The second of two lawsuits on behalf of retirees seeking to force the Akron Beacon Journal to keep its promises about healthcare benefits.
AKRON, OHIO - An Akron Beacon Journal retiree today filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to force Canadian media mogul David Holmes Black and the newspaper to restore promised retiree-healthcare benefits. It is the second of two lawsuits regarding broken retiree-benefits promises that these defendants have faced in less than nine months.
Retiree John Olesky, Jr. of Tallmadge, Ohio, was a member of the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild, Local 1 (formerly known as the Akron Newspaper Guild of America). Olesky, along with other retirees, were promised that in retirement they would receive low-cost prescription-drug benefits for them and their spouses for the rest of their lives. Olesky retired in 1996 after a career with the Journal that spanned 27 years.
The suit alleges that in 2006, immediately after Black took control of the newspaper, the Journal breached its promises to the retirees and their union. Defendants replaced the retirees' low-cost prescription-drug coverage with high-cost plans, causing a significant financial burden to retirees on fixed incomes. The suit further alleges that Black played a key role in interfering with the Journal's obligations.
On May 13, 2010, in the earlier suit captioned White, et al. v. Beacon Journal Publishing Co., U.S. District Judge David Dowd issued a preliminary injunction against the Journal and Black, ordering them to restore prescription-drug benefits to retirees of Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 14514 (formerly known as the Akron Typographical Union). Judge Dowd also ordered the Journal to reimburse benefits that the retirees had had to pay out of pocket while the Journal was violating the law.
While Defendants have appealed Judge Dowd's ruling to the appeals court, they must in the meantime comply with the ruling. Attorney Subodh Chandra, who represents the various retirees, said, "Now facing a second lawsuit, one would hope that it will dawn on Mr. Black and the newspaper that its retirees are not going anywhere until promises are kept. The Court has already ruled in the retirees' favor once. Defendants can do this the easy way, or the hard way. But they must keep their promises."
Today's suit, which seeks an injunction, damages, and attorneys' fees, is captioned Olesky v. Beacon Publishing Co., et al. Retirees in both suits are represented by Subodh Chandra and Donald P. Screen of the Chandra Law Firm, LLC in Cleveland, Ohio, and Allen Anderson and Kenneth Petterson of Smith & Johnson in Traverse City, MI.