2002 Straight Talk Archives

"Six Sigma"
Oct. 2, 2002

FYI. NARSE recently received the following email.
Can others add any known information to this?

"I am a Sears employee, in reading your site, I took notice of the segment on the point system. We believe that Sears has hired a consulting firm. and has implemented a program called "Six Sigma" I have done plenty of research on this, it is very sad. Present employees, that have been there for over 25 years and awaiting their retirement, will not see it. I hope you keep this confidential, I really need my job, for now, I just felt I had to let someone know." 

In Memorium - Philip M. Knox, Jr.
Sears Executive & Prominent Capital Attorney

September 24, 2002
By Ted Bell - Sacramento (CA) Bee Staff Writer

Philip M. Knox Jr., a vice president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. who returned to Sacramento in 1987 to become one of the area's premier business lawyers and president of the Sacramento Rotary Club, has died at the age of 80. A native of St. Paul, Minn., he died Tuesday in his home from the effects of brain cancer.

His father was a newspaper circulation manager and brought the family to Sacramento in 1924 to work briefly for the Union. They moved to Southern California and then to the Bay Area, where Mr. Knox graduated from high school.

He received an undergraduate degree in business from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1943. In 1949 he was awarded his law degree from Hastings College of the Law. Last year, he was named Hastings Alumni Association's alumnus of the year. He served as a director of the California Alumni Association from 1997 to 2000.

During World War II, Mr. Knox served as a naval officer in the Pacific.

After earning his law degree, he took a job with a small Oakland law firm.

During the 1950s Mr. Knox worked for Republican Party affiliates and the California Manufacturers Association in Southern California and the Bay Area.

He declined an offer to run for a south state congressional seat, according to his son Tom Knox.

In 1960 he joined the legal staff of Sears and Roebuck.

By 1973 he was the corporation's vice president for governmental affairs in Washington, D.C. From 1981 to 1986 he was Sears' senior lawyer with the title of vice president and corporate general counsel, headquartered in Chicago.

He directed legal efforts in Sears' expansion into consumer financial services, served on the team that reinvigorated the firm with new stores and a new image and directed Sears' battle to clear itself of federal hiring discrimination charges.

"He exemplified the best in what a corporate general counsel should be," said Ann Smith, a lawyer Mr. Knox mentored at Sears.

"He was a quiet, unassuming man in many respects, but he was also a leader," she said. "He was co-founder of the American Corporate Counsel Association. He stands apart from the problems many people (in scandal-ridden
corporations) are having. Those companies needed the kind of leadership Philip exemplified."

Mr. Knox returned to Sacramento in 1987. "It was simple," said his son, "to be with his grandchildren."

Mr. Knox, however, joined Clifford, Diepenbrock and Paras to advise on financial law. He also served as adjunct professor at McGeorge School of Law, teaching banking and consumer finance law.

In addition to being the 2000-2001 president of the Rotary Club of Sacramento, Mr. Knox served as state president of the California Junior Chamber of Commerce and general counsel for the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce. "He was a sure sign that, sometimes, great guys do finish first," said his son.

Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Joan (Sutton) Knox; and his sons, Tom of Sacramento and John Knox of San Luis Obispo. A Mass of Christian burial is scheduled for 11 a.m. today in Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church, 5057 Cottage Way. The family says donations may be made to the Family Service Agency of Greater Sacramento, 8912 Volunteer Lane, Suite 100, Sacramento, CA 95826, or to a charity of choice.

NARSE Looses A Great Friend
Buzz Williams - September 7, 2002

Buzz was a champion for Sears retirees. He vigorosly campaigned to restore Sears promised retiree life insurance benefit and was an officer of the National Association of Retired Sears Employees. Buzz created and served as the web master for NARSE web site www.narse.org. His tireless dedication and contribution will be missed by NARSE and Sears retirees.

As his wife says it, Buzz Williams managed to cram more than a century of living into just 69 years. In his 25 years in Sonoma County, California, he opened the Sears store in downtown Santa Rosa and was president of the Chamber of Commerce. He was a devout fund-raiser for several charities and in what little spare time he had, he was a skilled fisherman and devoted family man. Williams died Saturday in Santa Rosa after battling lymphoma for two years. "How he ever got it all in, I'll never know," said his wife, Carolyn. "Most of us in the family just sat around and shook our heads and wondered how he did it. "He never even stopped his routine to do the chemo," she said. "He had a great attitude."

