic and $25 for brand name

Again, as we recommended in NARSE's September issue of "Straight Talk", it is strongly recommended that you attend local meetings or secure information relevant to all HMO's that are currently being offered in your respective areas. It may prepare you for any possible needed future changes. Check for coverage, hospitals, physicians and specialist available under their plans. Again, HMO's have vacated many markets.

Equal Benefits for Retirees
From October 2000 AARP Bulletin

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules that under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a company may not provide heath insurance for Medicare-eligible retirees that is inferior to that provided for younger retirees.

Based on the act's legislative history, employers traditionally assume the ADEA applies only to active workers, not retirees. Therefore, many employers have reduced or eliminated retiree heath care benefits at age 65, when Medicare kicks in. Now, if the ruling stands, employers could be faced with the choice of increasing benefits for older retiree, slashing them for younger retirees or terminating them for all retirees.

Gordon's Comments:
WOW! What do you suppose Sears will do if this ruling is upheld? It's best to watch this ruling carefully. Can you trust the new Sears to do what is right for the retirees if this ruling is upheld in the Courts?

Envelope Stickers & Bumper Stickers

Envelope Stickers:  
N.A.R.S.E. has available a limited supply of envelope stickers which are used on the back flap of your mailings. It is an effective way to get our message out to the public when you consider the number of people who handle your mail. It states "SEARS UNFAIR TO RETIREES. Restore Promised Insurance." They are available from the address below at a cost of 4 pages of 16 each envelope stickers on a page (total 64 stickers) for $1.00 (or any other donation contribution to N.A.R.S.E.) plus .55 cents for postage for a min. total of $1.55

Bumper Stickers:  
Bumper stickers with the same message are $1.00 each additional.

Send your check to: 
c/o Gordon H. Muschett 
12610 SE 49th Street Bellevue
WA 98006-2958

Articles from NARSE Straight Talk 
3rd Quarter Newsletter

Medicare Managed Care Plans
It's Time To Do Your Homework 
by Gordon Muschett - 3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

In the recent surveys conducted by narse, the top burning concern of Sears retirees was the issue of health care. You and your spouse may be one of the thousands of seniors and / or disabled persons whose current Medicare managed - care HMO is not available next year. HMO's say they are leaving because they are not reimbursed enough by the HCFA.

Medicare managed -care HMO plans have a one-year contract with the Health Care Financial Administration (HCFA), the federal agency that administers Medicare. HCFA reimbursements are difficult to understand as they vary by counties. For example in King County where we reside in Bellevue, WA the managed care plans currently receive approximately $482 each month for each Medicare member. Adjoining counties receive less.

Other examples of the disparity are: California; Los Angeles - $640, Orange - $604; San Diego - $555, Florida; Broward - $636, Dade-$738, New York; New York - $777, Westchester $584. According to the Congressional Research Service, the average reimbursement to HMO's is $559. One has to question why it costs so much more to care for seniors and disabled in other areas?

In our personal case over the last five years, because of HMO Plan changes, we've had to locate four new primary care physicians. Most of the notably good physicians already had a full patient load, thus you take whoever is available. One of the selected primary physicians was moving so fast in the office that he was out the door before you had an opportunity to fully describe your condition.

One has to ask, "Where is he continuity of your health care"? "Who is ultimately responsible for your health care"? It has become abundantly clear that the individual has to take charge of their own health care.

I've got some suggestions: 
A. Secure from your health provider or local hospital forms to complete a current confidential medical history prior to seeing your physician. It should include your chief complaint, general health and habits, past medical and surgical history, current medications, personal history, family health, and a detailed review of your heath systems. 

B. Make a photocopy of your spouse's Medicare and current HMO Plan card. 

C. Keep these readily available for the next visit to the doctor or hospital. 

D. Regularly exercise, eat well-balanced meals, keep your mind and body active. 

E.  Medigap. If you are currently enrolled in a managed care plan and may wish to purchase a Medigap plan now. Do not leave your current plan but maintain the coverage through December 31, no matter how frustrated you may be otherwise, you may lose the opportunity to purchase a Medigap plan. Shortly you should be receiving a letter stating your plan is leaving. A final notification letter should be received by Oct. 2. The letter will explain your rights to purchase a Medigap policy without fear of rejection. You should be aware that Medigap plans cost more than a managed care plan. 

F.  When should you make a decision about a managed-care plan? You should review those Plans offered by Sears if you are still enrolled in Plan "E". If you've dropped Sears Plan "E" and its sponsored plans, review others plans available in your area and enroll by Nov. 30 to insure that coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2001. One word of caution is that if you are dropping a Medicare HMO to enroll in the traditional Medicare Plan, 30 to 60 days are required for the necessary paperwork to be handled by Medicare. It is a good idea to attend local HMO meetings checking coverage, physicians and specialist available under their respective plan. 

G. Sears Plan "E". However, if you retained Sears Plan "E", the current year 2000 program has an Annual Deductible of $250 per person per Plan year, an Annual out-of-pocket maximum of $2,000 per person per year, and a Maximum Lifetime Benefit of $150,000. Plan "E" will pay 80% of the covered expenses less the amount paid by Medicare or other primary plan. Prescriptions for 90 days through the mail is currently available at a $20 co-pay and is very inexpensive. A Summary Plan Description Booklet for calendar year 2001 is expected to be sent out through the Retiree Service Center in late September. 

H . Some feel that "Sears Plan "E" is getting very expensive". Would you recommend dropping it in favor of a locally HMO who offers a low out-of-pocket expense? Absolutely not unless you are opting for a Sears sponsored HMO! If nothing else, you will lose forever the opportunity to participate in Plan "E's" valuable prescription medicine plan unless you participate in a Sears sponsored HMO. You've dropped Sears Plan "E"; can you get back into it? If you've dropped "Plan E" to join a Sears sponsored Medicare HMO, you can rejoin "Plan E". Once you've dropped Plan "E" for those other than sponsored by Sears, you are out forever. There have been some retirees expressing concern about Sears and its retiree medical insurance. A Feb. 22, 2000question to Sears-Benefits was replied, "Although Sears intends to continue the retiree medical Plans, as always, we reserve the right to modify, suspend, or terminate the Plans at any time".

I.  What if I do nothing? If you do nothing, the government will put you back into the original fee-for-service Medicare. This means Medicare will pay 80 percent of medical bills it approves, and you will be responsible for the remaining 20 percent. 

J. About HMO's. You should remember that signing on to an HMO you will be restricted to choosing a physician that has signed with your specific plan. If you like your current primary care physician and he/she is not a member of the Plan, you have no choice but to switch. If your HMO primary care provider believes that you don't need a certain test or referral to a specialist, but you still see the specialist, you cannot be reimbursed for that treatment. In some cases, HMO physicians might be provided with financial incentives (or disincentives) to limit the services they provide the patients. They might have to play the role of "gatekeepers" to care, and, in the past, they have been restricted even in what they can tell their patients. Such policies limit the treatment options that physicians have at hand. These policies might diminish the quality of care provided within an HMO. 

K. For additional information, you can reach Medicare by calling 800-633-4227 (hearing impaired 877-486-2048), or visit their web site at www.medicare.gov or call Sears Retiree Service Center at 800-762-7327 or visit the web site at http://resources.hewitt.com/sears http://resources.hewitt.com/sears.

Facts Support Sears Retirees Shock & Concern Regarding Health Care Changes
By Dick Bruce - 3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

Following are statistics obtained from a number of different sources that show major health care issues are not unique to Sears retirees.

Health Care Facts for Total U.S. Population:
Health care costs will rise 6.5% a year in the coming decade; growing to 16% of the gross domestic product in 2010 (currently about 13.5% of GDP is spent on health care).
The 44 million Americans currently without health insurance will grow to 47 million by 2010. Enrollment in managed care plans during the next five years will increase by 25%.
Employers reported health care costs increased 10.4% for all plan types for 2000 (HMOs and indemnity plans increased the most at 11.7%).

Health Care Facts for Medicare Eligible Population:


Older people accounted for 36% of all hospital stays and 49% of all days of care in hospitals in 1997.


Older persons averaged 11.7 contacts with doctors in 1997 versus 4.9 contacts for persons under 65.


Older consumers averaged $2,855 in out-of-pocket health care expenditures in 1997 versus $1,576 for those under age 65.


People over age 65 take four times as many prescription medicines as those younger than 65.


Medicare HMO beneficiaries had to pay premiums for 2000 that in the aggregate, almost triple what they paid in 1999.


Enrollment in Medicare HMO's has more than doubled from 3.1 million in 1999 to 6.3 million in 2000. The remainder of the roughly 40 million people served by Medicare are in the original Medicare plan.

Nearly 327,000 Medicare beneficiaries had to find new health plans as of January 1, 2000 because they were dropped by their HMO (41 HMOs withdrew from Medicare + Choice and 58 plans reduced the geographic areas they cover). Most of the affected enrollees - 248,000 - were able to join other HMOs in their area. Unfortunately, many will have to change doctors or travel farther for care. The remaining 79,000 beneficiaries live in places where no other HMOs are available and must enroll in the traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan which does not cover prescription drugs. (The upside to this is they have more choice of medical practitioners and an opportunity for better care than from a cost cutting HMO.)

What Does All This Mean to Sears Retirees?
As you can see from the above, the news is not good. Since Sears 'froze" the amount it pays per retiree for health care insurance effective in 1996, all cost increases since that time have been passed on to the retirees. This change, and the fact insurance providers now segregate the older population into a separate category to determine the cost of health care expenses to be covered, have resulted in significant increases in premiums paid by Sears retirees. At the same time, cost containment efforts have resulted in reduced benefits.

Hopefully Sears Benefit Administrators have enough leverage to negotiate the lowest possible premiums for us, and are able to provide reasonable alternatives when cost increases become exorbitant.

The good news is, nobody age 65 or older can be turned down for Medicare, even if they were previously enrolled in a Medicare HMO that discontinued coverage. If you are dropped by a Medicare HMO, you are guaranteed the right to buy Medigap policies to cover some of the costs not covered by traditional Medicare (plans are not required to cover prescription drugs).

If you are a member of a Sears offered Medicare HMO (pay premiums to the Retiree Service Center), you have the option to enroll in Sears Plan E which includes prescription drug coverage. (If you Sears offered HMO drops your coverage, and no other suitable HMO is available, you can enroll in Plan E and Medicare.

For your future well being you should take the following actions:


Prevent disease, rather that treat it, through regular exercise, eating well-balanced meals, and keeping your mind and body active.


Contact your legislators about your health care concerns (Note: Retiree Life Insurance was not reduced in Canada or Puerto Rico).


Make your views known to candidates running for office (Both major political parties are in favor of some form of prescription drug coverage through Medicare).

Take charge of your own health care:


Prepare in advance for visits to the doctor so he/she knows your chief complaint, medical history, current medications, etc.


Take an active role in the claims process.


Don't take an insurance company's first "no" as the final answer.


Go straight to arbitration if you feel you are not getting a fair hearing.


Get another medical opinion from doctors outside your HMO.

Health care is a major concern for all of us and there is much more that needs to be addressed. Please let us know what topics you would like to have covered in future STRAIGHT TALK issues.

Lawsuit Update
3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

All motions have been filed relating to the lawsuit regarding Sears' breach of fiduciary duty. As reported in the last issue of STRAIGHT TALK, it may take the court several months before the court issues its ruling. When issued we will post a copy on the NARSE web site location at www.narse.org.

Fiduciary Trust Relationship Explanation
This phrase could best be described as follows:

Such a relationship exists when a person or entity, such as Sears, acts primarily for another's benefit and well being. An example might be administering a life insurance program as a benefit to attract and retain employees, or as an inducement to retire. This status gives rise to certain legal obligations including to act in the best interests of the other person, and, in lay terms, don't screw him! In other words, when one places his/her trust and relies upon another to their detriment, such relationship is breached and the person or entity breaching this relationship, such as Sears, may be held legally accountable.

And the Planes Keep Our Message in Front of Arthur and Others
3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

Those of you residing or who have friends in the Chicago area, are cordially invited on Sunday September 3, 2000 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. to look up into the sky along the lakeshore during the "Jazz Festival" as part of Grants Park festivities. The plane will fly between Navy Pier and the Adler Planetarium. NARSE is again sponsoring a plane flight over Chicago trailing a banner "SEARS UNFAIR TO RETIREES". It again reiterates the fact that the National Association of Retired Sears Employees will not go away until our long promised retiree benefits are restored!

Circuit City to Cut 1,000 Jobs, Remodel; Shares Fall 
By Andy Peters
3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

Richmond, Virginia, July 25 (Bloomberg) - Circuit City Group, the second-largest U.S. consumer-electronics chain, said it will close eight distribution centers and cut 1,000 jobs, or 1.7 percent of its workforce, as it remodels most superstores and quits selling appliances.

"Circuit City should have never been in the appliance business in the first place, because too many people sell appliances,'' said Fredric Russell, president of Fredric E. Russell Investment Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which owns shares of retailer Dollar General Corp. ``The market for personal computers and wireless phones is so large, they don't need to distract themselves.''

Circuit City's warning also points to a slowdown in consumer spending, said Russell. News that Circuit City will exit the appliance business sent shares of appliance makers Maytag Corp. and Whirlpool Corp. lower.

Shares of Circuit City fell 6 1/2 to 26 1/8 in New York Stock Exchange trading after dropping to 25 1/4, a 52-week low. The stock has fallen 42 percent this year.

``Appliances are the short-term reason, but the real reason for the problems is an aging store base they haven't remodeled and a nimble competitor in Best Buy,'' said John Glass, an analyst at Deutsche Banc Alex Brown, who today cut his Circuit City rating to ``market perform'' from ``strong buy.''

Best Buy Co. is the largest U.S. retailer of consumer electronics. Circuit City's inventory-turnover rate, which measures the number of times a retailer must replenish a store's inventory, lags Best Buy's, according to Bloomberg data.

Circuit City is exiting appliance sales as Home Depot Inc., the world's largest home-improvement retailer, this year began selling appliances. McCollough told analysts and investors during a conference call that Circuit City also saw more aggressive competition recently in appliance sales from Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Lowe's Cos.

Whirlpool and Maytag are major appliance suppliers to Circuit City and will lose business, said Justin Maurer, an analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co., who has a ``near-term neutral'' rating on Maytag shares. Whirlpool shares fell 8.1 percent and Maytag shares dropped 2.4 percent.

Circuit City's exit is a $800 million to $1 billion opportunity for Sears, said Arthur Martinez, chairman of Sears, which has 35 percent of the appliance-retail market. `I'm going to be asking our team to devise the most aggressive selling and marketing plan we can,'' Martinez said.

Circuit City will close six distribution centers by year-end, and two more centers in the next 12 months. The company said it will take three years to remodel its superstores. The new stores will have about 20,000 square feet of customer-accessible space, the company said.

