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Pangborn retirees suing company

March 16, 2001

Pangborn retirees suing company



By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Four retired Pangborn Corporation employees and their union are suing Pangborn, saying the company plans to halt retirees' benefits next month.

Former employees Warren G. Fish of Williamsport and Ronney L. Renner, Douglas Shepley and Robert T. Shank, all of Hagerstown, are listed as plaintiffs, representing a class of an estimated 100 retirees and their spouses, court papers say.

International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, Local 842, is also a plaintiff.

Renner, 67, was 17 years old when he went to work for Pangborn laying out sheet metal. He stayed 44 years, retiring in 1995.

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Renner is facing prostate cancer for the second time after four or five years of remission.

"It upsets you pretty bad to work that long, then they tell you you're without health insurance and without life insurance," he said.

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court on March 9, asks that Pangborn "maintain and continue the group medical insurance coverage, including health, life and dental insurance, for retirees, their spouses and dependents, in accordance with the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, for their lifetimes."

Pangborn plans to stop its coverage for retirees on April 29, when the latest contract expires, the suit says.

M. Candice Bakey, Pangborn Corporation's human resources manager, was served with the suit on Monday. Bakey did not return a call for comment on Wednesday and was scheduled to be out of the office Thursday and Friday.

Pangborn President and CEO Ronald L. Stewart said through an assistant on Thursday that he would not comment on the lawsuit because it is an internal company matter.

"I'm too young for Medicare," said Shank, who retired in November after working 36 years in Pangborn's foundry.

Shank, 60, said he can't afford coverage through Cobra - a federal law that lets an employee pay for the same insurance his employer had provided - so he may get another job with benefits.

Fish, who turns 77 next month, said he may not have a chance to replace the life insurance he's losing from Pangborn, where he worked 43 years as a machine assembler and bench mechanic.

"I was depending on that for burial expenses," he said. "It's up to $4,000. It would take care of it."

He said Pangborn's health insurance was "not the best, but it did cover extreme medical conditions."

Formerly active in the union, Fish, a 1987 retiree, offered to be a plaintiff. "I know what the coverage means. We fought for this and now we're going to lose it."

Pangborn has 20 days to respond, according to Washington, D.C., attorney Robert E. Paul, who is representing the plaintiffs.

He said there may be a hearing on a request for a preliminary injunction before the deadline is up. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to prevent Pangborn from cutting off insurance coverage and benefits.

While the labor contract does not explicitly state that retirees will get benefits when the contract expires, Paul said that was management's and the union's intent.

The plaintiffs are also protesting that Pangborn refused to let the union's grievance over benefits go to arbitration.

Pangborn Corporation makes machines that clean and harden metals. It shut down its Hagerstown manufacturing plant in October after 85 years. Employees represented by Local 842 lost their jobs.

Pangborn still has employees in jobs such as technical engineering, research and development and product services.

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