Born Miles Lee Williams, Buzz earned his nickname when he was just a baby. His older sister kept saying "my baby buzzer" for "brother." As it turned out, the name fit him perfectly, his wife said. "He buzzed. He was always busy; just so busy," Carolyn Williams said.

He was born in San Francisco and raised in Tracy and Modesto. After high school, Williams joined Sears in 1952 as a bicycle salesman. He spent 4 years in the U.S. Air Force and returned to Modesto and Sears. He met his wife when he was in the military. Coincidentally, she was working in the credit department at Sears, Roebuck & Co. in Modesto, CA at the time -- the company where he would end up spending his entire professional career. They met when Williams needed to buy a new tire for his car, but she wouldn't accept the credit card he gave her because it was in his mother's name. They were married shortly after, in 1957.

He quickly moved up through the ranks at Sears. He accepted his first store manager position in 1973 in Utah and eventually was transferred to run the Sears store in Santa Rosa. In 1977, he opened the Santa Rosa Plaza store, which he ran until he retired in 1989. The store opening, his wife said, was one of his best memories from his 37 years with the company. His retirement hardly slowed him down, Williams' wife said.

He tried his hand at inventing and was developing an air purifier before he died. He also was actively involved in several nonprofit groups, serving as president of Junior Achievement and the Cardinal Newman High School Board of Regents. He was on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, and in the winters he enjoyed being a bell ringer to raise money. He also stood up for retired Sears employees when the company tried to reduce their life insurance benefits. "He was in everyone's lives," Carolyn Williams said. "That was his personality. He just enjoyed being a part of everything. He was a very giving person."

In addition to his wife, Buzz is survived by two sisters, Joanne Monaco and Penny Ramos, both of Modesto; three sons, Timothy Williams, John Williams and Brian Williams, all of Santa Rosa; a daughter, Carla Fleshner of Sacramento; and two grandchildren. A funeral service is scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m. at Daniels Chapel of the Roses, 1225 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa. Interment is at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Santa Rosa. Visitation is scheduled for Thursday from 4-8 p.m. at Daniels Chapel of the Roses. Donations in Williams' memory may be made to the Salvation Army, the American Cancer Society or Cardinal Newman High School.

Sounds Like Sears Today
By Gerry Everitt - August 26, 2002

This is perfect, especially with the attitudes of today's Big Corporations. Now I understand why the Enrons of this country don't survive.

An American company and a Japanese Company decided to engage in a boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance levels. On the big day they felt ready. The Japanese won by a mile. The American team was discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged.

Corporate management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, so a consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommend corrective action.

The consultant's finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering.

After a year of study and millions spent analyzing the problem, the consultant firm concluded that too many people were steering and not enough were rowing on the American team.

So as race day neared again the following year, the American team's management structure was completely reorganized.

The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers, and a new performance review system for the person rowing the boat to provide work incentive.

The next year, the Japanese won by TWO miles!!! Humiliated, the American corporation laid off the rower for poor performance and gave the managers a bonus for discovering the problem.

How to Loose Friends & Customers
Retiree Appreciation Day - 2002

227 White Fawn Trail
Downers Grove, Il. 60516
(630) 852-8773

July 16, 2002

Alan J. Lacy
Chairman and CEO, Sears
3333 Beverly Rd.
Hoffman Estates, Il. 60179

Re. Retiree Appreciation July 16, 2002

Dear Mr. Lacy,

I received the attached 10% off EVERYTHING coupon in the mail. I quote your letter “We are pleased to announce another in a series of Sears Retiree Appreciation Days”. Well, another misleading statement from Sears management.

I went to the local SEARS Hardware stores (at least the sign over the door said (“SEARS”) to take advantage of your appreciation day. Last time I checked, I believe the sales/profits from the Hardware stores were part of Sears. Yes, most of the items carried in the store say “Craftsman” or “Sears” or are other Sears brands. And indeed, most of the same items are also carried in full line stores.

Well I was told I was not the first retiree to stop at that store today. And guess what? Your great APPRECIATION DAYS coupon was NOT appreciated (only good in full line stores). In fact, it wouldn’t work. And apparently other retirees stormed out mad too! Attached find a copy of my receipt (I was not about to travel to the Oak Brook store which is usually out of stock of what I want anyway), so I will purchase a needed lawn and garden item elsewhere. I did pick up a couple of little items at the Hardware store where an additional discount was not a consideration, as you can find only the normal discount on the receipt.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that you are attempting to gain the support and “fire-up” the Sears retiree force, only to throw ice water on them when they enter a “SEARS” store that’s not full line (again….at least that is what the sign says “SEARS”…but I could be mistaken).