Distribution centers to be closed are located in: Atlanta; Brandywine, Maryland; Chehalis, Washington; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Des Moines, Iowa; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Richmond, Virginia-based Company also operates 43 mall- based Circuit City Express stores and owns a 75 percent stake in the CarMax chain of used- and new-car dealerships.

Bob Gurnee, NARSE Director
3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

We are very sad to inform the many friends and co-workers of Bob Gurnee that he passed away in July in Wilmington, Delaware. Bob's long service to Sears included officer positions as Treasurer of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and President of SRAC. Bob's family has our sincere condolences.

Membership Update... 
NARSE Wants and Needs YOU . . . 
and Your Names and Addresses of Sears Retirees Anywhere in the World 

Bud DeFano, Membership Chairman -
3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

Membership has grown steadily but not as rapidly as it can. 
This is not the time to let down. 

We again are requesting your help in locating retirees that may not have heard about NARSE. Look over your address lists. Ask your friends. And forward names and addresses (phone number if possible) to NARSE. We will gladly provide them with information that they would like to have about restoring and preserving the promised Sears retiree benefits. 

Thanks to you plus a lot of volunteers and donations, membership has grown, mailings approach 20,000 and Retiree Clubs are 233! Our goal set over a year ago was to locate at least 50,000 of the 133,000 (we think) Sears retirees. We started with only a few names, and Sears would provide none. 

While we have come a long way, "baby", you can see that we need an effort to get to 50,000. But with your help we can reach that number. We are all aware of the awesome strength of numbers! Clubs, we need your membership lists if you have not already sent it.

I do want to assure every retiree that the NARSE membership database is held in very strict confidence. It is never shared or sold, nor even considered. And that includes Sears! After member data is entered into our database, all applications and envelopes are shredded before disposal. WE NEED YOU AND YOUR HELP. 

NARSE Chairman's Letter:
An UNFAIR Decision . . . A Continued Response
Ev Buckardt, NARSE Chairman  -  3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

It's hard to believe that almost two years have passed since Arthur Martinez made the fateful decision to renege on the Sears promised life insurance benefit for retirees. Arthur has stated that this decision was carefully considered for a year. A Senior Vice President whose legacy is one who takes away from others apparently heavily influenced Arthur in his decision. This VP employed a "benefits expert" who was given a personal choice of either the Sears' or the Allstate retirement benefit package. This choice was not available to the rest of us. We know of no retiree that was asked for input. So a person with choices was the "expert" in making decisions about earned benefits that meant so much to Sears retiree families. The previously offered excuse of "faulty advice" for another decision may be very appropriate and accurate in this case.

The Sears retiree life insurance take-away decision made by Arthur Martinez severely damages many retiree families in a very real, practical and financial way, but he hurt us all just as badly in another way. Arthur also took away from all retirees and employees the life long trust and love for the Company and belief in the honor of management in making benefit decisions for employees and retirees. He ignited a "family feud" that has created a negative atmosphere, severely damaged relationships and forced retirees, their families and friends to choose other retailers for their many purchases. It is clear to all retirees and Sears associates that our battle is NOT with Sears the Company but with Sears current management, namely Chairman Arthur Martinez. He made the decision to convert "widow money" to a P&L profit. A decision that when reversed will allow Sears retirees to again be Sears Best Customers and most loyal friends.

Arthur's unwarranted action has resulted in one plus for retirees ... the formation of the National Association of Retired Sears Employees (NARSE), the Sears retiree group dedicated to the retiree benefits. NARSE publishes four Straight Talk newsletters each year, maintains a web site at www.narse.org, provides speakers to bring information to local retiree clubs, and has a database of nearly 20,000 retirees that is growing monthly. It has reunited thousands of retirees with former associates and friends! One big plus and response!

NARSE is also developing a strong coalition with organizations of other retirees. We continue to contact and build support with Federal and State elected officials. We have earned substantial support from organizations such as AARP and national church groups. NARSE enjoys a remarkable relationship with print and electronic media. We are very fortunate to have a large cross section of current Sears associates quietly supporting our goals

Please allow a personal observation as I enjoy the privilege of serving Sears retirees and the NARSE organization. Like you, I am uncomfortable pointing out the causes and results of bad decisions that reflect poorly on the fine company that allowed me to send my kids to college. Sears the Company provided me with a work lifetime of pride, joy and dignity. But my discomfort pales by comparison to the obvious retiree rights and needs ... and the absolute necessity of the return of the life insurance that belongs to your family and mine. NARSE leadership gets a singular sense of purpose from your letters, your phone calls, your words and reactions as we meet or speak with retiree clubs. Our satisfaction is representing proud retirees in a fight that is right. I dedicate myself and the other volunteers at NARSE to the important task that Arthur created by his take-away decision. I sincerely thank you for your supportive words and actions that are the backbone for me and all of NARSE.

We all will continue to fight for a just cause. 
Arthur, we will not go away!

A Note of Appreciation
By Claude Ireson - 3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

I wish to extend to all of the fine folks at NARSE, my sincere thanks for the high honor granted this Appalachian. I will always cherish your faith in permitting me to be the first chairman of NARSE. I especially want to thank all of you who made my job so easy and spiritually fulfilling. Within the short history of NARSE much has been accomplished and there is much still to be done. I will fully and completely support our new chairman, Ev Buckardt, as he leads us to achieve our mission - the restoration of the promised life insurance and protection of our retirement benefits.

The indomitable spirit of NARSE will succeed and we will prevail - the last few lines of Tennyson's Ulysses could easily have been written about Sears Retirees:

Though much is taken, much abides,
And though we are not now that strength
Which in olden days moved earth and heaven,
That which we are, we are - One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will,
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Sincere thanks, 

Claude Ireson

Editor's Note: 
Claude is another 40 plus years of service Sears retiree and former officer of the Company.

Club Feature . . . 
Sears North Chicago Retirees
3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

About 1986 group of Sears retirees on the North side of Chicago were meeting rather regularly for breakfast.  As a result of their mutual Sears backgrounds and enjoyment of being together, the Sears North Chicago Retirees Club was formed with Bob Wozny as president.  They now have a mailing list of over 100, with 40 to 50 regularly in attendance at their meetings.

The Sears North Chicago Retiree is a service club with their efforts directed toward improving the well being of its members.  In the past, guest speakers have been attorneys (wills, trusts, etc.), urologist, chiropodist, HMOs hospice care, retirement homes, accountants, mortician, and so on.  On the lighter side, presentations by Eli’s Cheesecake, Fannie Mae Candies, Mars Candies, Matt’s Cookies, American Airlines, our own NARSE George O’Hare ... you get the idea!

The Sears North Chicago Retirees Club meets for breakfast and a short program on the first Thursday of each month at the Skylark Restaurant at Higgins and Harlem, just off the Harlem exit from the Kennedy Expressway.  On occasion they may skip a month.  But not August this year as Harry Volkman, a Chicago TV weatherman with a great sense of humor, was the featured speaker with 47 in attendance.  At their December meeting, a turkey or two are won by drawing.

Sears Arizona Road Runner Retiree Club 
3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

Formed in 1986 by Art Levin (Boston) and Bob Hart (Chicago), the club headquarters are in Phoenix. Roughly half are retirees from AZ and half from 29 other States! Each year four meetings are business lunches and four are social events.

For the business meetings they have invited Sears officers, local Sears managers, AZ Attorney General, and representatives from insurance, AARP, medical and financial fields. And most recently Ev Buckardt from NARSE!

An interesting, and appreciated, idea: at each business meeting they have a "50-50 Raffle". A special collection is taken from all the retirees in attendance. Half is sent to NARSE and the other half are door prize drawings (!st, 2nd, and 3rd).

They characterize their social events as "interesting, entertaining and varied." Examples: cruise Canyon Lake, lunch at a Mining Camp, race day at Turf Paradise, bus tour to Indian Casino, plus theater, baseball, etc.

And no surprise as Sears Retirees, the Club does volunteer work in several Good Samaritan projects: March of Dimes, Heart Fund, Cancer Fund, Alzheimer's Assoc., Westside Food Bank and the Arthritis Foundation.

About greeting Arthur. Winter 1998 and winter 1999 when Arthur brought about 250 of his top executives to The Phoenician, a Five Star Resort, for a week of meetings ... these Road Runners were there with placards "to restore our life insurance." They did the same at the Paradise Valley store when Arthur brought the Board of Directors for an R&R meeting!

Thank you, Sears AZ Road Runners for your many efforts ... and your raffle! They are active ... and welcome visitors and new members. Call Art Levin at 623/ 584-9410.

Retiree Feature:
He Worked Only for Sears - Art Levin
3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

After graduating from the University of Rhode Island, Art Levin joined Sears as a trainee. When he retired in December of 1985 he was on the Boston Group Staff and had devoted 35 work years to Sears. It was the only company that Art worked for after college.

As he planned to move there, it was only natural that he looked for a retiree club in Arizona. Learning there was none, it was only natural that he found Bob Hart and one was started. After being President of the Club for nine years, he took a break but this year returned for a two year term.

Art also organized the AZ Alumni Chapter of the University or RI and has been the president since 1986. Art has been involved with NARSE during its entire existence and is the Vice President for the Southwest Region.
Both Art and his wife Laura (they have three daughters, seven grandchildren) are involved in additional community and civic activities. They do volunteer work for Walk America for Healthier Babies, the Arizona Theater Company, the Phoenix Symphony, the PGA and the Senior Golf Association. As directors of the "Grasshopper Club" which has 300 seniors, they run golf outings monthly over the entire state!

Another Sears couple that remains active and involved. Thanks, Art and Laura, for representing all of us well!

Editor's Note: This common thread that we see is not a surprise to long-term Sears people. Family based, we are active, care for each other and help others. It is why we are staying with the correction of the life insurance injustice. Arthur, we will not go away!

Sears Informs NARSE of Actions
to Better Serve Sears' Retirees
3rd Qtr. Narse Straight Talk

Sears Senior Vice President of Human Resources, John Sloan, in a first positive gesture has informed NARSE of the following items/steps by the Company that they feel will better serve Sears Retirees.


The Company has responded to some 1998 issues regarding telephone call response times by the Sears Retiree Service Center (RSC). To raise service levels RSC staffing has been increased from 15 to 20 employees, or 33%. The increased expense to Sears is $100,000.


According to their surveys, the RSC generally provides good service. However, Sears is considering other vendors. The current vendor, MetLife, is not Y2K compliant.


Sears is considering a change in the timing of the annual benefits open enrollment. The new time would be moved forward from autumn to mid-year. They feel that the earlier timing would allow retirees to contemplate important decisions before the busy holiday season and end of year.


Strong consideration is being given to lengthening the open enrollment. This would allow retirees more time to consider their decision.


Sears is aware that rates for health-care insurance are rising rapidly. They will continue, as they believe that they have in the past, to aggressively negotiate the best medical rates possible.


Sears plans to issue three retiree newsletters a year. A second issue is being drafted now.

Sears presented all of the above items to NARSE. This is a welcomed step towards communication. Please let us know how you feel about any or all of these items. NARSE will consolidate and provide to Sears. Your comments and any Sears response would be in the next Straight Talk. Retirees can always write directly to the Company. A copy sent to NARSE would be included in any recap that we do for Sears and Straight Talk.

Dean Swift Passing
August 27, 2000

Dean Swift, retired Sears president, passed away Sunday night, August 27, 2000, after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage stroke. He was 81. After Dean retired from Sears, he headed the Executive Service Corps of Chicago.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, September 1, at First Presbyterian Church, 700 Sheridan Road, Lake Forest. (at Deerpath).

There will be no visitation.

Comments About Martinez Tenure as CEO/President

By Gordon H. Muschett, N.A.R.S.E. Communications - Aug. 25, 2000

For almost three years since Arthur Martinez made the decision to take away our long promised paid-up retiree life insurance and freeze Sears contribution to our health benefit, N.A.R.S.E. has attempted to keep you informed about current Sears information either through our newsletter "Straight Talk", our web site, meetings, planned events or email.

As you are aware, Arthur Martinez has indicated he plans to retire at the end of this year and the company has hired an Atlanta based executive recruiting firm searching for his replacement.

During his tenure, he has lost the faith in Sears of thousands of retiree families, as well as their friends and neighbors through his actions towards Sears retirees. In doing so, he has lost the advantages of not only sales, but a superb public relations asset called "Sears"!

In this writer's opinion he's made some good efforts in improving store appearances and moved the company into some new opportunities. However, if you took a piece of paper and made two columns, one plus and the other minus, then list Arthur's accomplishments, you would have good reason to feel that at the conclusion, you'll draw up more minuses than pluses. A partial list in the plus and minus columns could include:

+  -
"Great Indoors" Lack of strategic initiative and direction
  Sale of corporate assets at bargain basement prices
  Turnover of key executives
  Failing to recognize aggressive new competition
  Failure of the "Off the Mall" strategies
  The credit card fiasco and resultant lawsuits
  High credit write-offs
  Automotive Center problems - such as the selling of used batteries as new and charging for unaccomplished tire balancing
  Lost franchises in furniture, floor covering, paint, etc.
  Current employee and retiree benefit cutbacks, etc.

It appears that Sears is hurting on all fronts: from low end competitors such as Target and Wal-Mart, from high end retailers and boutiques, from appliance and electronic cut-throats such as Best Buy, Circuit City, Home Depot, Lowes and soon WalMart, and tool/hardware competition from Home Depot and Lowes. As illustrated by Costco's success, consumers will make purchases out of a warehouse providing the prices are competitive and right.

Susan Chandler's Chicago Tribune August 20th article sent out to you on Aug. 21 (which appears in Breaking News) appears to hit home in most all areas and Sears is being attacked and surrounded by stiff competitive pressures.

Progress at Sears must be made through people with the right vision and direction with confidence in their jobs, benefits, and the future supported by solid merchandising and operating. Sears must regain its position as "The Competition"!

Your opinion counts and you may wish to email Arthur your thoughts. We hope you do so! His email address is: amartin@sears.com

A Message from Our Chairman,
Ev Buckardt - May 11, 2000

The Retirees Battle for Promised Life Insurance

We are now entering phase two of our battle to restore the promised retiree life insurance benefit. A benefit that retirees were led to believe was a “paid-up life insurance policy” for those who had paid into the policy for 10 years. Yes, the class action suit rulings went against Sears Retirees; however that was only phase one. The Battle continues in the courts. The “live”, current case pursues the issue of Sears “breach of fiduciary responsibility” as it relates to our Sears Retiree Life Insurance benefit. This case has “legs”---the documents that retirees have produced for our lawyers.

