Steel Giant Salaried Retiree Coalition to End

December 29, 2006 ( - Bethlehem Steel's Retired Employees Benefits Coalition (REBCO), representing salaried retirees and their spouses, will voluntarily dissolve by December 31, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The newspaper reports the Coalition was formed by former executives of the steel giant in 1987 after a wave of bankruptcy filings by steel industry employers. While not a union, the founders intended for the Coalition to provide support and lobbying muscle for former salaried workers, similar to that of the United Steelworkers union for hourly employees.

Bethlehem Steel filed for bankruptcy in 2001, and in December of 2002, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) said it would assume responsibility for pension benefits of Bethlehem’s 95,000 workers and retirees – its largest takeover ever both in terms of number of participants and unfunded liability (See PBGC Takes On Its Biggest Liability Yet ). In March 2003, the company ceased paying for retiree health-care benefits about two months earlier than expected, the Baltimore Sun said.

“Without a doubt, it was the one thing that helped the salaried retirees obtain the knowledge they needed,” said former Sparrows Point mill general manager Russell Jones of REBCO, in the news report. Current REBCO President Fred Harvey, formerly general manager of the company’s Bethlehem plant, added, “I think a lot of people are sorry to see it go, but I have to say to you, what’s the point of keeping it open? We have accomplished what we wanted to do. We got the pension squared away with PBGC. We got Medicare squared away for our members.”

The Coalition stopped collecting its $10 per family dues this year expecting to dissolve the organization, and said any remaining funds will be donated to a charity that trains guide dogs for the disabled.