Please remove my name from future APPRECIATION DAY coupon mailings. I don’t want to waste my time or energies.

Very truly yours,

Charlie Rice



"How Chicken ---- Can They Get?"
The 12-Point Advancement
(July 13, 2002)

The stores are on a point (demerit) system whereby certain infractions are set up and and each time you get one a point or two is charged against you and 12 points in a year and you are advanced out the door. The number of points assessed to you is at the discretion of your dept manager.

Things that can get you fired are:


punching in 6 minutes late


leaving the floor without having some one to watch while you take a break or go to lunch/dinner


coming in or going out the wrong door


calling out sick or calling in sick


leaving in an emergency


and the list goes on . . .

A friend of mine at the store got a call that his daughter was being taken to the hospital and he called HR to let them know that he had to leave but he still was given a point. What is Sears coming to ??

In Memorium - William (Bill) Berger, Sr.
April 28, 2002

William (Bill) Berger, Sr.  passed away Sunday April 28, 2002 at the age of 87. Bill retired from Sears after 30 years of service. He was a distinguished salesman and retired in 1978 in the Detroit, Mich. area. Bill is survived by his wife, Ruth May and six sons. 26 Grandchildren and 6 great grand kids. He was very active in the many ministries of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Inverness, Fl. We just thought some of his friends and associates might like to know.

Dick & Eileen Police, Inverness, Fl.
Also a NARSE member.

NARSE Needs Your Input!!!

By Gordon Muschett - April 14, 2002

The NARSE Fifth Annual Meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 8, 2002. On the following day, Sears will hold their Annual Shareholders Meeting at Hoffman Estates. NARSE wants to insure your voice and concerns are heard at both of the meetings!

Sears and Alan Lacy have indicated a desire for better relationship with retirees. You can make a vital and significant contribution to the NARSE and the following Sears Annual meeting. We critically need your input or better yet, attendance at the meetings. However, in view that many cannot attend the meeting, we'd like you to write, email, or fax ANY suggestions, questions, comments you may want NARSE, Sears, or the presenters to be considered for the meetings.

Attendees at the NARSE Annual Meeting will be:



Lyle Heidemann,
Executive V.P. and General Manager - Hardlines.
"Anticipating and Delivering on the Changing Needs of Our Customers


Stanley Aldis,
Sears Headquarters Benefit Representative

Wausau Benefits Co.

Replaced United Health Care on April 1, 2002. Martin Flowers & Denell Thomas

Sears Advisory Council Panel

Led by Art Levin, NARSE President.
It is anticipated that 13-14 Sears Retiree Club Presidents members will attend meetings and make a panel presentation.


There will be a talk by a local representative.

News Media

Susan Chandler, Chicago Tribune, Business Reporter
"Developments in Retailing Today"

NARSE plans to be your representative and continue monitor retiree benefits earned, promised, and relied upon when retiring from Sears.

Among items NARSE is currently considering is:

Focusing on Sears retiree concerns:  the huge premium increases for health care.

Benefit Legislation: being reviewed as suggested by Judge Moran during the March 5, 2002 Settlement Hearing.

TODAY, send your suggestions, questions, comments to:

Ken Johnson,
Chairman NARSE
249 Marion Ave.
Lake Forest, IL 60045
Ken8644@attbi.com  847-234-4485


narse and Sears Annual Meetings
Key Locations and Accommodations
Meeting Coordinator

narse Annual Meeting - May 8, 2002
The Stonegate Conference and Banquet Centre
2401 West Higgins Road (Rte72)
Hoffman Estates, Illinois 847-884-7000

I-90 west to Barrington Road Exit South and travel ¼ mile to Higgins and then turn right into STONEGATE

Sears Annual Shareholders Meeting
3333 Beverly Road, Hoffman Estates
From Rte. 72 Higgins Road 3 miles west of Rte.59, Barrington Road
Parking will be available at Sears

We will have a bus to provide transportation to and from the
Shareholders Meeting.

Motel Accommodations
LaQuinta Inn
2280 Barrington Road
Hoffman Estates, IL
For reservations call 800-531-5900
Be sure to mention narse meeting and special rate of $68
Restaurants are within walking distance

Additional Motels in area
• Ameri Suites: 800-833-15126
• Hampton Inn: 847-882-4301
• Courtyard by Marriott: 847-214-8196

3333 Beverly Road, Hoffman Estates

Time 10:00 a.m. -11:30 a.m.