It is very interesting to note that the four often referred to “Benefit Bandits” primarily responsible for the decision to destroy the Sears retiree life insurance benefit have left the company to “pursue other interests” or announced their intention to retire. Messrs. Bronson, Levin and Rucci departed Sears in 1998 and Mr. Martinez announced his plan to retire before the end of this year.

Regardless of the events to date, NARSE will continue to fight the just fight for the 84,000 retirees who have been adversely effected by the unfortunate decision that was made by a very small cadre of short-service senior Sears Officers.

NARSE will aggressively pursue the retirees’ case in courts of law and of public opinion. We will offer to meet with Martinez’s successor, when announced. On behalf of all retirees, we will present our position and see a mutually satisfactory resolution to the life insurance issue and the protection of retiree health insurance and other benefits.

While there is no assurance of success, we believe that reasonable people can arrive at reasonable solutions. NARSE will continue to pursue the course of reason . . . and fairness. All should be willing to give their best efforts to undue the personal and business damage that Sears recent management has inflected upon its “family” in the past 3 years.

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 “burdens” 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” ...and could be again!

NARSE is hopeful...and determined!

Ev Buckardt, NARSE Chairman

Your  continued support is critical to correcting this wrong and to NARSE. Begin your planning now to attend the May 2001 meetings.  

NARSE Annual & Sears Stockholders Meeting
May 10 & 11, 2000

The meetings are now history and 
“King Arthur” has completed his last Stockholders meeting. 
Below is an overview of the two days.

Overview of Events for the Two Days

NARSE Annual Meeting, Wednesday, May 10th

1.   Open business meeting was held in the afternoon in a private room at the Mill Rose Restaurant in Hoffman Estates.

2.   After the business meeting, dinner was served by the restaurant in the same room. Attendees paid for their dinner and the beverage service.

Sears Stockholders Meeting, Thursday, May 11th

1.   NARSE members gathered at the Restaurant at 7:00 a.m. for a continental breakfast before leaving by bus for Sears Headquarters in Hoffman Estates.

2.   For about two hours before the Stockholders Meeting, NARSE members greeted all who came through or passed by the main entrance of Sears.

3.   NARSE members attended the Sears Stockholders meeting, Arthur’s last due to his announced retirement.  

NARSE Annual Meeting

Ev Buckardt welcomed all and introduced Clif Hooks to present four recognition awards. Distinguished Service Awards recipients Roy Harris and Bob Wozny were at the meeting but due to health reasons this was the first meeting that Buzz Williams missed. 

In part, his award read: “Buzz was one on the first to take legal action against Sears to protest the cut-back of promised and earned Life Insurance benefits. As a Charter Member, Buzz contributed to the organization of NARSE...Buzz has devoted his organizational abilities to developing NARSE’s Web Site...His untiring efforts on behalf of Sears Retirees are recognized and greatly appreciated.” 

The Joseph M. Kehoe Annual Award was presented to Gordon Mushett . Ev then recognized the efforts of Mel Schultz, Leo McCormick and George O’Hare in preparing the signs in the room that would be used the next morning at Sears. This was followed by Roy’s financial report and Ev’s comments on how close our expenditures remain to budget.

Then Dave Silger, George O’Hare and Leo McCormack reviewed the many details with necessary timing for the Shareholders Meeting the next day.

Ev presented a slate of directors for approval. He emphasized that to keep NARSE active most positions need new persons. NARSE needs you to volunteer!

Bob Wozny’s award recognized Charter contributions, plus Presidency and leadership of the most supportive Chicago North Retirees Club.

Roy Harris received his Distinguished Service Award from Clif Hooks. Roy’s award said in part, “Since the inception of NARSE, Roy has served as Treasurer of the organization. He has given generously of his time and experience, and his Stewardship as Treasurer has helped guide NARSE to a solid financial footing...”

Ev introduced Mike Mulder, the lawyer in charge of the retirees lawsuit(s). Mike pointed out that the two class action lawsuits were ruled in favor of Sears based on the technical language of the plan. This is not the end of the case. A new motion has been filed with Judge Moran that addresses the fiduciary duties of Sears in administering the Sears Life Insurance Plan for the participants. As previously, this will take some time in the courts.

Tony Debevetz then introduced our guests from AARP. Mary Ellen Signorille, AARP Lead Counsel in Washington, D.C., came to Chicago just to speak to the Sears Retirees. Mary Ellen explained the legislative process and AARP efforts in Washington. Ms. Signorille did not see any legislation happening for retirees, but felt that the solution was in the courts. She also reaffirmed AARP’s great interest in the Sears Retirees Life Insurance case and their support of Mike Mulder and NARSE. It was very apparent to all at the meeting that AARP is following our case very closely and feels that Mike Mulder is an exceptionally capable legal representative for all Sears retirees. Mary Ellen did feel that Medicare Prescription Drugs was getting a lot of attention now. She concluded with questions and answers.

Ev had Mel Schultz discuss the Sears retiree survey that he developed. It was used by NARSE officers in a sampling of several clubs. Those presenting results from clubs that completed the survey were Carroll Elijah, Art Levin, Dave Micheal, Gordon Muschett, Ken Winkler and Bob Wozny.

Tom Dowd presented important questions, that needed answers, that retirees could ask at the Shareholders Meeting.

Ev adjourned the meeting at 4:30. You should have been there!

NARSE Legal Update

A review of the court file shows that plaintiffs’ motion for partial class certification of certain issues concerning plaintiffs’ breach of fiduciary duty and promissory estoppel claims is now pending before Judge Moran in the Sears Retiree Group Life Insurance Litigation. The plaintiffs filed the motion for partial certification after Sears recently prevailed on a motion for summary judgment on the breach of contract and plan enforcement claims. The court agree with Sears that a reservation of rights provision in the Summary Plan Description booklets gave Sears the contractual right to amend the benefits, even to retirees. That decision is not yet appealable, as the fiduciary duty and promissory estoppel claims must first be sorted out.

The motion for partial certification refers to an approach adopted by the United States Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia court denied the plaintiffs’ contract claims because of a reservation of rights claim similar to the recent ruling in plaintiffs’ Sears case. But nonetheless the court allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with the distinct breach of fiduciary duty claim. For purposes of the breach of fiduciary duty claim the plaintiffs assumed the plans did not contractually vest benefits, and claimed instead that the company breached its fiduciary duty by leading employees to believe that the plans provided life time benefits.

Back in January 1999 the court denied a motion to certify the Sears’ retirees’

breach of fiduciary duty claims. The plaintiffs’ motion for partial class certification seeks to answer the concerns the court raised in its prior ruling. The motion focuses on Sears written representation of the life insurance coverage as “paid-up” and asks the court to determine several common elements of the claim on a wide basis. For example, the court is asked to determine whether Sears’ written representations were materially misleading on a class-wide basis. The motion asks the court to take advantage of the efficiencies of a class action where it can, so that the common issues do not have to be tried repeatedly by each retiree. Then, the court can proceed with individualized procedures to sort out any remaining issues concerning harm to the retirees and their reliance on the misrepresentations.

The case docket shows that the parties are still briefing the motion. The last brief is due to be filed by the plaintiffs on July 7, 2000. As with the past motions it may take the court several months before the court issues its ruling. Once the motion is resolved NARSE will post a copy on its web site. Again we encourage you to check your web site periodically. Web site is www.narse.org

Retiree Honored

Charles “Chuck” Harrison, Sears retiree and NARSE Director, was featured in the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times Feb., 2000. Both newspapers ran pictures of Chuck.

The Chicago Sun-Times article by Lee Bey, Architecture Critic, said: “Look around your home. Kitchen, bathroom, toy box, bedroom, backyard, den--it doesn’t matter. Charles Harrison has left his imprint.

“Harrison, 68, is a product designer. He spent 33 years with Sears, creating countless lawn mowers, faucets, appliances. Before that, in the 1950s, he worked with such influential local designers as Northbrook’s Henry P. Glass. In 1958, Harrison, then 26, redesigned the dowdy, clumsy ViewMaster into a neat little essay in modernism. In Harrison’s hand, the toy became stylish, lightweight, colorful--and a cultural icon. .... ”

‘I’ve probably designed one of everything that exists in anybody’s home today,’ he said.

“One more thing: Charles Harrison is black. He belongs to an influential but unsung local fraternity of black designers and commercial artists who profoundly shaped the products and services we buy and use. ...”

Help Wanted....Help Needed....Membership

·     Retiree names and addresses of Non-Members: The NARSE data base is growing slowly but surely. Keep sending those names, addresses and phone numbers. We want and need one and all.

·     Address changes: Have you moved? Changed area codes? Please send in old and new addresses and phone numbers. We want your information to be current on our mailing list.

·     New or Renewal Applications: Please fill in all information requested on the form. When mail is opened, checks are sent to the bank and applications go to the data bank operator for input to our membership list.

·     Applications with Straight Talk: Inserted with each newsletter is a member application to join NARSE. If you are already a paid member, please pass it on to another Sears Retiree. We save more expense by sending it with all rather than separating paid members. Of course, we would be grateful if you used it to sent a contribution.

·     Membership Year: The year begins May 1 of each year and ends April 31 of the following year. New year membership cards begin mailing approximately April 1st. If you have been missed, we apologize and ask that you tell us.

·     NARSE Office Address: We are still receiving some mail sent to our old address. Please discard any old applications and envelopes. The U.S.Postal Service will not forward mail sent to the old address after July 1, 2000. The correct, current address is: NARSE; 8700 W. Bryn Mawr, S-800 South; Chicago, IL 60631-3507.

THANKS for all your support.

Bud Defano, Membership

The $60 Million Question!

Arthur stated that the life insurance savings were $60 million annually. Ev requested the basis for this number!

The same day of the question Jeffrey N. Boyer, CFO sent Ev a letter that said, “...The 10 year phase down will reduce Sears annual benefit expense by approximately $60 million per year over the 10 year phase down period. On an after-tax basis the annual savings is approximately $35 million.

 “The $37 million after-tax ($61 million pre-tax) of savings which you alluded to is the one-time gain recognized in 1997 for the elimination of life insurance benefits for active associates. ...” Copies went to Martinez, J. Day, A. Kelly.

Ev replied May 16 stating that he could not find life insurance costs broken out. “The question of cost (pretax or after-tax) still remains. Question, ‘what is the savings in current premiums annually on a cash basis, for the post retiree life insurance benefit?’ ...how much has and will the annual cost to the company decrease...?”

A second request was made on May 30 but no reply to date. You can question Jeffery also at Sears, 3333 Beverly Road, Hoffman Estates, IL 60179.


Today Sears Executive Salaries
Is it easier to cut benefit costs of others if you are highly compensated?

The people copied in Jeffrey’s letter Julian Day, Chief Operating Officer, hired in 1999, salary & bonus $933,000 plus long term incentive $5.4 million; immediate pension plan, no 1 yr. wait.

Anastasia Kelly, General Counsel, also hired in 1999, salary & bonus $969,000 plus long term incentive $3.0 million; gets 2 yr. for 1 yr. service cr. to age 60.

What about Arthur?? Not to worry!

Arthur Martinez, Chairman and CEO, hired in 1992, salary & bonus $3.4 mil. plus long term incentive $4.5 million, received 10 service cr., no 1 yr. wait. With 17 years service credit, his annual pension estimated above $600,000. Long term incentives per 5/15 Crain’s Chicago Business “Fortunate 100...” Can the Sears Board justify all this?  

Sears Annual Meeting of Shareholders
May 11, 2000

The Shareholders Meeting was held in the Merchandise Review Center at the Hoffman Estates Headquarters. Identification or tickets were not required for entry. Playing before the official meeting opening was a very upbeat video.

Martinez kicked off the meeting stating that this was the first time the Sears Shareholders Meeting was being held at the Store Support Headquarters in Hoffman Estates. This would save the company over $250,000. Also this was the second year that anyone could watch the meeting and send questions through the Sears Website, along with being able to browse through and shop for thousands of pieces of merchandise. Associates were not allowed at the shareholders meeting “due to space considerations”, but could watch over closed circuit television.

Actions and Proposals voting was next. The first three were standard Company proposals with “yes” votes recommended. The forth was a shareholders proposal by Martin Glaser regarding the classification of the Board with all directors elected annually. A “no” vote was recommended.

While the votes were being counted, Arthur went to some lengths in recapping what he termed an “excellent year for our company”. The length may have been due to the fact that Arthur had previously announced that he would retire before the end of this year and wishes to be thought a winner ...correct, if you only look at his compensation. A few of his points:

·        Stock price now up 26% on YTD basis.

·        Focusing on categories where we have clear competitive advantages.

·        Strong 4th qtr. market share gains in appliances.

·        Managing overhead costs aggressively and are enjoying benefits right now.

Arthur was questioned on items from stock price to the large Headquarters addition that has been vacant for over a year (“25% occupied now”). Ev asked for details when told that the annual savings realized by canceling the retiree life insurance was $60 million.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported the next day, “...shareholders lined up at microphones to question Martinez about lost life insurance, no-growth pension benefits and their concern that a proud culture is being lost.

“For the first time, a majority also approved shareholder activist Martin Glotzer’s proposal to elect a new board of directors each year instead of having directors who serve staggered terms. The proposal narrowly failed last year.

“Martinez said the board of directors will consider the recommendation, but he noted that it would require both the board’s approval and a 75 percent supermajority of Sears outstanding shares to take effect. He sought to minimize the impact of the vote by saying the 50.3 percent approval reflected a majority of only the 60 percent of the shares that voted, rather than of the total outstanding.” His comments were not well received by the attending shareholders!

Calling All Sears Retirees. . .
Your Buddies Want to See You
May 31, 2000

One of the nation's largest retailers -- Sears, Roebuck and Co., which began business in 1886 -- has a large family of retirees ... more than 100,000 throughout the nation. Now a large and growing national organization, the National Association of Retired Sears Employees, Inc., (NARSE), wants to hear from them. Formed in 1997, NARSE now has more than 20,000 members and is looking for more to join them in a campaign to restore and protect retiree benefits. 

Ev Buckardt, chairman of NARSE, was President of Sears Catalog and Direct Response until he retired in 1992. Buckardt said Sears retirees may contact NARSE at 8700 W. Bryn Mawr, S-800 South, Chicago, IL 60631-3507 or by phone at (773) 714-4987 or (847) 465-0790. The organization's web site is: www.narse.org


Martinez's Last Annual Meeting
A 'Family' Affair
May 12, 2000

Sears Chairman Arthur Martinez chaired his last annual meeting Thursday, and the tale of two employees tells plenty about what his legacy will be.

Karen Pitts started working at Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s store in Tucson, AZ., only three years ago. On Thursday, she attended her first annual meeting ever, as the winner of a $10,000 company-wide award for customer service. Pitts was frustrated last year when a customer dearly wanted a particular mountain bike, but her store was out of stock. Pitts called around to a couple of Sears stores but struck out.

