Former employees of the National Rifle Association are sounding off about reports that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has been maintaining a lavish lifestyle even as they see their own pensions frozen.
NPR reports that several former NRA employees have come forward after Andy Lander, who worked for the organization for 13 years, wrote an open letter denouncing the way that LaPierre treats his workers.
"I also cannot understand how a person like Mr. LaPierre treats the people that work for him like his own personal indentured servants, unless you know the secret handshake, then you're compensated very handsomely as long as you follow along blindly providing no resistance to the people running the organization," Lander wrote on Facebook late last month.
Other former NRA employees who talked with NPR told similar stories about low-paid employees that were kept in line by what they described as a "culture of fear."
"There was a culture of fear," said Vanessa Ross, who worked for the NRA for three years. "The moment you poked your head up and started asking questions, that's when I felt everything turn — then it was like I was the pariah."
Steve Hoback, who worked on an NRA training program from 2009 to 2012, told NPR that he was "horribly underpaid" during his tenure there -- and the organization gave him a starting salary of $28,000 that it didn't raise until he'd been there for three years.
At the same time, reports NPR, the NRA has aggressively moved to slash its pension costs.
"The NRA said it had implemented a freeze to their pension plan in 2018," NPR explains. "This means that even current employees who are in the plan can no longer accrue new benefits despite continuing to work for the organization... The freeze in benefits for employees who participate in the pension plan is in contrast to a one-time $3,767,345 supplemental retirement payment LaPierre received in 2015 according to the NRA's public disclosures."