Parking is available but we recommend joining us for coffee and rolls at the Stonegate Center at 8:30 a.m.

narse Coordinator
Dave Silgers
T. 847-426-6696
C. 847-373-4959
E-mail Allante01@webtv.net

Call to confirm attendance, dinner, and special needs

Shuttle Service from Airport
Midway $45 plus $5 for each additional passenger
O’Hare $35 plus $5
Telephone: 866-805-1955

narse 5th Annual Meeting
Wednesday - May 8, 2002
Stonegate Conference & Banquet Center - Hoffman Estates

2:00 pm Welcome - Ken Johnson, Chairman
2:15 pm “Developments in Retailing Today”
Susan Chandler, Chicago Tribune Business Reporter

2:45 pm*

Sears Advisory Council Members (Club Presidents) Panel led by Art Levin, President of NARSE & AZ Club

3:15 pm


3:30 pm*

"Servicing Sears Retiree Healthcare Benefits"
Wausau Benefits Co. (replaced United HealthCare 4/1/02)
  - Martin Flower, Milwaukee Office
  - Denell Thomas, Wausau, WI
  - Sears HQ Benefits Rep.,
  - Stanley Aldis, Hoffman Estates

4 pm

"Sears Hardlines: Anticipating & Delivering on the Changing Needs of Our Customers" - Lyle Heidemann, Executive VP and Gen. Mgr., Sears Hardlines

4:30 p.m.*

 NARSE 2002 and Beyond
Ken Johnson, Chairman

4:40 pm*

NARSE Awards
Ev Buckardt, the man

4:50 pm*

May 9 Shareholders Meeting Dave Silgers, Chf Co-ord.

5:00 pm

Social Hour - Cash Bar

6:00 pm

Dinner - $20 (please pay before 5 pm & the bar opens)

  * Depending on plane arrival times for the Council Members, these time slots may be changed.

Lodging - La Quinta Inn
2280 Barringtron Rd., Hoffman Estates
Rate:  $68/night



In Memorium - John M. Carroll

February 28, 2002

John Carroll passed into God's Kingdom, February 28, 2002, at 7:08 am. John's  last position was in Chicago. He was with Sears 42 years, and worked in Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Chicago.

Notice will be in Philadelpia Inquirer. Viewing Sunday evening 4-6 PM at Island Funeral Home. Mass on Monday, March 4, 2002, at 10:30 at St. Francis by the Sea, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

In Memorium - Harry Bier

Sears  1946 - 1986
Labor Relations, Western Territory - 1966 - 1986

Harry Bier passed away on Sunday, February 17, 2002, at age 80 at his home in Martinez. His death was quiet, peaceful, and painless with his loving wife Olga and his beloved older daughter Suzanne at his side.

His loving daughter Nancy and Suzanne's husband Peter also survive him and their children Stephanie and David. He also leaves to cherish his memory his best friend and brother-in-law John Billones, 8 nieces and nephews, 5 grand nieces and nephews, and a host of friends and colleagues all over the U.S., England, and Germany.

Harry was born in 1922 in Bremen, Germany. In 1936 he and his parents and 4-year old brother, who pre-deceased him in 2000, immigrated to San Francisco where his father established a successful custom tailoring business. Harry enrolled at George Washington High School with a dictionary under his arm and a notebook of his advanced geometry studies in German, but it wasn't long before he lost his accent and spoke with a true San Francisco flavor.

During WW2, he served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a Sergeant assigned to an aircraft warning battalion. He was the chief operator of a Radar Unit engaged in aircraft detection and identification and direction of aircraft to enemy objectives. It was during his basic training that he completed his application provisions and was granted his U.S. citizenship in 1943.

In 1950 Harry graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a degree in Criminology. He started his 40 year career at Sears Roebuck in Oakland as Assistant Security Supervisor. He subsequently served as Customer Service Supervisor, and Personnel Director in various Sears in the Bay Area. Eventually he transferred into the Western Territory in the Employee Labor Relations Division where he served for 20 years until his retirement in 1986. During this time he worked as a high-level negotiator in Labor Relations and was equally respected by management and unions alike for his fairness, integrity, and his unfailing good humor.

You never wanted to see Harry in your store, but if you did see him, you knew you were in good hands!

Harry and his wife Olga married while attending U.C. Berkeley and lived in Berkeley for 20 years, raising their daughters and being very active with Northbrae Community Church as members of the Church Council.

