Tribune Publishing to discontinue life insurance coverage for thousands of retirees

Policy to be terminated at end of year; newspaper defends move

Earlier this year, the Tribune Publishing Company notified thousands of its retirees of its decision to discontinue term life insurance coverage under the Tribune Publishing  Group ,effective December 27 2015.

Former Tribune reporter and Chicago Journalists Association member Rudy Unger was among those who learned that his insurance will soon be reduced from $10,200 to $3, 733. The remaining balance includes a paid-up policy with Prudential.  He retired in June 1992 after serving more than 36 years on the newspaper.

Unger said he still retains his modest pension and was counting on the life insurance money to cover his funeral expenses.

Tribune Benefits Manager responded to an appeal by Unger on March 25. In his letter he wrote in part: “ After reviewing the long-term costs associated with continuing the current life insurance program, it was decided to terminate the Policy at the end of this year. While we understand your frustration, the life insurance benefit provided to you was not guaranteed for life. Specifically, Tribune has the right to unilaterally cancel or discontinue certain welfare benefits, including retiree life insurance.

“I discussed this  surprise announcement with my Tribune colleagues and, needless to say, they too are unhappy but realize there is nothing we can do to revive the insurance program,” Unger said. “ Also contacted the U.S. Department of Labor and was told the action taken by the newspaper was legal.”

According to Unger,  based on data received from the company,  the ruling will affect nearly 26,000 retirees formerly employed at Tribune Publishing  newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, The Baltimore Sun, San Diego Union Tribune and a Los Angeles Times subsidiary, Times Community News.

Unger said he did not know if the same notice had been sent to Tribune Media retirees.