Then her grandmother died, and Pitts traveled cross-country to Asheville, N.C., for the funeral. While there, she stopped at a Sears store, and wouldn't you know it, there was the bike: shiny, silver, independent suspension, a 24-inch frame. Pitts shelled out $200 for the bike, paid a $60 oversize-luggage charge to get it home on the airplane with her, and ultimately got it to her customer. "My family laughed at me for doing this," Pitts says now. "`Well,' I said, `Wouldn't you like to be treated like that?'"

Pitts got the last laugh when her heroics won the $10,000 customer-service award. The trip to Chicago and a meeting with Martinez also came as a bonus.

To Sears people, stories like Pitts' provide comforting proof that the Sears "family" is still very much alive more than a century after Richard Sears sold his first pocket watch in 1886.

Mel Schultz attended the annual meeting, too. He's part of the Sears family--the estranged retiree branch. Schultz spent 36 years in the advertising department at Sears' headquarters. He loved the company. All that time, Schultz could have walked to many annual meetings, but he never bothered. He started attending the meetings three years ago, though. Along with dozens of retirees, he showed up to protest Martinez's decision in late 1997 to nearly eliminate life insurance benefits for 84,000 Sears retirees.

Schultz didn't get a company prize at the annual meeting. But his fellow retirees should consider awarding him one for creative sign writing. "Abandon All Benefits Ye Who Enter Here," read one of the plastic signs Schultz made for some 50 retirees who demonstrated before the annual meeting Thursday. "Associates: Think Your Benefits are Secure? Ask a Retiree, or a Lawyer," another almost rhymed.

The retirees have pursued a vendetta against Martinez in the three years since he abruptly took away their life insurance. There is a big lawsuit, and a retiree boycott of Sears stores. It irks them, too, that Martinez has slashed pension benefits for current Sears employees.

The retirees have become skilled conscientious objectors. "I don't at all like being in an adversarial role," Schultz says. "But they have just written off the entire retiree population."

Martinez does his best to ignore the rancor. He says the insurance cutbacks save Sears $60 million a year. This may sound like a lot, but it barely registers at a $41 billion retailing giant that so desperately needs a strategic turnaround. Martinez hasn't found the answers to Sears' big problems. He has developed some promising strategies-- the new Great Indoors stand-alone stores, and even shopping carts. But those weren't enough to save his job when a restive board tired of waiting for results pushed him into early retirement.

So this was Pitts' first annual meeting, a happy family affair. Pitts and thousands like her can give the Big Store a bright future, if Martinez's successor can just find a winning plan.

It was the third annual meeting for Schultz and many retirees. They'll stalk Sears' meetings until they win back their benefits, or they all die.

Martinez won't chair another Sears annual meeting, and he'll leave behind a mixed legacy. He'll be remembered for the spectacular early turnaround, and his inability to repeat the feat.

And among 84,000 retirees, at least, he'll always be remembered as the CEO who fractured the family.

Shareholder Plan on Elections Goes to Board at Sears
Staff and wire reports - May 12, 2000

Almost 53 percent of Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s shareholders voted for a shareholder proposal requesting that the Hoffman Estates-based retailer's board hold annual elections for all directors. Currently, one-third of Sears' directors are elected each year. But shareholder approval is not enough to change Sears' charter, said Chief Executive Arthur Martinez: If the board agrees with shareholders, there will be another vote that requires approval of those holding 75 percent of outstanding shares, not just the shares being voted.

Passing of Arthur "Bud" Few

It is with the deepest regret that we must inform you of the passing of Arthur "Bud" Few on Jan. 15, 2000 in Huntington Beach, CA. He was a resident of Rancho Mirage, and formerly Glendora. Many of us became acquainted with Bud through his widely traveled visits to Sears unit across America as a vice president for 17 years of Sears Savings Bank outlining D/707 approved Sears Balanced Benefit Program to prospective retirees. Bud had filed a deposition with our legal team in support of Sears retirees relevant to Sears promise of paid-up retiree life insurance prior to his passing.

He married Barbara Milward on Jan. 9, 1952 in Albuquerque, NM. He is survived by his wife Barbara; a daughter, Janet L. of Palo Pinto, TX; three sons, Eric F. of Glendora, John D. of Desert Hot Springs and Randall G. of Huntington Beach, and brother Nick E. Few of Albuquerque, NM. Bud was U.S. Army a veteran of of World War ll and the Korean Conflict and was a member of VFW; chairman of the Boy Scouts of America, San Gabriel Chapter; Covina Rotary Club; chairman of the American Cancer Society; and commander of Civil Air Patrol Squadron 11 of Palm Springs.

Family suggest donations be made to the Palm Springs Civil Air Patrol Squadron 11, P.O. Box 2663, Palm Springs, CA 92263, or the American Diabetes Association, 6300 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 100, Los Angeles, CA 90048

March 29, 2000

Dear Sears Retiree, 

We are entering the second round in our battle to preserve our promised retiree benefits. Judge Moran ruled in favor of Sears on the retiree class-action suit. The Judge's decision does not come as a total surprise.

This is just round one! The Court has set status for the case on April 3rd, when we expect the Court to turn its attention to breach of fiduciary duty and other claims in the case. These are legal issues the Court separated at the beginning of the original class-action suit.

The breach of fiduciary claim contends that Sears, as trustee over the plan, had a duty to adequately represent to the people (employees), train and communicate the plan, and that Sears breached that responsibility.

Mike Mulder, lead attorney for Sears retirees, will be one of the guest speakers at our N.A.R.S.E. Annual meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 10.

Following Sears announcement of Arthur Martinez's retirement, on March 21 we wrote to Sears Director Michael Miles, who is heading the search for Arthur's replacement. The letter included the sentence, "Even though Judge Moran found in the company's favor, the retirees will not go away, and plan to pursue every legal avenue to receive a fair settlement." As elected spokespersons for N.A.R.S.E., we will keep that commitment to Sears retirees.

Please mark your calendar and plan to attend the following meetings. This is a most critical time and year for maximum representation at the N.A.R.S.E. Annual meeting, and the Sears Annual Shareholders meeting. This year we must send a powerful message to Sears Board of Directors that Sears retirees are committed in spirit, demonstrated by numbers, and will not go away until our benefits are restored. Your presence and support is vital in sending that message. This is "Full Participation" time.

Information on accommodations at LaQuinta Inn, at Hoffman Estates and other locations can be found in "Straight Talk".

Your participation at these meetings is needed and appreciated. Please call Ev Buckardt (847-465-0790) to confirm meeting attendance, arrangements, dinner, special needs, etc. Thank you for your continuing support.

Ev Buckardt, Chairman       Claude Ireson, Vice Chairman

Clif Hooks, President

Typical Responses to Questionnaire Rating Arthur

Sears needs good solid management to make it succeed and it does not have it. 

I truly believe Mr. Martinez's only goal is to "rape" and ruin the company. 

There is no direction; all actions appear to be reactionary. 

Just look at the performance of the competition in good times - then look at Sears. 

It truly is a sad commentary on management. And the Board of Directors allows it to happen. 

It seems odd to me that upon Mr. Martinez's arrival all the management of Sears became incompetent and "outsiders", who could make the company successful were brought in and it has been on a steady downhill roll since. 

How can this happen if it is not the management? WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? 

Any person can take away and sell off to make themselves look good in the short term while enjoying a great income but it takes a true manager to grow the business and make a profit.

Judge Rules in Favor of Sears in First Round
Chairman Ev Burckardt
Mar 20, 2000

Judge Moran has ruled in favor of Sears on the initial retiree life insurance class action lawsuit. The Judge's ruling does not come as a total surprise. This is just round #1! The Court has set status for the case on April 3rd. We expect the Court to turn its attention to breach of fiduciary duty and other claims in the case.

Sears had trustee over the plan and had a duty to adequately represent to the employees, train and communicate the plan. We contend that Sears breached its fiduciary duty.

narse Website Visitors' Thoughts About Martinez

Mar 20, 2000

I thought you may like to see some of this week's unedited comments from our survey regarding Martinez's effectiveness. None received were positive for Arthur.

... Sears was my whole life...I will never get over leaving; never get over never seeing the REAL SEARS again...and I'll never forget the great leaders we HAD!

... Who knows what the inside issues are.......... but the surface sure looks good to me. Alan Lacy is one sharp dude. I think Arthur is just following ............. aka" flawed advice" - if it doesn't work out.. or what a brilliant move I made if it does.

... Couldn't happen to a better guy....hope those stock options continue to be almost worthless. He's screwed the stock holders, the retirees & deserves all he gets.

... There is no doubt in my mind that without N.A.R.S.E., Arthur would have conned his way through all of his bad judgments. We were able to keep the board informed of the facts. We did gooooooooooddddd.

... King Arthur hardly got enough pay last year to live on......Only 4 plus million plus stock plus other compensation. Maybe NARSE could help him out with some extra cash.

... the giant retailer has gone to other ones. morale in stores is terrible. maybe sears can again reach it's potential....I hope so..

... no other comments...it's time to get on with the change...hopefully, we can find someone who can get us "back-on-track" to respectability as a company !!!!

... He has the chain of NTBS (National Tire and Battery Stores) and is not using the name of Sears in the Title. This must prove that he has no merchandising Sense. Sears uses the Sears name for the Sears Hardware Store. Logic would say, That we should name the NTBS as Sears NTBS Stores. Is he ashamed of the Goodwill of Sears. It is about time that he be replaced. I'm surprised that it took this long.

... a very poor showing for a number of years

... Mr. Arthur Martinez chairman of the board has led to the ruination of the high standards and morality that Sears had once maintained. Mr. Martinez has caused much friction with the management at Sears, as well as its employees. Mr. Martinez's stubbornness and his ability to side step the important issues has made him ineffective as a leader. Mr. Martinez has managed to irritate a number of board members, some of whom were very dedicated and concerned members of the board with a long track record who were forced to step down from there positions, Rumnfeld being one of them. Sears has lost its respect and perspective, its stock price is an indication. Mr. Martinez should have been given the heave how a long time ago. I am not optimistic about Sears being able to turn things around. Home Depot and Walmart have gained and surpassed Sears. I believe it is too late for Sears to regain the position it once help in high regard.

... He like a lot of other front office people, have only personal gain as a motivator. With this board he did not have to improve anything, he could and did ruin the company with their approval. Too bad.

... Sears needs a leader that can take the strengths of "Sears Past" and apply them to the 21 century. No retailer has the foundation that appeals to all groups and ages. The cross selling of merchandise that Sears has lost, i.e. Auto Center, Furniture, Seasonal lines. Has resulted in their loss of market share. The loss of trained dedicated help has stripped Sears of its future. We don't need Saks, Neimen Marcus, Lord and Taylor. We need someone like General Wood who developed people that made Sears what it was. We don't need another MBA, He's with Dean Witter making more money than Ed. Our Family had 130 years with Sears {Some still there}. It's Sad.

Visitors to the narse Website
sears.com is 2nd Highest Visitor!
Nelson Ramos, narse Webmaster
Mar 8, 2000

The narse web site, like most major web sites, automatically generates activity logs that show the internet service provider where its visitors are coming from. According to its logs over the last 8 months, the #1 referral service is from America On-Line generating 32% of the visits with 7,958 visitors.

What's interesting, is that the second highest referring web service is sears.com, which generated 7.4% of the visits with 1,830 visitors. Thus, for the 8 month period, that averages out to be 10 visits from Sears a day (assuming they're not working at Hoffman Estates on the weekends).

Below are the visit details since last July through February (8 months):


% of Total Visits Total Visits
com.aol.proxy 32.0% 7,958
com.sears 7.4%  1,830
Unknown  7.2%  1,794
net.webtv.rwc.public  3.7%     918
net.splitrock 3.5%    857
com.mindspring.dialup  1.7%   420
com.gulftel 1.5%   365
net.prserv.us.ky 1.2%   299
com.aol.ipt 1.2%   288
net.mediaone.ce 1.1%    271
net.atlantic  0.9%    222
com.netcom.ix 0.8%    197
com.inktomisearch 0.8%     189
com.home.fl.srst1  0.7%      181
net.gtwn 0.7%     175
com.bls 0.6%     159
Misc <0.5%  35.1%   <150

Note: The last confusing line merely means that 35% of the visits come from web services where their proportion is less than 0.5% of the total.

Arthur Wanted The Plane Shot Down!
March 6, 2000

Air Craft Fly Around
Well, fellow retirees, firstly, the airplane was scheduled to fly around for only one hour, as that is all the funds we allocated. The pilot, however in sympathy with Sears retirees, extended it well beyond that, and no one at Sears called him down. He was up so long, that candidly, we feared he may run out of fuel! 

NARSE received more than its full value with this exercise. Prior to the Sears meeting, and while the executives were having breakfast, they noted the aircraft and its banner. Noses were very evidently noted pressed against all the windows at Hoffman Estates, and Arthur made mention of the flight during the managers meeting. 

To the assembled executives, usually reliable insiders reported Arthur asking, "Is Gus Pagonis in the room? Pagonis, (now retired from the U.S. Army and who was a 3-Star General of Logistics during Desert Storm, and who had one of the most difficult positions in the Army at that time) was recognized. Arthur asked Pagonis in front of the assembled group, "Pagonis, where is your anti-aircraft guns? You are now a 2-Star General". 

Later in the day, Arthur said, "Pagonis is now a 1-Star General".

It is very obvious that NARSE's aircraft fly around got Arthur's ire and attention! It may have been funny comments to Arthur, but having served as an Aide-de-Camp to a General Officer and know how many work and think, I am confident the comment was not funny to Pagonis, nor does it enlighten his respect of Sears' leader or endear Arthur further to the other Sears' executives assembled!

NARSE "Straight Talk" Delivery
Secondly, NARSE had previously written a check to the Chief Bellhop at the hotel where the managers were staying for delivery of the latest "Straight Talk" in a sealed envelope to every executive's room. We had thought everything was set to go. However, later, NARSE officials received a phone call from the hotel stating, that because it was a sealed envelope, it represented a "security problem". When pressed for an answer as to why the delivery could not be made, as we would be pleased to open any of the envelopes, it was determined that a representative of Arthur's was effective in stopping all the newsletters from going to the managers' rooms. 

NARSE was questioned by the hotel, "If we wanted the newsletters thrown away, or do we want to come and pick them up?" Of course, we went to pick them up. Out of this, perhaps a better plan has arisen! As soon as we get our hands on a current computer printout of Sears Internal Address Book, we'll be sure to send all Sears executives our current and future newsletters. 

If any recent retiree has a computer printout of the current Sears Internal Address Book, please immediately send to: 

8700 W. Bryn Mawr, S-800 South 
Chicago, IL 60631-3507

Please confirm this email address if you are in possession and are now releasing.