They organized Northbrae Players, a little theatre group, who performed Olga's original plays featuring Harry as the "comedy relief." Northbrae Players became one of the principal fundraisers for the church and formed the basis of their lifelong love of the theatre.

After retirement, Harry and Olga volunteered as a team at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center, were he also served as President of the hospital's Auxiliary. He and Olga were honored as "Volunteer Couple of the Year" in 1994. Harry was also appointed to the Martinez Civil Service Commission where his negotiating skills were utilized.

Harry got his first radio amateur's license in the late 50's and became very Active in "ham" activities, serving as President for both the East Bay Amateur Radio Club and the Contra Costa Communications Club. He was also a Member of the Mount Diablo Radio Club and the Martinez Radio Club. Holding a General license, Harry served in emergency communications in Santa Cruz after the Loma Prieta earthquake and assisted local law enforcement teams during the fire in the Oakland Hills and in coordinating emergency communications in Martinez

Harry's gifts of wit and humor were always in demand to M.C. meetings and programs. He could always be counted on for a good joke, a helping hand, a level head, a kiss, and a quick trip to a Reno casino. He leaves many happy memories to his legions of friends and will be sadly missed.

A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, March 2, at 11 a.m. at the Willows Theatre in The Willows Shopping Center, 1975 Diamond Blvd. Concord, CA.

We hope you will be able to join his many friends and celebrate this day.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation in Harry's name to: Contra Costa Regional Medical Center Auxiliary, 2500 Alhambra Ave., Martinez, CA 94553

Changes in GUI Plan,
United Healthcare Replace, Long Term Care Plan

Gregg A. Lee, Sears Senior Vice President of Human Relations has sent out the following letter to the Retiree Advisory Council and NARSE on Feb. 15, 2002 ____________________________________________________________________

 I would like to make you aware of several events that will take place in March, affecting a number of Sears retirees.


First, a notice will go out to approximately 11,000 Sears retirees the first week of March. The notice is from Marsh@Work, the administrator of the Group Universal Life (GUL) Program. This notice informs those retirees who are covered under the GUL Program at the flat rates that their flat rate per $1,000 of coverage will increase from $.45 to $.60 effective April 1, 2002. Retirees who are paying age-related rates are not impacted.

The life insurance program that includes the experience of both active and retiree participants is currently in a difficult financial position, running a deficit of more than $2.5 million. As a result, Marsh@Work has determined that adjustments need to be made to keep the program viable. It is my understanding that retirees have received previous notice of possible increases in the flat rate as far back as 1998.

At the same time that retirees will receive notice of their $.15 increase in the flat rate, active associates will receive a notice announcing that the flat rate of $.45 will no longer be available to them. They will pay their appropriate age band rate, which in many cases, will involve an increase much greater than $.15. To give you a comparison, while the retirees age 60-64 will pay a flat rate of $.60, active associates in the same age bracket will pay $.92.

Marsh@Work and Sears are hopeful that these changes will better position the GUI program to address the deficit. While we are pleased that the retiree participants can remain in the program at the flat rate of $.60, we understand that a continuing or worsening deficit could necessitate a further increase in the rate. I am sure that you can agree that the long-term viability of the program must be protected.

(SEARS MEDICARE PLUS PLAN (FORMERLY PLAN E)) Second, retirees enrolled in the Sears Medicare Plus Plan (formerly Plan E) will receive information in early March informing them that Wausau Benefits will replace United Healthcare as the administrator of the plan effective April 1. Wausau Benefits will begin processing all medical plan claims on April 1, regardless of the date medical services are received. We think this clean transition will be a simple one. Wausau Benefits is known for their high level of customer service, particularly with retiree plans.

(LONG TERM CARE PLAN) Finally, a small number of retirees that are currently enrolled in the Long Term Care Plan will be receiving a packet of information informing them of their opportunity to switch to their coverage to a new Long Term Care Plan. With improved benefits, more attractive rates and prior credit for payments made under the current plan, retirees will be encouraged to give serious consideration to this new plan. However, they may remain in the current plan if they wish to do so. CNA Insurance, the administrator of both plans, will have customer service representatives available to provide assistance and any questions that retirees may have.

These changes are part on an on-going process to continuously review and evaluate program that are made available to both our active associates and our retirees. I will do my best to keep retiree club leaders informed of any changes that will impact our retiree population. I know that we share the same desire to maintain the viability of the programs that are offered. Let me know if you have questions or if there are aspects of these around which you would need further clarification.

(signed) G.A. Lee


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