"The National Voice of
Local Sears Retiree Clubs and Individual Sears Retirees Everywhere"
NARSE was formed during the later
part of 1997 as a result of a promised life insurance benefit being
taken away from retirees by the then CEO of Sears, Arthur Martinez.
You may recall that this is the same Arthur who wrote a book with
the self-serving title, "The Hard Road
To The Softer Side of Sears."
But for the actions of Martinez,
NARSE would not have come into existence.
The formation of NARSE in 1997 enjoyed the support of more
than 40 retired presidents and officers of Sears.
NARSE vigorously supported the
efforts of 67 individual retirees when they filed a federal lawsuit
against Sears involving Arthur's decision
to reduce to a maximum of $5,000 the earned life insurance benefit
of Sears retirees. Among other things, this was a breach of a
fiduciary duty to all Sears retirees.
With the exception of one meeting
with Martinez and the VP of Human Resources, John T. Sloan, during
July, 1999, during which NARSE made several requests that were
refused, every petition, call, letter, and demonstration during this
time had been ignored by Sears. Clearly, it was Arthurıs strategy
and operating policy to ignore both the public relations
conflagration and Sears retirees.
However, NARSE refused to give up and
worked closely with all of plaintiffs'
counsel, providing them with documents, affidavits, depositions and
insights into the workings of Sears. The status of the insurance
lawsuit was continuously reported to our members in the organization's
quarterly publication, STRAIGHT TALK. During this period of
time, Sears was not communicating with its retirees. NARSE was!
NARSE's Board of
Directors meets monthly to continue to monitor Sears actions and to protect
retiree benefits. In addition, NARSE has a web site at www.narse.org,
provides speakers to bring information to local retiree clubs, and has
reunited thousands of retirees with former associates and friends. Also, all
of NARSE's monthly meetings include a toll-free
conference call that NARSE members around the country can access. Much more
recently, Sears started having quarterly Sears Retiree Advisory Council ("SRAC")
Over the years, NARSE has sustained and built
on press and broadcast media relationships that values our input. The media
often turns to NARSE for comment, insights, clarifications and, in some
instances, a realistic point of view not always found in Sears
During October, 1999 NARSE disseminated a
package of model letters that promoted a very successful nationwide letter
writing campaign to the Sears Board of Directors. The "Road
to Restoration" postcard campaign, followed in
November with prepaid, scheduled mailings of cards sent over a four-week
period. The Sears Board could not miss the message that retirees will not go
away. Successful demonstrations at the Oak Brook, Illinois store, Sears
Headquarters, and at many other locations were also supported by NARSE.
During this period, NARSE took its message of
betrayal and breach of trust to the American public with the only means
available to it -- through the court of Public Opinion with demonstrations,
protests, rallies, signs, letter-writing campaigns, envelope and bumper
stickers, fly-overs, media contacts and appeals to government
Unfortunately, some retirees, and certainly
Sears, viewed these actions as negative and destructive toward Sears. For
the record, we were only negative about the senior management group
running Sears that seemed to have little regard or commitment to the
retirees who built the company.
But, NARSE was and still is very
positive about Sears, the company, and only wants the best for Sears
customers, associates, retirees and shareholders. As we all know, retirees
fate, and benefits, will rise and fall with the success or failure of Sears.
We want our company to succeed!
During 2000, NARSE continued to pursue the
course of reason and fairness. We wanted to give our best efforts to undo
the personal and business damage that Sears management inflicted upon the
Sears family during the period of 1997 - 2000.
In the June, 2000 issue of Straight Talk, Ev
Buckardt, NARSE Chairman, said:
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 burdensı or dinosaurs. Hopefully, Sears new
management will treat retirees with the same respect as they wish to be
treated. Hopefully, Sears new management will recognize the value of a
supportive family. Hopefully, Sears new management will reach out to Sears
retirees...Sears former 'Best Customers'..."
