Verizon retirees group continues to advocate for change

There’s nothing shy and retiring about the Association of BellTel Retirees.

The nonprofit group advocates loudly, and apparently effectively, on behalf of the pensions and benefits of Verizon retirees.

It has sponsored 28 shareholder resolutions on nine different subjects on proxy statements over the last 11 years, said C. William Jones, president of the group that has 100,000 members.

Two of those resolutions won majority shareholder support, including one in 2007 that resulted in Verizon giving shareholders a non-binding vote on executive pay, starting this year.

At Verizon’s May 7 annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., shareholders will get their first “say on pay.” As a management-sponsored proposal, Verizon is asking shareholders to vote in favor of its pay practices. BellTel advises voting “against.”

Today, BellTel will hold its own annual meeting at the Radisson Hotel Valley Forge in King of Prussia, starting at 9:30 a.m.

The group takes on corporate governance issues, Jones said, because retirees who’d counted on promised health-care and pension benefits have struggled as companies continue to shed and trim those legacy costs.

The Verizon Communications of 2009 is a mashup of former Bell System companies and other enterprises. So BellTel’s membership includes managers and union members who’d once worked for New England Telephone, Nynex, Bell Atlantic, GTE, MCI and more.

Jones anticipates more than 200 will make the trek to King of Prussia to get updates on various issues, including how the March 31 bankruptcy of Idearc Inc. will affect health benefits. Idearc is the big Yellow Pages publisher that Verizon spun off in November 2006.

Quotable

“The history of federal health-care programs shows us that the way the health-care system reimburses for items and services dictates how the unethical and dishonest will exploit it.”

- Lewis Morris, chief counsel of the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, in prepared testimony about health-care reform before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.