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November 1, 2005
 
 
Mimi Hull, President
ASSOCIATION OF U S WEST RETIREES
AUSWR Board Members and general membership
 
 
This update concerns the Kerber v. Qwest  case (Pension Death Benefits case).  After this case was filed, numerous AUSWR members who retired after January 1, 2004 and are no longer eligible for the Pension Death Benefit due to the company's unfair change to the pension plan rules asked that they be considered and included in this lawsuit.  Therefore, your retiree organization and the original named Plaintiffs, Edward Kerber and Nelson Phelps, decided the right course of action would be to expand this case in hopes to protect the rights of hundreds of recent retirees.
 
 
On October 25, 2005, a formal request was filed with the Denver Federal Court seeking permission to add three additional persons to be named Plaintiffs: Joanne West of South Jordan, Utah; Nancy Meister of Plymouth, Minnesota; and Thomas Ingemann of Newport, Minnesota.  Each person retired after January 1, 2004 after completing many years of employment service and the Pension Death Benefit was taken away.  In at least one instance, almost at the proverbial eleventh hour, the company took away the Pension Death Benefit.  Your can download and read the proposed Second Amended Complaint that was submitted to the Court by going to this URL at the
AUSWR website: http://www.uswestretiree.org/MotiontoFileSecondAmendedComplaint.pdf
 
 
The trial court judge - Federal Judge Marcia Krieger - will have to make a ruling on whether the existing case can be expanded.  I don't see any impediment.  Of course, Qwest's legal counsel will surely exercise the right to object and argue against our request.
 
 
It should be rather obvious that your retiree organization, perhaps the most active in the nation, is trying to look out for the best interest of all U S WEST/Qwest retirees, both management and nonmanagement.  The Kerber legal challenge is but one example.  Certainly, all of you are aware of AUSWR's prior efforts to protect medical benefits and success in obtaining a written guarantee of health care coverage for tens of thousands of persons who retired before January 1991.  Now, AUSWR has embarked upon another major legal challenge. 
 
 
Please keep in mind that this litigation about the Pension Death Benefits is separate from any potential issue concerning life insurance.  As you know, for many decades, a stable feature of the Qwest Pension Plan (and predecessor plans such as the AT&T Pension Plan) has been a "Pension Death Benefit" funded in the pension plan and payable as an entitlement upon the death of a retiree receiving a service pension and delivered to his or her surviving spouse or dependent beneficiaries.  Qwest and its predecessors - U S WEST, AT&T, Mountain Bell, Northwest Bell and Northwestern Bell -- have a long history of treating the Pension Death Benefit as an “accrued” or protected pension benefit payable from trust fund assets.  However, in September 2003, Qwest formally announced to AUSWR leaders that “Qwest is considering eliminating the death benefit for all retirees regardless of their retirement date.”   Qwest prepared several signed letters dated September 2, 2003 ready to send to all retirees to report the Pension Death Benefit would be eliminated effective October 1, 2003.  You can go to this URL at the AUSWR website to see the letters that Qwest senior leadership had planned to sent out:  http://www.uswestretiree.org/September2,2003%20Letters.pdf   Had your retiree organization leaders not raised such a ruckus and solicited a massive letter writing campaign, surely, Qwest senior leadership would have immediately gone forward with their devious plan.  Although the company decided to hold off eliminating the Pension Death Benefit for all retirees, they decided to eliminate the benefit for those who retired after January 2004.  Yet, all of those persons were counting on the Pension Death Benefit for financial and estate planning purposes.  And, the threat remains that Qwest senior leadership or some cadre of leadership taking over after the present CEO Notebaert regime could try to eliminate the Pension Death Benefit.  By eliminating the Pension Death Benefit, company senior leaders look "good" to Wall Street, as they claim credit for company savings or a curtailment income gain, an odd accounting construct.
 
 
Accordingly, the present lawsuit stems from unsuccessful efforts to get Qwest senior leadership to recognize the Pension Death Benefit as a protected pension benefit that can neither be eliminated nor reduced.  Qwest senior leadership contends the Pension Death Benefit is at-risk and can be taken away, pursuant to the present reservation of rights language which language was set forth in the PLAN after Named Plaintiffs Ed Kerber and Nelson Phelps and tens of thousands of others retired.  Now, among other arguments, we are contending in the present lawsuit that Qwest acted improperly by taking away the Pension Death Benefit for those persons who retired after January 1, 2004.  While the present lawsuit outcome is very uncertain and the process may take at least several years, I trust all affected retirees, both management and nonmanagement and those who retired after January 1, 2004, will support both AUSWR's financial effort to pay the costs of this lawsuit and the emotional efforts of the Named Plaintiffs: Ed Kerber, Nelson Phelps, Joanne West, Nancy Meister and Thomas Ingemann.
 
 
There will be further updates about the Kerber case as matters develop and you can keep informed by checking the website:   http://www.uswestretiree.org/legal2.htm#death
 
 
Curtis