Officers join in a statement of unity

After a contentious week of sharp disagreements publicly aired, Thursday marked a day of unity and recommitment to purpose for the Guild.

First, the Guild is pleased to announce that Ken Crowe and Christine Wright have agreed to remain on the pension board as trustees, and they concur the membership must vote before a merger of the fund can occur. They did so after a legal opinion from Guild International attorney Barbara Camens indicated the contract required such a membership vote.

You can read her opinion here.

A vote cannot be scheduled, however, until the Company puts its proposal in writing. It has not yet done so, and the union sent Company leaders a letter after its Executive Board meeting Thursday urging them to do so.

At the Executive Board meeting, the officers unanimously approved a statement of principles as suggested by International Representative Jim Schaufenbil. The principles were moved by Chief Steward Ray Pitlyk and seconded by President Tim O’Brien (who handed the chair to First Vice President Lindsay LaFountain in order to do so).

The principles are:

  • Agreement of all board members that a ratification vote is legally required to merge the pension plan.
  • The union and trustees agree to negotiate with the company to protect pension benefits as long as possible. That agreement needs to be in writing. We retain the right to negotiate pension benefit changes in the future through collective bargaining.
  • That we would work together in settling our differences.
  • The Executive Committee and the Guild pension trustees all acknowledge they are ultimately accountable to the membership.
  • Executive Committee votes should be taken in a forum where all members have adequate notice and opportunity to present debate on the issues.
  • The Executive Committee reaffirms its goal to get a reasonable, honorable contract with the Company.


  • Gary LaBelle

    After reading and re-reading the recent blog entries regarding the pension fund merger it is evident that all parties involved thought this was the best solution for all at the time of your meeting with corporate. It appears the International Representatives, Guild Pension Trustees, Corporate Representatives, The Actuary and even our President, Tim O’Brien agreed that this is the best solution for our underfunded pension.

    I am seeking the guidance and personal opinion of our Union President, Tim O’Brien and ask this direct question. Do you think this merger is a good idea or a bad idea and why?

    Thanks very much,


  • Gary LaBelle

    I am trying to understand all the pros and cons of the pension plan discussion and understand that a member vote might be needed to decide the future of our plan and our retirement benefits. I am also trying to speak to my fellow employees and get feedback from them to help us all make the right choice. Will someone/anyone please post your thoughts on why you think this merger offer is a good or bad offer and why? We need to make the right choice from an informed position and not a last minute vote from the minority of members. I am encouraging all members to get informed, get involved, get the dues paid up and then be heard. I am still waiting for the opinion and guidance of our leader and president, Tim O’Brien. I don’t want to hear what the lawyers say. I want to hear what you think is the right thing to do. You have been involved every step of the way and are one of the most informed and respected members so please lead us and tell us if you think we should vote yes or no and why. As I understand it, we have until December 31 or the offer to merge is gone. So Tim I ask you again, do you think the merger is a good idea or a bad idea and why?

    Thank you in advance for your quick reply,

    Gary LaBelle

  • albanyguild

    Sorry, Gary. I’ve been tied up for a few days on other matters and am just seeing this for the first time. My honest answer is: There are pros and cons to each vote. A yes vote could mean the Company can freeze our pension plan in two years; a no vote can mean we have to cut our own benefits, though we’d have more say over which ones and how quickly, but it can also mean the Company demands other givebacks (like layoffs) to make up for the added funds they might need to put in to shore up our plan.

    To be clear, there is about $28 million in the fund and we pay out less than $500,000 a year in pension to retirees. That sounds like we have plenty of money to pay, but federal law requires funds to have enough money on hand to pay everything if say a company goes bankrupt. That’s to prevent the federal government from having to pay the benefits since they are guaranteed.

    I realize that is not the clear, decisive answer you’re looking for from me. But there are mixed views even among our leadership, and as president I feel I have to represent the consensus. Since there isn’t any, I will do my best to detail exactly what the results are from any action. And the bulk of the talking will be done by the trustees themselves, who are closest to this.

    We are, as I’ll post in a minute, waiting for the lawyers to come together in a final agreement. That’s the delay at the moment.


    PS Once we have the language worked out, there is a fact sheet we’ve prepared that we will distribute. We’re not just going to wait until the meeting and the vote, although that is the place where you will get the most detail. And of course everyone is invited to share their view here or to call me on my cell phone at 466-8700.

  • On Edge

    So this seems to me like yet another example of being screwed and at the mercy of the company. “Merging may stink, but what other choice do we have?” I for one am so sick and tired of bad circumstances being the excuse for continually being crapped on. And let’s not forget “You’re lucky you even have jobs.”

    Maybe our only choice is between merging and actually standing up for ourselves, with the latter possibly achieving nothing but pride in ourselves. Let’s just not to try and spin this as a good deal. It’s not, it just might be better than the potential for disaster a continued recession and a vengeful company would unleash.

    It’s basically another example of the Hearst Corporation’s talent for extortion. I hope they conduct the rest of their life with more honor; I’d hate to think they subject their families, friends and Starbucks baristas with constant threats and intimidation.

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