During the Spring of 2000, NARSE conducted
its first national survey of Sears retirees and their spouses. The #1 and #2
issues of greatest concern to most retirees was Sears treatment of retirees
and employees, and Sears management policies and the conduct of their
business. Other issues in the "top ten"
all related to various aspects of health care and life insurance. This
entire survey was summarized in the September, 2000 issue of Straight
Possibly feeling the pressure, during the
Summer of 2000, Sears finally resumed communicating with retirees in its
Sears RETIREE News publication. However, in this issue, there was NOT
one word about the way Martinez cheated thousands of retirees out of their
earned and promised life insurance. Nor was there any mention about the
thousands of letters from retirees to Martinez and Sears Board of Directors
protesting their loss of benefits!
Alan Lacy became Sears CEO during the Fall of
2000. The new management team wanted to find a way to quickly resolve the
life insurance litigation and get the retirees back on the companyıs side.
On December 2, 2000 NARSE met with Lacy to
discuss the results of its first national survey. Besides discussing the
survey, NARSE also proposed that the lifetime limit of $150,000 for medical
coverage be increased. The following October, Sears, under Lacy, increased
the lifetime limit to $250,000.
perspective, this meeting with Lacy and staff was very pleasant and
informative. We expressed our appreciation to Sears and the new Lacy
administration for the opportunity to discuss retiree concerns, and we
sincerely hoped that the lines of communication would be kept open to the
mutual advantage of Sears and Sears retirees everywhere.
Following the meeting with NARSE, Sears, by
letter dated December 8, 2000, invited about 20 presidents of local Sears
Retiree Clubs throughout the country to attend a meeting at the end of
January, 2001 as a member of the new Sears Retiree Advisory Council.
According to the letter, the Council was established "to
open additional lines of communication and further strengthen our
relationship with our valued retirees." In
addition, Sears would look to this newly formed Council
"for advice and counsel on current and new Retiree
programs and benefits issues, as well as for editorial input on Sears
Retiree News and Sears Retiree web site."
During the first SRAC meeting, the retiree
representatives made it very clear that a resolution to the life insurance
issue was paramount for retirees to return to their former support of the
company. Lacy and the company executives who met with the club presidents
assured the attendees that this Council meeting was not an attempt to
circumvent NARSE. In fact, Lacy acknowledged NARSE leadership and indicated
he would meet with NARSE again in March to further discuss concerns. This
March meeting was to gauge NARSEıs reaction to the Sears RETIREE News and
the first SRAC meeting.
Both before and after SRAC was formed, NARSE
representatives were working very closely with Sears to resolve the life
insurance lawsuit. On October 11, 2001 U.S. District Judge James Moran gave
preliminary approval to a proposed settlement that partially restored
company-paid life insurance.
NARSE received a letter from the Evansville,
Indiana retirees, that was signed by 35 former Sears associates with 1,018
years of service. Their feelings appear to summarize what many other
retirees felt about the settlement:
pending settlement by the company appears both a token gesture and a
disappointment. The agreement to settle is significant in that Sears has
acknowledged broken promises and the neglect of moral and fiduciary
responsibilities for their employees. This is a victory, albeit a hollow one
when one considers the staggering amount of money involved.
efforts of NARSE to represent all retirees and protect current and future
employees benefits is outstanding, and we urge you to continue to represent
us in the future."
At the May, 2002 Sears Annual Meeting, the
following dialogue took place between NARSE and Chairman Lacy:
Chairman, do you support your staff working with experienced and interested
individuals from NARSE to review the Sears health benefit cost problem in an
effort to find an affordable solution?"
