Retirees fight Windstream plan to cut benefits
By Josh Funk, Associated Press
Friday, December 5, 2008
Windstream Corp. wants a federal judge to affirm its authority
to reduce retiree benefits even when the people affected retired
from other phone companies that Windstream acquired over the
But the retirees argue that Little Rock, Ark.-based Windstream
and the companies it acquired --
Neb. based Aliant Communications
and its predecessor Lincoln Telephone Company -- promised to
maintain retirement benefits unchanged. A U.S. District
judge in Lincoln will hear arguments in the case on
In court documents, Windstream argues that it has an absolute
right to make any changes it wants to the retiree benefit plans.
The retirees counter that they earned those benefits by working
for the company at least 15 years.
Attorney David Domina, who represents the retirees, said the
benefits should be considered vested and permanent.
An attorney for the company did not immediately respond to a
message Wednesday and a Windstream spokesman declined to
Earlier this year, Windstream told retirees that it planned to
require them to start paying part of their health insurance
costs and reduce other benefits. In court documents,
Windstream said benefits for each of the more than 800
retirees covered by the case cost three times more than other
Windstream estimates that retiree health care benefits represent
a $227 million liability for the company, and two-thirds of that
figure is associated with benefits for the
Windstream provides voice lines and broadband Internet service
in 16 states. The company operates in Alabama, Arkansas,
Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska,
New Mexico, New York,
North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania,
South Carolina and Texas.
The publicly traded company was spun off from Alltel
Corp. in 2006 and merged with Valor Communications Group Inc. of Irving, Texas.