As we receive further confirmation from reliable inside sources, more information regarding the meeting will follow.

Editor's Note 
Does anyone know how to get a list of Store Managers and Addresses?? If so, please contact:  Info@NARSE.org
or   Buzz-lse@ix.netcom.com

Q&A with the Presidents ­ Spring Sales Rally


To:               Arthur, Mary, Lyle, Mark, Jim, Alan
From:          Roger Teel
Date:           February 14, 2000
Cc:               FLST
Subject:     Q&A with the Presidents ­ Spring Sales Rally

Store managers were asked to send a couple of their most important questions in advance, so that we could be sure to answer the most popular queries. Here is a recap, in their own words:

Organizational Structure
"One of the areas that I feel must be addressed is that of the creation of a District Operator¹s job. We need to be able to train and develop our operators, our future Store Managers and in doing to save our stores and our company."

"There have been lots of rumors regarding the composition of the District and Region staffs. Will there be any staffing changes coming this year? Can you respond to this in a broad way?"

Company Strategy ­ Stores
"Why have we stopped receiving vital planning information for major events such as Super Saturdays from the hardlines businesses? We did not have a straight list of items that would appear in the ad (or a copy of the ad itself) until a few days before the event for any of the three 4th quarter Super Saturdays, which made reacting impossible. We were also blocked out of placing spot orders on these items due to so many being at an "S" status."

"What enhancements will be made to our computer system to allow for SGM¹s to make more timely/specific business decisions?"

"Why does it seem that we have backed off the Apparel business? Why did we stop the "Softer Side" campaign? That was the most successful campaign I have ever seen."

"Going forward will we continue our primary focus on margin at the risk of not aggressively growing revenue?"

"One of the most difficult execution issues our stores face on a daily and weekly basis is that of signing. With the emphasis on accurate signing, what are we doing to make this an easier and more logical process?"

"What plans do we have to become ADA compliant in the Kids Store in light of the fact that we have reduced space in the Kids Store in all of the remodels in the last 3-4 years?"

"When are we going to address the lack of hours to get the job done in the full line stores? Is "work life balance" only for store support?"

"Are we considering giving our sales managers any additional freedoms in spot ordering merchandise, regular and promotional"?

"Central Checkout ­ We hear a lot of discussion of going to a more centralized checkout area. Do we have plans in the future for this at the mall stores? If so, how will this effect our current staffing in the mall store?"

"When will stores have the ability to use spurs to support the local fact based information process needed to build on local performance opportunities?"

"Specifically, what is being looked at with respect to cash wraps in the stores? Again, rumors have been heard regarding the addition of shopping carts and going back to a form of the old "Center Aisle Cashier" or even to Checkout lines at the exits."

"What issues are being considered to aid the SGM in acting as the senior
merchant of his or her store? i.e. FEN adjustment authority, SPRS, PC based
tools, etc."

"I would like to know what the new store format is going to be. What divisions and lines will be enhanced and which are going to be reduced or eliminated?"

Late Communication
"Our quest to have all our associates have a compelling place to work. It is most important that we communicate our goals to all our staffs in a timely manner when it comes to their incentive and compensation. Can we as a company do a better job in getting our goals and incentive packages out to staff earlier in the year? This has been a concern of my staff and myself for a number of years."

"As of January 27, the sales and profit plan for the stores is not yet completed and available to the stores. Why is there such a delay in this process and what is being done to correct it?"

"A few years ago stock options became an important incentive for our sales managers, et al. Most of the options that our store staff teams have had issued to them are from 30 to 100% higher than today¹s stock prices. They have literally become a joke to our managers, rather than the incentive they were meant to be. Is there a plan to recall any/all of those options and reissue them so that they have meaning to our store teams?"

"Why are field associates incented based on revenue and profits but store support associates who do the buying and replenishing incented on turnover? At many critical times last year we did not have sufficient goods, especially in hardlines, to cover our ads or 4th quarter needs because of a reluctance on the part of LLR¹s/MA¹s to get caught with too much inventory. This makes sense in fashion goods but not in basic hardline items such as tools."

"The last 3 stock options that have been issued to the Field organization (2 for over $60 per share, and last year¹s at $40 per share) might be recalled and re-issued at a price that is closer to the value of the stock today? This has been done in past years, so it is not unheard of. Is there any chance?"

"Why aren¹t the Sales Managers¹ incentives paid on profit instead of sales?"

"I would like to know where Arthur sees Goal Sharing for the retail stores as we move forward?"

"I would appreciate hearing the rationale that has prohibited a recall of previously issued Stock Options and the reissuing of same at today¹s Market Price while keeping the total value of the initial offering whole."

"It was just told to me that the buyers (at least in Brand Central) are not incented on sales. If this is true, why wouldn¹t the buying team be incented on sales as the store managers and their sales managers are? We¹re pulling on oars that go in different directions." 

"We¹ve cut back on SearsU . . . will we ever go back to some form of management nourishment to help us become "world class"?

"Why has new store manager training been cancelled? New store managers need
help prioritizing all the requests coming to us."

"I would like to know specifics about this years plan for our company, with regards to e-commerce. Will we be competitive with our target competitors especially during the 4th quarter?"

"Have we looked at the delivery of our "weekly ads" (Sun/Thu) via Email to these (Internet savvy) consumers/ This could prove to be another viable and inexpensive way to communicate our daily values to them."

"Up to this point the customers come to us on the Internet. What plans do we have to "go to" the customers via this medium."

"Question. With our resolve questioned and our company¹s direction questioned by Wall Street that we are doing in the area of e-commerce? My team has asked me and the answer should be more than Appliance dot com."

"On February 1st the Sears Internet site still contained fashion trend information from fourth quarter instead of the new Spring trends. (Are we really serious about the Internet?)"

Stock Price/Analyst¹s Views/Long Range Strategy
"A recent article on the Internet quoted some stock analysts about the possibility of Sears selling off NTB and "parts of the home repair business. Is this something the company is considering?"

"Revenues and Profits improved dramatically in the final four months of 1999, yet Wall Street remains unexcited. What immediate and additional actions are planned to restore the financial communities confidence as we work to finalize and implement those new strategies and initiatives?"

"What is the status on the Sears Stock Buy Back Program?"

"With more competitive retailers, where are our plans to complete in the ever competitive market not only in the near future, but in the next 5-10 years?"

"Where do you see the company in five years and what are the major obstacles that you see that we need to overcome to reach our goal in five years?" 

"What is this year¹s future for our stock? When can we expect to gain respect from the financial community?"

"Where do you envision our company at the end of this decade?"

"What is the future of the Dealer Store organization? Will it be expanding into new markets and new businesses?"

"What is our 5 year/1- year plans on expansion of the great indoors stores and the Sears Hardware Stores?"

"The analysts have not responded to our recent excellent performance in the 4th quarter while the stock market until recently has been setting new records. What will it really take for us to move the price in their eyes? Are we now branded as a has-been again in how they judge our stock?"

Local Club/NARSE Membership Expansion Idea

Art Levin of Arizona came up with a GREAT idea of how to secure new membership into NARSE and local clubs! He's contacted unit managers that he knows and asked them if they have any personnel retiring this year and may wish to join the local club and NARSE? The initial response was very good and he was able to secure some names for follow-up. 

Just imagine if everyone on the NARSE email loop, who were on speaking relationship with unit managers and HR people did the same, what you could do for your local club and NARSE! Great idea, Art! 

Art, "YOU DONE GOOD" coin is coming your way!

There are two issues that will be dear to our hearts and our pocket books before it is done. 
Please read and act!!!

Please pass this on to all you know since many of us use e-mail for business and to keep up with friends and family, I thought you'd like to know the following. Please jump on it right away and forward this to others.

CNN has reported that within the next two weeks Congress is going to vote on allowing telephone companies to CHARGE A TOLL FEE for internet access. Translation: Every time we send long distance e-mail we will receive a long distance charge. This will get costly. 

Please visit the following web site and file a complaint. Complain to your Congressperson. We can't allow this to pass. The following address will allow you to send an e-mail on this subject DIRECTLY to your Congressperson  http://www.house.gov/writerep

Pass this on to your friends. It is urgent! I hope all of you will pass this on to all your friends and family. We should ALL have an interest in this one.

Wait, there's more. In addition,

The last few months have revealed an alarming trend in the Government of the United States attempting to quietly push through legislation that will affect your use of the Internet. Under proposed legislation the U.S. Postal Service will be attempting to bill email users out of alternate postage fees". Bill 602P will permit the Federal Govt. to charge a  5 cent surcharge on every email delivered, by billing Internet Service

Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP. Washington D.C. lawyer Richard Stepp is working without pay to prevent this legislation from becoming law. The U.S. Postal Service is claiming that lost revenue due to the proliferation of email is costing nearly $230,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have noticed their recent ad campaign "There is nothing like a letter". Since the average citizen received about 10 pieces of email per day in 1998, the cost to the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents per day, or over $180 dollars per year, above and beyond there regular Internet costs.

Note that this would be money paid directly to the U.S. Postal Service for a service they do not even provide. The whole point of the Internet is democracy and  non-interference. If the federal government is permitted to tamper with our liberties by adding a surcharge to email, who knows Where it will end. You are already paying an exorbitant price for snail mail because of bureaucratic inefficiency. It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from New York to Buffalo. If The U.S. Postal Service is allowed to tinker with email; it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in the United States. One congressman, Tony Schnell has even suggested a "twenty to forty dollars per month surcharge on all internet service" above and beyond the government's proposed email Charges. Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story, the only exception being the Washingtonian which called the idea of email surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" (March 6, 1999) Editorial.

Don't sit by and watch your freedoms erode away! Send this e-mail to  EVERYONE on your list, and tell all your friends and relatives to write to their congressman and say "No!" to Bill 602P. It will only take a few moments of your time, and could very well be instrumental in killing a bill we don't want. 

Pass this on to everyone you know who uses email. 
Remember, these are two separate issues that effect all of us online. 
Let your voice be heard now; not after.

NARSE Chairman Ev Burkardt Writes to Sears Directors

December 23,1999

Dear Sears Director,

Last August, Sears Chairman, Arthur Martinez announced the "Strategic Cost Initiative" that would mean unemployment to over 1200 associates. On that day in August, he communicated verbally and in writing his decision to terminate all relationships with consultants and to eliminate all travel expense that was not approved by "executive committee". The "Strategic Cost Initiative" was detailed enough to even minimize office trash pickups and eliminate the watering of ice plants and trees.

It is time to introduce you to Bill Parke. Parke was one of the 1200 terminated by the Martinez cost initiative. Parke was a director level executive in charge of financial news and other matters in the Public Affairs department. Less than 90 days after the pronouncements on cost, Bill has been rehired by a Sears hired consulting/advertising firm and given the charter of determining the best way to accomplish the return of retirees to the Sears fold.

Parke's first official act was to arrange a trip to Los Angeles for a three-hour Friday, December 17 meeting with five retired Sears executives. Will his next scheduled meeting be in Florida? In the L.A. meeting he sought their opinions on a quarterly Sears to retirees newsletter, some type of retiree annual meeting with Arthur Martinez (with attendees expenses paid for by Sears), some town hall type informational meetings, and the establishment of a retiree advisory board comprised of retired checklist and retired time card associates from 6 regions nationwide. He suggested Al Stewart as the possible chairman of the advisory board. The irony here is that N.A.R.S.E. officers Ireson and McMahon promoted several of these Parke offered suggestions to Arthur Martinez in person more than a year ago. The Parke L A. audience recommended that the N.A.R.S.E. Chairman chair the retiree selected group and repeatedly advised Parke that the best and only way to reunite with retirees would be to return the promised earned and paid for life insurance benefit to their families.

This incredible situation invites some obvious questions that require answering. Why does it take a committee to have Arthur Martinez admit a mistake and accept financial responsibility for a bad decision? Arthur Martinez has often displayed to retirees the touch of a blacksmith and sensitivity of a grizzly bear. Might this then be a "flawed" public relations strategy based on "flawed advice"? Is this an awkward strategy to disenfranchise the too successful and growing national retiree organization (N.A.R.S.E.) that regularly communicates with over 20,000 retirees who want their life insurance returned before they return to Sears? We know that Arthur Martinez has contempt for retirees but does he think we are fools? Do the people that Parke is proposing to participate/run proposed committees know that their names are being used? What happened to the "no consultant, no travel rule"? Does Sears Public Relations department have lots of folks working at Hoffman Estates but on some ones else's payroll? Aren't disguised consultants still consultants? Couldn't Parke have found thousands of Sears retirees within ten miles of his Chicago home? What does a round trip flight and 2 days in L.A. cost in December?

Most of all ... when can we expect an "integrity initiative" that would return what has been taken from our families?


Ev Buckardt Chairman N. A. R. S. E.

CC:   Arthur Martinez 
         N.A.R.S.E. Straight Talk Newsletter/
         Web site/e-mail network 
         Media Contacts

(Dec. 23) 

No Wonder Sears is in Trouble!
Editor's Comment: 
Can you believe this is how Sears gets its store managers!!
Nov. 26, 1999

Can you believe that Sears has to advertise and use agencies to find Store Managers??!! This is a site called www.monster.com. They have a lot of listings for all kinds of positions at Sears. 

US-CA-San Francisco
Store General Manager Sears is looking for a leader with experience in retail store management and  operations with a minimum of $10M in volume. Store General Manager is responsible for maximizing store revenues and profits by building an efficient high performance team. The SGM is accountable for store  merchandising, customer service levels and complete profit and loss performance. This individual is empowered to lead by example to ensure that service levels consistently exceed the expectations
of our customers. The SGM should understand the local marketplace and provide subsequent information to the buying office. The SGM is the master merchant for the store and should possess high personal standards for presentation and operations. Sears is seeking candidates looking for career advancement with a Fortune 50 company. A bachelor's degree and willingness to relocate are desirable. 

Additional Information Position Type: Full Time Ref Code: SGM Contact Information Deron Mellinger DMellin@sears.com Sears Roebuck & Company, 3333 Beverly Road, D4-180B, Hoffman Estates IL 60179, Fax: 847-286-4864  

Chairman Ev's Letter to Mr. Martinez

November 26, 1999

Dear Chairman Martinez,

At the Atlanta Sears annual shareholders meeting you responded to my question concerning promotion from within, by stating that Sears has a strong internal bench. Why is it that you now must advertise for Sears Store Managers on the web site? What happened to the "bench"? What incentive is there for "insiders" to make a career with a company that hires coveted positions from the "outside"? Is there no room for the Sears Heroes you dutifully recognized at the Atlanta meeting? Maybe a Human Resource sensitivity course for Sears Office of Executives would be in order.

It is little wonder that Sears is struggling and was replaced by Home Depot on the DOW 030. Are the chickens finally coming home to roost?

