Association of US West Retirees to dissolve at the end of 2013
Posted: 04/17/2013 12:01:00 AM MDT
By Andy Vuong
The Association of US West Retirees, the longtime voice for thousands of former Bell system workers as they fought to maintain promised benefits amid mergers and acquisitions, is dissolving at the end of this year.
Additionally, four of the group's six chapters have also decided to disband, with the other two — including Colorado — slated to hold votes later this year.
"Our mission was to protect and enhance our benefits. We've done every court case we can do. We've won some, we've lost some. As far as we can determine, there's nowhere else to go," said association president Mimi Hull, 69. "We've been operating with the same set of volunteers for
The first local chapters representing retirees in the old Qwest and US West 14-state phone service territory formed in 1995, and the regional association was established in 1999. At its peak, the association had 18,000 members. Today, it counts about 12,000 members, including about 3,000 who retired from US West in 1995 after 25 years, said Hull.
The association's attorney, Curtis Kennedy, filed dozens of suits on behalf of retirees over the years to fight proposed benefit cuts. High-profile battles ensued after Denver-based Qwest Communications, led by Joe Nacchio, acquired US West in 2000.
In 2005, the group persuaded Qwest to give pre-1984 retirees free long-distance phone service when the company stopped reimbursing third-party long-distance charges.
The group was unsuccessful, however, in fighting a reduction in life-insurance coverage in 2007 under former CEO Dick Notebaert and the elimination of pension death benefits in 2009 under Ed Mueller.
Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink acquired Qwest in 2011, and the relationship with retirees has improved, Hull said.
"We fought the fight with Nacchio and then with Notebaert and then with Ed Mueller, and we actually haven't been fighting with CenturyLink," Hull said. "I was able, with (CenturyLink general counsel) Stacey Goff last year, to negotiate a five-year guarantee for the management retirees that their health benefit subsidy would not be cut or eliminated, and they agreed to it."
Hazel Floyd, president of the Colorado retirees chapter, said it's understandable for the regional group to fold.
"Now that there are no lawsuits that the region needs to be concerned about, their purpose has kind of dropped," said Floyd, who worked in the Bell system for 20 years. "They were our protector over the years.
The Colorado chapter will vote on whether to dissolve in October. Floyd said the group may decide to continue operating.
"We feel that we have enough retirees who depend on us for their news and for the feeling of having someone there for them," she said.
Andy Vuong : 303-954-1209, avuong@ denverpost.com or fb.com/byandyvuong