The History of the National Chrysler Retirement Organization (NCRO)
READ THE FULL HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL CHRYSLER RETIREMENT ORGANIZATION (NCRO)
In 2008, more than a year before Chrysler declared bankruptcy, a small group of Chrysler retirees were concerned about the loss of company-sponsored life insurance, changes in health insurance benefits and ultimately the future of the company. They began meeting to discuss the possible formation of a retiree group that could advocate on behalf of the salaried retirees to help protect their pensions and benefits. This founder group was made up of a mix of salaried retirees.
The National Chrysler Retirement Organization (NCRO) became a reality in May of 2008. Articles of Incorporation, By-laws and Mission Statements were developed and over the ensuing years have been updated and are available for viewing on the NCRO website at www.ncro.org. The NCRO began to grow as more retirees became aware of its existence. Due to the loss of company-sponsored life insurance and the continuing concerns about the financial viability of Chrysler, the NCRO membership continued to grow extensively through word of mouth. Also, these concerns allowed for the recruitment of several key salaried and executive retirees who became members of the Board of Directors. As the NCRO membership continued to grow, the organization formalized, with election of officers, developing formal assignments of duties, instituting monthly board meetings, and providing information to members through the Quarterly Breakfast meetings and the publication of newsletters.
In April 2009, a significant development in the automotive industry happened that solidified the existence of the NCRO and exponentially grew its membership… the Chrysler bankruptcy.
The NCRO determined early that it must seek the counsel of the best legal authorities to protect our pensions and benefits. Quickly, the NCRO formed a legal committee with the responsibility to search for and secure the assistance of a law firm with the background, knowledge and experience to represent the salaried retirees in protecting their pension throughout the Chrysler bankruptcy proceedings. A Chicago law firm was selected that had a very proficient attorney with exceptional experience in these matters who led the effort. He was extremely capable and was instrumental in securing salaried pensions.
As a result of these automotive bankruptcies, the NCRO believed it was necessary to develop a partnership with other automotive retiree groups and was instrumental in bringing together retiree groups from Delphi, Ford, and GM, forming TNAC, The National Automotive Coalition. It was crucial for the NCRO and the other TNAC participants to meet with the Automotive Task force, which was established by the Obama administration to oversee the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies, to ensure that the salaried pensions would be transferred to the new corporation along with the union pensions. The NCRO was instrumental in securing meetings with the Automotive Task Force to discuss the standing and concerns of the salaried retirees.
In addition to meeting with the task force, the NCRO also arranged interviews with major media including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, CNN, and others.
During the bankruptcy proceedings NCRO counsel immediately acted and filed motions with the bankruptcy courts. After reviewing the initial Chrysler submissions, NCRO discovered that although “pensions” were to be transferred to the NewCo the pensions were defined only as UAW pensions. There was no mention of salaried employees or salaried retirees or our pension plans in the Chrysler bankruptcy filing. The NCRO, through our counsel filed motions with the court to hold a hearing on this issue. During the hearing, the Chrysler attorneys advised our counsel that they would transfer the salaried retiree pensions and benefits to the new company.
In retrospect, the two key activities of the NCRO, hiring legal counsel to identify that salaried retiree pensions were not being transferred to the New Chrysler and arranging the Automotive Task Force meetings, together resulted in most salaried retiree pensions and benefits being protected.
In the early days of the NCRO, due to some of the actions of its leadership the relationship with the company was at best strained. One of the key stanchions of the NCRO’s mission is to develop an excellent relationship with the new company to foster its ability to help protect pensions and benefits. Over the ensuing years working with five top executives of the company’s Human Resources department the relationship has improved dramatically. That improved relationship has strengthened the NCRO’s ability to positively impact issues salaried retirees have faced.
Beyond the efforts with the company to help protect pensions and benefits, the NCRO has expanded those actions and has worked to be an asset for retirees on issues they face in retirement. The NCRO Board of Directors has been expanded and is made up of a skilled team of active, volunteer leaders from various levels within the company. They meet monthly to manage the NCRO’s activities. An Insurance Committee (IC) was established with the mission to assist retirees with pension and benefit issues they face when not able to navigate the system the company has established. We were able to secure a company liaison that we could access to assist in solving these issues. In addition to assisting retirees with these issues, the IC provides trusted advice, educational material and resource material that assist retirees with information for issues and situations they face throughout their retirement. The IC and their Aging Information Subcommittee (AISC) conduct webinars on topics that are of key interest to retirees. They also have developed educational guides for Healthcare Retirement Account (HRA) and Retiree Health Care Account (RHCA) as well as conducting seminars for Medicare. A guide was developed to assist families dealing with the passing of a retiree and/or their spouse.
From its inception the NCRO has held regular Breakfast Meetings in an effort to communicate to retirees the actions taken. These meetings include keynote speakers who present topics of interest to our members. Eventually webinar broadcasts were added to these meetings to expand the reach to all members.
To enhance communication, the NCRO has an excellent website that is updated constantly to provide up-to-the-minute information for retirees and also publishes a newsletter quarterly to provide additional updates.
NCRO President, Jay Kuhnie, discusses upcoming challenges to be tackled by NCRO on behalf of Chrysler retirees in 2023. [Video: 11min]
Expanding Impact Nationally
To expand its impact on a more national basis on issues that go beyond dealing only with the company, the NCRO has partnered with the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN). The NRLN is a large national retiree organization that supports retiree needs consistent with the NCRO’s mission. It develops white papers on and advocates Congress for pension and health care related issues. Three members of the NCRO Board hold leadership positions within the NRLN. The NCRO also attends Washington DC fly-ins held by the NRLN once or twice a year where we meet with key Senators and Representatives to advocate for retiree-related issues. We also meet with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and Legislative Department personnel on an as needed basis.
On a key issue that all retirees possibly face – pension overpayment recovery- the NCRO in conjunction with the NRLN was successful in developing legislative language that was passed into law that changed ERISA law, dramatically increasing the protection retirees have when facing the possibility of a pension overpayment recovery. The NCRO continues to work closely with the NRLN on these types of national issues, including preserving Medicare and Social Security as well as reducing retirees’ prescription drug costs and also protecting pensions when companies sell their pension plan benefits to insurance companies. The NCRO also links with other similar organizations to find areas of common concern.
In summary, the NCRO is made up of some 6000+ members. It was born out of the need for an organization that would provide a means for retirees to communicate with each other and to provide an organization that could speak in one voice with the company for retirees. Retirees continued to support the company and trusted management to continue to provide pensions and benefits that were earned. Unfortunately, times changed and the company was less supportive. Thus, the formation of the NCRO. An organization that was timely continues to be timely and is the only organization that fights daily to help preserve the pensions and benefits that were earned by the Chrysler retirees.