Everett L. Buckardt
Retired Sears Officer

cc: Sears Board of Directors

Can You Name This Company?

bullet Chairman acknowledges customers prefer shopping at discount competitors. Company spends 350% ($1.1 billion) more on advertising than leading competitor. 
bullet Chairman announces plan to lower prices to be "somewhat" competitive with discount competition. 
bullet Chairman announces targeted Kenmore "Elite" appliance customer is female earning $150,000 per year. 
bullet Company drops 6 year slogan in favor of a new slogan to improve sales. Recently hired V.P. Marketing comes up with a "new" advertising concept.....promote the store. V.P. Transformation tells college students the company is back to where it was in 1993.
bullet Company fired 50,000 employees in 1993. Company announces plan to fire thousands in 1999. 
bullet Chairman announced firings at motivational Back To School rally. Chairman's highly touted strategies fail. Company stops cleaning the windows, mowing the lawn weekly, cancels travel, bans coffee at meetings, etc. ..sending panic message of doom and gloom to the organization. Company just completed a multi-million dollar 650 office space addition that remains unoccupied. 
bullet Company stock falls to 5 year low ($37.50 per share) on August 31, 1999.

Clue: Company is an Illinois-based retailer. 
Three guesses, only ! ! !

Arthur the Financial Genius ????????

Arthur prides himself as being a "financial" genius. 

Let's review his financial track record: 

bulletDismantled and sold Western Auto a once profitable business for peanuts;
bulletSold HomeLife for peanuts;
bulletSold Sears de Mexico for peanuts, now a highly profitable Mexican Corporation; 
bulletSold Prodigy for $125 million, Prodigy now sports a $1.4 billion market cap; 
bulletSold Advantis in 1997 for $450 million to IBM, IBM sold Advantis a year later to AT&T for $5 billion. 

Arthur has sold or closed businesses that are now intrigal to competing in the exploding e-commerce arena. 

The good news is there are few Sears businesses remaining for Arthur to close, sell or give-away such as; Sears Credit, Sears Canada, Sears Home Services and Real Estate. Based on a 7-year track record, Arthur will find the means to dispose of the remaining segments of a once great company. If and when the financial genius rides off into the retirement, employees and shareholders may have an opportunity to hear "the rest of the story".

(Nov 20, 1999)

With Sadness

Janet Harrison, wife of NARSE Board Director, Chuck Harrison passed away November 24 after a lengthy illness. A memorial service was held on Saturday, November 27, 1999, at the Unity church in Evanston, Illinois.

(Nov 26, 1999)

Sophism - Defined

November 4, 1999

Dear Sears Director, 

Sophism: An argument that is correct in form or appearance but is actually invalid: specious reasoning; clever device or artifice. 

Sophism is a very sophisticated word and quite clear in its definition. I prefer the more common and understandable meaning, "talking out of both sides of ones' mouth." I was reminded of this fine old homily recently while reading another conflicting proclamation from Prairie Stone. In a business column on work/life benefits in the Chicago Tribune of Monday, November 2, 1999, Stephanie Springs, Sears vice president of people and cultural diversity (?) said, "benefits are needed even more in times like this because they increase productivity and help recruit and retain employees." Retain employees? Didn't Sears just recently lay off several hundred people? How's that for classic sophism? Oh well, hope springs eternal. In the article, Springs pointed out that Arthur C. Martinez, chairman and CEO personally heads the giants work/life balance committee which, she said, "helps people understand its a business issue." On what scale do you weight life/work benefits such as parental leave, flexible hours, telecommuting and on-site child care (fully paid for by the parent) all of which bear little direct cost to the company against good health and hospitalization insurance coverage, life insurance and a pension plan that will permit retirement with a modicum of dignity? Wells let's get back to sophism. Arthur created a triumvirate to rule Sears providing in his words, ... "more time for me to become intensely involved in our stores and our retail operations." An thus, sly old sophism sets in. He has significantly reduced employee health and life insurance while ham-stringing the pension program. Moreover, he has deliberately set about to dis-mantle all of the retiree entitlement programs by capping the companies contributions to the retiree health plan, reducing the life insurance over 10 years to $5,000 - hardly enough for burial expenses while the poor Sears retiree, living on a fixed income (without cost-of-living increases) is faced with extraordinary increases in cost of health insurance, particularly this year, in plan "E" for those over sixty-five years of age. Many retirees, including this one, were shocked to discover that the plan "E" increase was in excess of 20%. Yet, Arthur is extending his energies to micro-manage the life/work balance committee. Sophism? 

Crains Chicago Business, in their November 1, 1999 issue wrote, "Even as Sears, Roebuck and Co. reels from its expulsion from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the retail grant prepares to dump some business of its own - estimated $1 billion worth of product lines sold at its struggling department stores." Crains reported that among those lines of goods that are suspect were cosmetics. How about that? In his first restructure of the Sears store, Arthur added cosmetics including the much heralded, "Circle of Beauty." Is the circle broken? In addition, other lines cited for the trash heap of Sears brand of retailing are, according to the article, dresses and men's and women's suits, fine jewelry, computers, ready-to-assemble furniture, sporting goods (except fitness equipment), paint, electrical equipment and floor coverings. Mr. Martinez, in a recent associate publication observed . . . "customers are not entirely sure of what we stand for." How true. After all, if Arthur continues to cull the assortments as he culled the other Sears businesses - what will be left? What foresight! Certainly this cannot be sophism . . . or is it? 

Great leaders have almost always failed when they tried to micro-manage. Mr./Ms. director, you are great leaders. You have an important fiduciary responsibility to Sears Shareholders. It is long past time for you to take action to save a great American Institution. You can start by telling Arthur to "write the check" - return the life insurance benefit to the retired Sears employees.

With hope and confidence,

Claude Ireson 
Retired Vice President and 
40 year employee

(Nov 4, 1999)

Former Sears Benefit Bandit Can't Stay Put!!!

A Sears Benefit Bandit is once again on the move! 

Tony Rucci, one of the former Sears executives responsible for the demise of Sears Retiree Life Insurance promised benefit is off to another job. Tony Rucci, in the span of less than two years, resigned as Sears V.P. Human Resources to join Fidelity as V.P. Human Resources, he resigned from Fidelity to join University of Il. Chicago as Dean of Graduate School of Business, he has now resigned from U. of I, Il. to become the V.P. Human Resources at Cardinal Health in Ohio. 

Four different companies in two years....go figure!

(Nov 22, 1999)

Sad Day for Sears

Ev Burkhart

October 26, 1999 was a very sad day for Sears, Roebuck and Co. Seventy five years ago Sears had the distinction of being one of the first retail companies to be listed on the DOW industrials. Today Sears is a retail embarrassment, being de-listed from the prestigious DOW industrials. To add insult to injury, a company that Sears might have purchased in the mid 80's (according to recent publications) Home Depot replaces Sears as a retail company on the DOW 30, effective November 1.

One can merely speculate on Chairman Martinez and the Sears Board reaction to such humiliating news.

 How will Martinez respond to such a defeat, especially in his yet to be published ego trip book "The Hard Road To The Softer Side of Sears"? Even the Softer Side of Sears has been "de-listed". What will Arthur tell the troops in his internal e-mail message? Did the Wall Street Journal act on "flawed advice?" A familiar phrase at Sears when events don't turn out as planned. Will the Office of Executives accept responsibility for Sears fall from favor? The last two years of Chairman Martinez's "watch" has been rife with disappointments. Maybe it is time for a resurgence of dinosaurs. In view of the above, one might question who is the burden today?

(Oct 27, 1999)

Sears Optical

This is an answer to the questions Walter Wroblewski raised about not receiving a 10% discount from the Sears Optical Dept.

Active and retired Sears Associates participate in a special plan which provides close to 50% off of frames and glasses. The $45 examination fee is also reduced to $40. This results in a much greater savings than the 10% discount.

It is possible that special coupons would offer substantial savings that combined with a 10% discount could equal or beat the price of the special plan.

Generally it is more beneficial to take advantage of the special plan available to Sears Associates and retirees than it is to receive the 10% discount.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Dick Bruce

Penney's Sells Credit-Card Division 

Associated Press

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. will sell its credit-card receivables operation to GE Capital in a deal that will help cut the troubled retailer's debt. 

Editor's Comments: Could Sears be next?


Sears Associate Presents Another Version of
Medical Changes for Current Associates

Steve Clapp who is still an active manager with Sears and who is responsible for the accounting center and the accounts payable in Dallas sent the following to me after I forwarded a recent comment. In fairness to the system I felt that you should have benefit of the other side of the coin. I have a lot of faith in Steve's perspective. 

I sure hate to see friends (first) and fellow Sears mates get worked up over what is, in my opinion, flawed information. There are indeed benefit changes that are being made that affect medical coverage for part-time associates. However, associates 50 years old or older with 10 or more years of service are grandfathered with no change. After reading your note regarding what appeared to be subterfuge on the part of our management team, I did some checking on Friday, since the comments made no sense whatsoever. I know in our unit we covered these changes over two weeks ago and received no direction whatsoever to hold the information until after the holiday season. I checked with a very responsible member of the Dallas district staff along with a couple stores as well, and found that the changes are being covered with everyone now, not after the holiday season. Does it make any sense to send materials to the units and then ask them to hide them until after the holiday season? Certainly doesn't to me, and yet with a little "he said, she said" from one person, it becomes the company's position. Personally, I think that is pretty sad.

Not that it matters to some, I guess, but none of our key competitors provide medical coverage at all for their part-time employees, and the new policy will affect only 3% of Sears workforce. It is tough out there, and we need to do everything we can to stay competitive. If Sears as a company doesn't make it, nobody wins, and benefits become a non-issue, since there won't be any at all. All of us, active and retirees alike, need to pull together to make things better. That seems to be very difficult to do these days.

Editor's Note: Our thanks to Steve for this corrected story. To err is human, to not admit it is sinful!

(Oct 18, 1999) 

Heard from a Sears Inside Source

Effective April of 2000 all medical benefits will be removed from anyone working less than 32 hours. A current associate who works at a Sears store saw a bulletin left in the breakroom. Someone who was not supposed to have these out yet, left a stack of them in the breakroom. A manager told the associates that "yes this was true but it was not to be made public to employees until after the holiday season."

Editor's Note: Martinez's Benefit Bandits are back at work!

(Oct 13, 1999)  

More Laughter

Date: September 24, 1999
From: Azsula Campbell 
To: All Department
Cc: David Rich

Subject: Wastebaskets

For Your Information 

Gray Cans: Will be emptied on Monday and Thursday evenings. 
Blue Cans: Will be emptied on Tuesday and Friday


These are the new rules set forth by the Executive Committee per the Office of the Bldg.


(Sept 27, 1999) 

Laughter for All to Enjoy

Date: 9-22-99 
To: Corporate Strategic Leadership Team
From: Shan Atkins 
Re: Organization 

The purpose of this memo is to update you regarding our progress toward implementing the PLS strategy. Planning is moving ahead aggressively, and I am pleased to announce a number of key developments.

"Shopability" enhancements will be implemented in up to 75 stores by end of Q1 2000. These enhancements will include shopping carts/bags, modified cash wrap locations, new way-finding signage and a number of other potential changes.

Test stores have been identified within each district, and that list is now under review by our senior field team. Then specific store list will be announced shortly.

The comprehensive strategic repositioning effort will be implemented in 20 to 30 locations by August 1, including totally overhauled assortments, a new physical store design, and revised marketing. We will be putting in place a revised print and broadcast program including a discrete ad version developed for these new stores. Cincinnati and Indianapolis have been selected as two of the initial markets. A third market is under consideration and will be selected for proximity reasons. It will not receive the new marketing program but otherwise will be completely overhauled.

As you know, I am in the process of assembling the implementation team for finance/administration; and will draw heavy on store planning/visual/construction, marketing and logistics organizations for critical support.

I am delighted to announce these initial appointments to the team. Barbara Pizzella will rejoin Sears to lead the softlines remerchandising effort in these stores. Barb¹s comprehensive merchandising background, particularly in Home Fashions, coupled with her experience at Sears and her relationship with our key softlines merchants will be critical to our efforts. Barbata will be restarting the week of October 4. Her counterpart in hardlines will be named shortly.

Gary Bosak will be contributing his considerable talent and experience to the team as our operations lead. In this role, Gary will be responsible for developing operational implications arising from the reassortment/redesign, and working with all the necessary groups within Sears to accomplish that goal. Gary will also be developing and coordinating our ongoing internal communications about this initiative.

Our final staffing announcement at this time is that Andy Andress has joined our team from the corporate strategy group to provide overall project management and financial planning support. Andy joined Sears earlier this summer from the management consulting firm Bain & Company. He brings considerable strategic and operations planning experience to this assignment.

Please join me in expressing your congratulations and support to all of these associates as they embark with me on this important initiative. The remaining member of our team will be announced shortly.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that after considering proposals from a number of leading outside design firms we have selected The Retail Group to work with us on developing a "break-through" store design to complement our revised assortment emphasis. The Retail Group developed our store design for The Great Indoors, and is well known for their expertise in the home fashions and home electronics categories. Among our five "leadership" categories in the new strategy (appliances, electronics, kids apparel, tools and home fashions), home fashions and electronics are the two departments in the new strategy where we anticipate the most dramatic change.

Over the next several weeks we will be undertaking a broad-based communication program to more fully brief the organization on the basic elements of the new full-line strategy and our implementation plans. Thank you for your support of this critical initiative.

Editor's Comment:  Who¹s running the store?

(Sept 27, 1999) 

Rally Signage from Mel Schultz

Thanks to the creative efforts of Sears Chicago retiree Mel Schultz, here are some preliminary rally, protest, letter endings to the Sears board, etc. Copy suggestions all ending signed "SEARS RETIREES":






















(Oct 11, 1999)  

NARSE Loses a Valued Member - Don Wright

Don Wright passed away October 1, 1999 after a 6-month battle with in-operable lung cancer. Don was NARSE Region Vice President and one of the first supporters of our effort to reinstate the retiree life insurance benefit. He coordinated, printed and mailed our early releases at his own expense. Don communicated with retirees and was a valued member of NARSE. He will be deeply missed.

(Oct 6, 1999)  

Ev Comments on the "Store of the Future"

September 28, 1999

Dear Sears Director. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a problem! If the attached memo is factual, Sears is, once again, throwing good money after bad money. Shopping carts, modified cash wraps, and etc. have been tested more than once with the last effort not long before Martinez's arrival. Children love to ride clown escalators in shopping carts. The other costly enhancements are cosmetic at best. Customers buy merchandise based on quality-value-price relationship, not aesthetics. If you question the statement, shop Sears competition.

Just what Sears needs, another consultant. Didn't Chairman Martinez release a memo dated September 2 mandating cost cutting, associate layoffs and immediate termination of contractors/consultants? Little wonder the organization is shaking its head in dismay.