Lacyıs response was:
does not recognize NARSE. Sears will work with the Advisory Council as it
represents a broader spectrum of interests and more retirees."
spectrum of interests" and
statements are simply not accurate. While NARSE was born out of the life
insurance debacle, the organization has expanded into a much
"broader spectrum of interests,"
including medical costs and benefits, retiree discounts, retiree benefit
enhancements, Sears Retiree Appreciation Days improvements, stronger
store/club relationships, encouraging new retiree clubs and building our own
NARSE continues to communicate with more than
20,000 retirees in all 50 states of the United States. For comparison
purposes only, the number of retirees represented by the 18 SRAC members
does not exceed 6,000. In addition, NARSE has an up-to-date e-mail network
that enables our organization to send immediate news to our thousands of
During November, 2002 through March, 2003,
NARSE conducted its second Sears Retiree National Survey. We wanted to gauge
retirees' opinions on the "new
administration." The insurance settlement was
on the minds of many retirees. Their comments ranged from
"Probably the best we could expect under the circumstances"
to "We were misguided, misinformed, misled, and
In summary, we believe that it is highly
unlikely that but for the perseverance and persistence
of NARSE, retirees would not have the renewed recognition and benefits that
they now have from Sears. If NARSE had not put up such a fight about the
life insurance a "take-away",
Sears management certainly would not have put a proposed settlement on the
And all of this has been done with an
all-volunteer association with no paid employees. We are funded by retiree
membership dues and voluntary contributions. Any traveling that we do to
visit local retiree clubs is done at the traveler's
own expense. The dues we collect are used to support our communication
efforts with the thousands of Sears retirees across the country, with Sears
directors, government legislators, the media and the public at large.
NARSE certainly appreciates that the current
Sears management appears to be listening to
retirees concerns. As a show of good faith, with the appointment of Alan
Lacy as Sears CEO about four years ago, NARSE laid down its pickets, put
away its yellow "Sears is unfair to Retirees"
t-shirts, grounded its "airforce",
and worked towards establishing a beneficial relationship with our Company.
We did this even though Sears still refuses to publicly acknowledge us.
NARSE praises all the work that SRAC members
have done in bringing retirees' concerns to the
attention of Sears management. We hope that this will continue. We, in turn,
will continue to monitor Sears actions and statements about retiree benefits
and provide Straight Talk to all of our members as to NARSE's
involvement in the defense of retirees' rights.
NARSE's role will continue to involve company
persuasion, media assistance, legislative action and coalitions with other
national retiree organizations, including the National Retiree Legislative
The NARSE organization represents 133,000 retirees
221 local retiree clubs in 49 states respect the national
organization as their national voice.
The group includes persons whose titles were secretary,
janitor, repair person, vice president, salesperson, catalog associate, CEO, President,
director, coordinator...all of the titles that once represented the order of things at the
great American company.
We performed well. Phenomenal growth and industry leading
profitability characterized our years at Sears. We built a great company on the heritage
we got when we got there. We did not tear it apart or make it undesirable for the future.
All are united now as persons concerned for one another. The
differences and distinctions that once were important are pale now. What is important is
that NARSE has brought together people concerned about people and promises.
The organizations purpose is to preserve and protect the
promised and earned benefits accrued in a lifetime of work for Sears, Roebuck and company.
At the time of retirement, Sears retirees (and the company
representatives responsible for their retirement) believed that they were secure. Paid up
life insurance and medical benefits for themselves and their spouses, discounts at the big
store, and so much more were promised.
Many of our members have made commitments and promises to
families and institutions based on assurances made by Sears.
The National Association of Retired Sears Employees is based
We intend to employee all public, private, and legal means
available to ensure that commitments and contracts are paid in full.
We believe that the company must honor all stakeholders who
have invested. This would include stockholders, current Sears associates, retirees, and
customers...all of whom invest in the company's success.
We welcome the participation of all interested parties. Other
retirees of other companies have also been abandoned at the end of their active working
lives and share our interests.
We have joined in the class-action legal suit.
We seek protective legislation. Legislation could ensure that
persons would have the ability to plan for their personal welfare apart from capricious
and changing actions by the greedy within today's corporations.
NARSE has a tale to tell and a cruel decision to
We will fight.