What is wrong with the tool department? It is the darling of the Industry and a special Sears franchise. Why spend more "consulting fees" and precious profit dollars to fix something that isn't broken? Was this a recommendation devised by the Office of Transformation and approved by the Office of Executives?

Martinez is concerned with low gross margins, down 40 basis points in the 2nd quarter, one can only guess what happened in the 3rd quarter. It is common knowledge that electronics carries one of the lowest profit margins in the industry. Wasn't Sears electronics department recently "updated'? What is wrong with Sears appliance presentation? It is an Industry leader in presentation, volume, and another franchise with incredible market share. Why are Sears planners/consultants allowed to spend scarce money in either area at such a critical time? Let's look at another of the five chosen "leadership" categories, Home Fashions. Furniture is generally a key component of Home Fashions, not at Sears, Martinez jettisoned the furniture business. We must assume Sears plans to compete against Bed Bath and Beyond for a quick and meaningful sales lift-- good luck.

Congratulations on selecting a Sears historic, but eroding strength--children's. Sears needs to recapture this market, especially considering it is a market that brings young mothers and grandparents shopping at Sears on a regular basis. One of the few, if any, remaining traffic and transaction departments at the new Sears.

Sorry for the negativism, but it really hurts as a shareholder and retired executive to watch a company repeat costly mistakes. I hate to see the company frantically searching in some of the wrong places. Systematically erasing the corporate memory by purging the company of its experienced employees does carry a penalty.

If this memo reflects Martinez's strategic plan for his "second revolution" at Sears, it is another waste of time, talent and money. The return on investment will be slow to materialize and minimal at best.

To start its resurgence with what is really broken, the hearts of its retirees, the Board of Directors should find the means to reinstate the promised retiree life insurance benefit. I believe in my heart that Martinez acted on flawed advice from Human Resource, Benefit and Legal executives who left the company shortly after the announcement. It he had known the "rest of the story” at that time, he would not have made the fateful decision to alienate hundreds of thousands of retirees, families and friends. It is more than more coincidence that Sears problems accelerated, big time, with the decision to renege on a promised retiree benefit. It Sears mission is to increase sales quickly, restoring the promised benefit would be a better start than frustrating itself with a host of company/consultant driven incremental changes to franchises like Craftsman and Kenmore.


Everett L. Buckardt,
Chairman, N.A.R.S.E.

Editor's Comments: Ev has shared his letter with NARSE Communications and I thought it may be of interest to Sears retirees as he is continually fighting to get back our long promised benefit. It relates to NARSE’s Sept. 28th email of Sears Sept. 22 internal corporate letter from Atkins entitled, Sears new “Store of the Future”. At his own expense, he has dedicated hundreds of hours communicating not only by letter, but meeting with Sears retiree groups and Martinez. Why not think about taking your time now to write the Sears Board of Directors and expressing your opinion?

 (Sep 30, 1999)   

Blood Bath at Sears

Reliable inside sources at Sears advised that last week 7 to 10 Regional Managers were slashed and released from employment. The message is, "Perform on the bottom line or you're gone". They are to be replaced.. Appears that ther are dark clouds hovering over many management people at Sears and the action will undoubtedly have a trickle down effect in the entire organiozation. Personnel in stores feel threatened. Turnover in Sales Mangers was very high prior to this action.

(Sept 28, 1999)  

Street Talk We've Heard

Reliable inside sources at Sears advised that last week 7 to 10 Regional Managers were slashed and released from employment. The message is, "Perform on the bottom line or you're gone". They are to be replaced. Appears that there are dark clouds hovering over many management people at Sears and the action will undoubtedly have a trickle down effect in the entire organization. Personnel in stores feel threatened. Turnover in Sales Mangers was very high prior to this action. Will advise further details as specifics become available. 

(Sept 28, 1999)  

Rumors Heard in the Prairie Stone Halls

bullet"Arthur has got himself into a box and he doesn't know where to go."
bulletIs National Tire and Battery (NTB) for sale?
bulletThere may be another strategic cost reduction (associate firings) in the works for January 2000?
bulletWho approved the cover on the 1999 Christmas Wish Book?

(Sept 25, 1999)  

Sears PPO Plan Booklet - Any Catches?

I received in the mail on August 16 a booklet entitled "Sears PPO Plan And Sears Group Medical Plan E." I've carefully read the booklet trying to learn whether there are any new broken promises or other things to fear regarding my Plan E coverage. So far I can't see anything revolutionary based on the contents of the booklet. But I'd appreciate it if any other retirees have found something I didn't. Sorry to say, I've become paranoid whenever I get anything in the mail from Sears expecting it to mean something new taken away. I tend to hold onto my wallet whenever Sears sends me mail. If there's anything I missed, I'd appreciate hearing from you about it. Otherwise, lots of luck, hang tough, and don't let the "B'stards, git ya." 

Lloyd VanSchoyck

(August 19, 1999)  

Heard on the Street . . .

Sears takes the following action to cut costs at giant Hoffman Estates headquarters:


No more coffee, rolls and fruit will be served at meetings. (The fuel that once drove Sears)


Cancel all travel, except "critical" needs. ( Does this include ferrying Mr. & Mrs. Martinez to and from their home in Connecticut and/or summer home in Maine? Also, is the helicopter for sale?)


No washing inside of the windows. (We assume this includes inside and outside the huge, recently constructed, empty office building.)


Cut grass every other week. (Why not let Sears Prairie Stone revert to a natual state...6' prairie grass.)

(August 12, 1999)  

"Let Them Eat Cake"

The following documents one retiree's reaction to the undignified and miserable treatment of Home Office associates:

August 10, 1999

Dear Sears Board Member, (Original addressed by name)

More than once you have been asked, “Who is minding the Sears store?” Recent events make me and many others wonder "Who, if anyone, is supervising the chief store minder?”

Chairman Martinez chose the forum of the Back To School rally for the Hoffman Estates organization to announce a "strategic cost review", corporate buzz words for a major layoff effecting the careers and lives and families of over 1000 human beings. E-mail to all Hoffman Estates associates followed. Although that letter was unbelievably rich in corporate double speak, not one word was dedicated to the details of the layoff except to announce that there would be no early retirement benefits; not one sentence was dedicated to any assurance that those effected would be treated with the integrity and dignity warranted by their years of service; not one of the six paragraphs was dedicated to recognizing the needs and the spirits of the 6,000 survivors of the “strategic cost review”. Manager level associates learned of the layoff by finding the E-mail on their desks when they came to work on July 31! All of this comes from the man who personally assured Crain’s and Tribune reporters in the spring that there was no need for a layoff because a $42 billion dollar company has alternatives to those tactics.

It is hard to believe that any Chairman would put his name on a letter of that quality. Nor is it believable that he would chose a motivational Back to School rally to communicate the layoff without communicating any direction on how human beings would be selected for unemployment. 7100 people will twist in the wind with a meat hook in their hearts for four to six weeks; they will talk about nothing else; they will be so unproductive that the real victim will be the Christmas season even more than the Back To School season.

President Clifford's approach best exemplifies the panic-driven, bare-knuckled, helter-skelter approach to this executive layoff. He called in each of his report directs and, in individual interviews, directed each of them to cut 15 percent of their payroll with "no excuses...no lobbying...no back door exceptions ...no private deals." Just imagine the lack of business acumen when foolish consistency and the body bag count are far more important than the skillful and profitable managing of the business. Surely, there are, within the huge Clifford Empire, organizations that should be cut 30 percent just as a there must be segments that should be cut five percent or not at all. Paradoxically, the organizations that will suffer the least are those that added the most people in recent years. To allow a retiree analogy, it would be just awful to play golf with this Clifford guy. He would order the ball into the hole and fire 2 caddies, 2 clubhouse attendants, and 2 pros when the objective got lost and things fell apart. But, he is only following his leader who decreed the demise of "all individual contractors." Although I am not opposed to business necessitated layoffs, I am a shareholder strongly opposed to stupidity.

There is little pleasure in telling you "we told you so", but we did. Just this last winter, Claude Ireson’s letter to you was not subtle. He said to you in declarative sentences: "When Arthur was hired, the home office at Prairie Stone was one year old. 3,800 Sears associates had moved from the Sears Tower to the Prairie Stone campus in Hoffman Estates. It was a building built to accommodate 5,000 … Today, the Sears associate population at Hoffman Estates exceeds 5,600. Total building population including contract workers and consultants far exceeds 6,000."

In the disappointing litany of bad decisions, the worst example is Arthur’s decision to retroactively take retirees earned life insurance benefit. This layoff process simply adds to a long line of failures and invites the obvious and frustrating question: When will consecutive quarters/years of poor performance, drunk/disorderly organizational growth, failed business strategies, damaged/destroyed franchises like credit/ automotive/ furniture, disastrous public relations, rapidly declining investor confidence, costly lawsuits and consent decrees (the familiar “Sears denies any wrongdoing but agrees to pay xxx millions”), and shamed retirees/families/friends shopping anywhere but Sears convert you from Chairman Martinez' "friendly Board" to a reality based, observant, decisive Board?

A response would be appreciated.

Very Truly Yours,

Tom Dowd
National Mgr. Human Resources Field Operations - Retired

  (August 10, 1999)  

Recommendation for Repeal of Income Tax on Social Security and Medicare Benefits

A NARSE member has submitted the following information for retirees to consider:

Currently our Government representatives and political leaders are debating what to do with the growing budget surpluses-whether to finance runaway entitlements, launch new initiatives, cut taxes, or pay down the debt. To date, neither party has proposed the elimination of the income tax on Social Security benefits, which tax negatively impacts the lives of millions of senior citizens and retirees. With one hand the Government provides seniors with Social Security benefits including the cost of Medicare, but then taxes up to 85% of those benefits as income, in a complicated and difficult calculation. This vicious circle results in higher income taxes on seniors and retirees, at a time in life when they can least afford to pay them. This vicious circle continues when seniors and retirees are forced to make IRA withdrawals to pay the taxes. The amount of the IRA withdrawal is added to taxable income, and significantly increases the tax on Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Seniors and retirees are encouraged to contact their Government representatives and political party leaders immediately to urge the repeal of the inclusion of their Social Security and Medicare benefits as taxable income

 (July 12, 1999) 

Avoid Spousal Credit Problems

Thurston Blakely

I very good friend of mine who worked for sears as a Regional Executive for many many years, died 19 years ago. His widow has been using their Credit Account (CLC) for all of those years. Because the magnetic strip had worn out on the card my friends wife was using she requested a new card. During her conversation with Credit they discovered that 19 years ago her husband died. They immediately closed the account because the principal card holder died . They didn't give a flip that the bill had been paid in full every month for the nineteen years. They just closed the account. They have finally agreed to issue a new card with much less credit limit and some other possible restrictions. She was told that she could still use her associate discount card but would have to pay cash. No one in credit could use common sense. They just closed her account. A word to the wise for all of us. Any of us that opened accounts at Sears when we were working that haven't specifically added our wives name to the account can have the same thing happen. If something happens to us they can and will close the wife's account without batting an eye. I am in the process of reverifying all of my accounts to be certain that my wife's name is a part thereof, just to avert such a disaster. I thought this would be an alert that you can send to our NARSE members.

Two Retirees Send their Reaction to "Retiree News"

The following two letters are typical reactions:

Sears Retiree News
Hoffman Estates, Illinois

My first reaction to the start up of a publication that hasn't been seen in years is sales are down and maybe Sears thinks the retirees are unhappy. Well if the other 119,999 retirees are like me, they also are no longer shopping at Sears. But it doesn't stop there. How can a mere 120, 000 retirees effect the sales of a giant corp. like Sears? If you do the math, the answer is obvious. 120,000 retirees with spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors and church affiliations, soon approaches a million people who in all honesty do not feel they can shop at Sears after the injustice Mr. Martinez has done to the retirees.

This number even increases when employees of other companies call us to inquire as to what they can do to help. Their concern is, if Sears can do this to its retirees, their Company may be next. And yes there are active Sears employees who feel they are losing benefits they have earned.

After 43 years of service, it was difficult for me to see my great company take a position against its retirees. I soon realized the only way to make Sears sit up and take notice is at the terminal where sales are rung. There is no way my family and I can support a company that has broken its promise and taken away what was to be their inheritance.

At one time, to be a member of the Sears family was something you were proud of and frequently discussed with your friends. Today there is no Sears family but a broken family that is divorced, an embarrassment to all Sears employees and retirees.

This Sears family could be restored toward, if Mr. Martinez would reverse his decision on the Sears life insurance benefits that he has taken away.

Earl G. Pleticha

Sears Retiree News

Hoffman Estates, Illinois

Thank you for your first issue, you requested feedback, here's mine.

Your quote in part "will help you learn more about the company we have all helped build into the nation's leading retailer, etc." should be underlined and presented to A.C.Martinez!

The betrayal of trust, via the taking away of our promised life insurance benefits, can be attributed to his efforts. It's difficult to believe that a company sponsored newsletter is not going to slant its views for its own benefit! Only NARSE, the National Association of Retired Sears Employees tells it like it really is.

I and thousands more were promised "paid up" life insurance upon retirement. This was stated to us by personnel managers, store executives, and a myriad of Sears literature.

Only when A.C. Martinez took control did the betrayal of trust begin. Using Sears "legal team" to find and exploit loopholes, he took away our hard earned life insurance benefit! Enriching himself seems to be a short-term goal, and a step in the wrong direction in the public’s perception of Sears as an honorable company. Through NARSE (the rapidly growing association) we’re fighting back with litigation, store protest, signs, T-shirts, bumper stickers, mailings to media and Washington leaders, word-of-mouth, etc.. The above actions are beginning to create doubts in many minds as to where Sears is really going with its employees’ and retirees’ promised benefits! Under A.C. Martinez, Sears seems to be sucked into a maelstrom of "bad judgment decisions leading to lawsuits, expensive settlement, and additional bad publicity. This "wasted money” could go a long way towards restoring life insurance benefits. If you feel I'm disappointed in A.C. Martinez’ Sears...I am!

James Ventsias

A Powerful Communication to the Board!

Friday, May 14, 1999

To: Sears Chairman Arthur Martinez and Members of the Board of Directors

Yesterday, I attended the 92nd annual meeting of shareholders with you in Atlanta. I was one of the many Sears retiree shareholders who made up the largest portion of the audience in the auditorium. I was one of the shareholders who were not given the opportunity to speak when the meeting was abruptly brought to a close by chairman Martinez. I came to Atlanta to speak to you, and I was not heard.

While you did not hear me in the meeting, I hope you will take the time to read this letter, and perhaps, to respond to me if I touch a nerve, or pique your interest or conscience as a director.

Let me introduce myself as I would have done in the shareholders meeting, had I been given the opportunity. My name is Melvin J. Schultz I am a Sears shareholder, and have been for 46 years. I am also a retired Sears employee with 36 years of service, and have been retired for over 12 years. I spent my 36 years in national retail advertising and sales promotion, against all competition, and in all kinds of economic conditions. (Tell me about tough competition!) During that time, I had the opportunity to meet and to work with or for many Sears senior officers and executives in all parts of the country, as well as with advertising agencies, marketing and media leaders. I speak to you today as a longtime shareholder and retired Sears employee.

On a personal note, I was born with one kidney, have high blood pressure, and am 72 years of age. My Sears life insurance is virtually my only life insurance. Your reduction in my life insurance, 10 years after I retired, will cost me and my family $19,047 to "buy back" the coverage I already earned and was promised. An expenditure that large was never part of our retirement budget planning, and the burden grows even larger and more unbearable the longer I live. Even if I can get other coverage, to buy it now, at my age, will be completely unaffordable. You leave me no choice but to fight with all of my skills, as long as I live, for the restoration of my earned and promised Sears retiree life insurance, as well as other benefits, so we might as well get to know each other.

First, there were several meeting arrangements which bothered me. I came to meet and become better acquainted with Sears directors and senior officers. The meeting setup purposely precluded that possibility. Your "body language," as you directors grimly entered the auditorium and took your seeds indicated that you wanted as little personal contact as possible with the shareholders in attendance. You looked like you couldn't wait to get it over with and get out as quickly and quietly as you entered.

Second, I did not enjoy looking at the back of your heads. I came to Atlanta at my own expense, to talk to you, and I could hardly see your faces, or how you reacted to the comments on the shareholders who spoke, if indeed you ever did react. The seating arrangement was conveniently impersonal and sanitary. You could never see us, and we could never see you. You came and left, untouched by expressions of shareholder interest or concern. Next year, if either of us are still around, please have the coverage and common courtesy to face the shareholders who spend their time and money to attend.

Now to the meeting itself. Chairman Martinez, as an old speech writer and meeting organizer, I thank you for sparing us the expense of an audiovisual introduction, and commend you for saying all the right things, hitting the right "hot buttons," for outwardly keeping your cool, and maintaining control all of the meeting. You minimized all the bad news, maximized all the new initiatives, rationalized spotty performance and high executive turnover, and showcased a group of outstanding performers to illustrate your personal warmth and high regard for employees.

As I looked at these young associates I thought, "today's employee is tomorrow’s retiree". I wonder how many how these same people will feel when they realize that it was all "show biz"; that the company, the Chairman, the directors and the officers don't give a damn about them, and couldn't care less about their job security or retirement. This elite executive group, however, will be sure they are well taken care of, before they leave "for personal reasons," when the going gets tough.

"Actions speak louder than words", Chairman Martinez. Your words about employees were "warm and fuzzy." Your actions, however, tell a different "iron fisted” story, one with which retirees are painfully familiar. What would you do as you're more than 300,000 employees watch your treatment of retirees, and realize that your word and the word of the company, can't be trusted? And need I remind you that a marketing "triangle" exists, of retirees, employees and customers. You cannot lose faith with one group, and expect to keep intact the loyalty of the other two groups. They are all the same, and they learn from each other. You have already shattered the loyalty of one group! The others are sure to follow!

Directors, take note! Until December, 1997, no national organization of retired Sears employees even existed. Because Sears could be trusted, there never was a need for one! You have done what no other leaders of Sears have ever done. When you took away retirees life insurance, you shook their confidence so badly, that you forced them to organize, and now their numbers and strength are growing. As surely as the night follows the day, you directors are setting the stage for the formation of another national organization -- one of actively employed associates, the name of that organization is spelled "U-N-I-O-N”. Is this what you want? I am a shareholder, and I wonder if you realize what you are doing! Or will you be leaving soon "for personal reasons," and really don't give a damn? I'm a shareholder and I care why aren’t you getting the message?

You proudly introduced your latest stable of "senior executives". They seem to be relieved that they were not called upon to answer questions, and those who were called upon did little to convince shareholders of their expertise. In spite of your generous comments about their backgrounds and capabilities, the impression remains of a very junior and untested officer corps. With few exceptions, these are not yet Sears people, with an understanding of the company, the employees, the business ethics and practices, and customers in the markets Sears serves. Perhaps, in time, you can make a team out of them, if they are still around, and if you are still around, and if you don't leave -- one by one -- "for personal reasons", as Chairman Martinez so conveniently rationalized from the podium.

I won't take your time to repeat the list of shareholder questions about the conduct of Sears business in the last year. You were at the meeting, and know the list, and the cost of some of those decisions as well as we shareholders and the press do. Tomorrow's paper will announce, "Sears to pay $325,000 in child labor case." The consequence of decisions like these and your callous treatment of retirees will surely result in the erosion of customer loyalty, long an unshakable strength of Sears. Erosion of Sears customer base is already well on its way, and should be of primary concern to you directors. You must understand, you are not losing sales, you are losing customers, and that condition is terminal!

Sometimes, what seems like a good decision at the time, turns out to be a bad decision in the long run. One of the shareholders at the meeting asked why the pending class-action suit about retiree life insurance wasn't listed in the annual report, or proxy statement. Chairman Martinez skillfully passed the question to the senior Deloitte Touche representative, who said it wasn't listed because it was "not material." I winced when I heard this answer, and you should have, too. Even if, "not material” was the right answer from an accounting point of view, it was the wrong answer from a corporate and public relations perspective. That Deloitte Touche executive, and all of you, will regret those words when they are applied to retirees, and eventually to currently employed associates. Retirees and the press will have a field day as they report, "Sears Chairman Arthur Martinez tells retirees their life insurance is “not material." Those two words shot your "warm, fuzzy" employee introduction right in the ass! And to think you broadcast your "not material, softer side" to the world at-large over the Internet! Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! Even a larger public relations expenditure won't be able to erase the embarrassment and impact of those two words. It's a good thing that the Deloitte Touche guy is retiring. He'll never be able to live down his "not material" answer. Too bad he'll miss all the fun, whenever Deloitte Touche’s history of accounting for Sears benefit expense is explored.

As I looked at the back of your director heads, I wondered if you realized how your Sears retirees life insurance decision will be watched by employees of your own companies? Will your employees continue to shop it Sears? Will Sears retirees and associates want to patronize your companies? Will other companies, who are looking for director candidates, scratch your names off their "short list" when they realize that you and Sears are embroiled in a public relations war with their retired employees? Will retiree shareholders continue to vote for you as directors? Will currently employed associate shareholders vote for you in the future? You think you can be a partner to a bad decision and not have it rub off on you in some way? I wish I could see your faces as you ponder these possibilities.

As you, the press and the Internet know, the issue of retiree life insurance has not gone away. If you had entered the shareholder meeting openly by the merchandise Mart entrance, you would have seen elderly men and women dressed in T-shirts, marching in front of the building, carrying a coffin and signs expressing their disappointment with their former trusted employer, and chanting, "shame on Sears." None of them are comfortable in this role. They march out of frustration because you have damaged them and their families, and you leave them no other way but to fight for the restoration of their earned and promised benefit. As long as they live, they and their families and friends will continue to tell their story, and spend their shopping dollars in places other than Sears. You will miss their sales and transactions!

Your decision to break faith with retirees has caused a cancer that is eating away at Sears, and can only be corrected by the restoration of earned and promised benefits, beginning with life insurance. Dragging this out until a judge makes his decision only gives the cancer more time to grow, until it becomes terminal. It must be obvious that the decision to cut back retiree life insurance is having costs and negative consequences far beyond any you may have considered in September, 1997. You can continue to "stone wall" as you have been doing since September 97, or you can bite the bullet, find a way to explain your change of heart, restore and "grandfather" the benefit for those who have already retired, welcome retirees back with open arms, and take the P.R. credit for your generosity, wisdom and social awareness.

This shareholder of 46 years would give a lot if a few of you directors would take the time to read this letter, and consider what is going on here at Sears. It is not too late for you can do the right thing.

Sincerely, from a "not material" retiree and shareholder,

Melvin J. Schultz
3931 Britanny Rd.
Northbrook, IL 60062 -- 2105

P.S. If you enjoyed this years shareholders meeting, you'll probably love next years.

Narse Street Rally Speeches to Retirees

Following our Atlanta Demonstration and before the press briefing and our entrance to the Sears Shareholders Meeting Claude Ireson, Ev Buckardt, and Tom Dowd made these remarks:

On Street Remarks Before Sears Shareholders' Meeting
Claude Ireson - May 13

Just as free people throughout the world are united in dedication to undo the persecution of innocent people by a self-serving tyrant whose name starts with an “M”, we, the National Association of retired Sears employees are equally united and dedicated to righting wrongs perpetrated upon innocent Sears retirees by a corporate tyrant whose name also starts with an "M"… one who has his own warped theory of how honest profit is created.

And, as NATO continues to send the explosive message to the evil "M" in the Balkans that they will not go away until he relents, NARSE continues to send to the avaricious "M" at Hoffman Estates, IL the message "Arthur, we won't go away" until you return to the 84,000 deserving Sears retirees you robbed their life insurance benefits. -- benefits which retirees honestly earned through years of devotion to a company they held in reverence ... a company that was family.

Arthur Martinez has ignored life insurance correspondence from thousands of Sears retirees. In a major speech, he read a portion of one of General Woods’ (Sears chairman who created the Sears retail store system) major speeches. If he had kept reading, he would have come to these words from the general "only second to our customer is our employee...in addition to the pay envelope, there must be as liberal employee benefits than any other large corporation in the country." He went on to list those benefits including life insurance. We call upon Arthur Martinez to return integrity to Sears, Roebuck and Co … and to restore retirees’ life insurance.

On Street Remarks Before Sears Shareholders' Meeting
Ev Buckardt - May 13

My comments are varying brief and the very direct. Our battle is not with Sears. Dedicated Sears men and women spent over 100 years building a proud, ethical, and trusted company. Our battle is with one man, Arthur Martinez. In six short years he has reneged on promises made, sold valuable assets, blamed faulty advice for billion dollar write-offs, and, at the same time, he showered himself with tens of millions of dollars in benefits, perks, and stock. He is personally responsible for a company whose December stock price for each of the past five years has been stagnant between $39 -- $42 a share. Under his tutelage, Sears ranks as one of the worst performers on the Dow 30.

It's time for Arthur Martinez to make money the old fashioned way and not at the expense of employee and retiree benefits!

Our message to Martinez remains a very clear "Arthur, we will not go away." We demand the return of our retirement benefit, a benefit that we paid for and were promised at retirement. What kind of a man would make a conscientious decision to take widow money from retirees, many who have been retired up to twenty years and now are in their 70’s and 80's? Answer, an unconscionable decision maker.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we allow Arthur Martinez to get away with retiree "benefit cleansing" at Sears, every company in America may do the same to its retirees. Join our battle for benefits, and stand firm against executive greed.

On Street Remarks Before Sears Shareholders' Meeting
Tom Dowd - May 13

(The instructions to the audience were for them to say "give us back our benefits" whenever they heard the word “Arthur” … you would not believe how much noise Sears retirees can make!)

What wonderful group of people! There are Sears retirees here from Boston to California. Thank you for being here today. Thank you for telling Arthur Martinez what you think of his decisions to take money from your families... and make no mistake about it, whether it's his decision to freeze company contributions to your health care plan or his decision to reduce your earned retiree life insurance benefit to a maximum of $5,000, he has his hand in your families’ pocket.

Let's take a minute to review Arthur’s track record with retirees and let's inventory some of the new things he has brought to Sears.

Arthur arrived at Sears about six years ago and began his cultural cleansing with a 1.9 billion dollar reserve to restructure the company. He then flooded the company with some very high-priced executive talent from the outside … which would be fine if they stayed; most did not.

Arthur introduced across the board senior management turnover to a company that had zero experience in senior management turnover other than retirements. So many key executives have left Arthur's side that we have christened Arthur’s “new Sears” as the “revolving door Sears”.

All but legally required communication to retirees stopped upon Arthur’s arrival.

His initial strategy loaded the company with millions of poor quality new customer credit accounts; he enjoyed the resulting sales and profits and incentive payouts for two to three years, and then let Sears pay a huge price in credit delinquencies in years 4 and 5.

Arthur introduced Sears to embarrassing legal settlements and consent decrees. The company signed a consent decree and absorbed 475 million in expense in the handling of bankrupt credit customers. Another 154.5 million settled the legal case when Sears bought an Arizona bank so customer balances transferred there could be eligible for higher interest rates. Most recently, the state of Florida got $985,000 to settle a case involving the alleged practice of selling used batteries. Another major class-action involving tire balancing is pending.

We Sears retirees initiated a class-action suit and received certification as an effected class. That case is moving through Judge Moran’s court in Chicago. It almost seems as if the new Sears waits for judges and consent decrees to tell it what is the right thing to do.

In 1995, Arthur made the decision to freeze the company contribution to retiree health care plans.

The softer side of Arthur’s Sears has become its sales and profits. For the last two years, in an almost perfect retail environment, Sears sales have been flat and its profits have been poor. Apparently, there is a price to be paid for turnover and poor leadership.

Arthur has taught Sears how to sell assets at fire sale prices. Home life and Western Auto were sold in 1998 for a combined after-tax loss of $590 million. Sad but true ... Western auto made 85 million in profit three years ago. Folks the whole company is for sale.

In September 1997, Arthur announced his decision to reduce our life insurance. His decision reversed the promises of his predecessors, disrupted the lives and plans of 84,000 retiree families, materially impacted old people, sick people, rich and poor people, and made many chose, literally, between the purchase of medicines or life insurance, between their own needs and the desire to do for their families.

The contribution that Arthur brought to Sears and most regrets is in front of me. His decision to raid retiree benefits to produce profits and incentive payouts has united the retiree family as nothing else could. We are in lock step in our desire to regain what we earned for our families. Arthur’s greed gave birth to the National Association of Retired Sears Employees and motivated so many retirees that we will win the return of our life insurance.

Arthur wrote a book called “The Hard Road to the Softer Side of Sears”, the subtitle is "The Transformation of an American icon." Although we can agree that he took all of the softness and compassion from Sears, would you agree with me that Arthur truly has transformed an American icon? Sadly that transformation is, in large part, ugly. That casket over there tells the story of many of the values lost in the transformation.

But, this is hardly a funeral -- today is a celebration of a proud group of people who built a great company -- people who will do those things necessary to reverse bad decisions. I promise you that when you leave today's annual shareholders meeting, you will feel 10 feet tall because you will have expressed to Arthur and his Board your resolve, your integrity, your honest reactions to threats to your families’ well-being, and your promise to stay the course until a very bad decision is reversed.

I thank you and salute you. Let's go see Arthur!    


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