Cedar Rapids Weather
Cedar Rapids' "Shipping 20" Claim $241 Million Lottery Jackpot
By Rod Boshart, Reporter
DES MOINES, Iowa - Talk about feeling your oats. An unidentified, jubilant group of 20 shipping department co-workers at the Quaker Oats plant in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday claimed their shares of a $241 million Powerball jackpot – the largest lottery prize won in Iowa since the state lottery's inception in 1985.
The 18 men and two women, who won as "The Shipping 20" trust and did not make public their last names, not only established themselves as first on the list of Iowa Lottery jackpot winners. But they were expected to become the first to take legal steps to keep their full names from being publicly divulged – a position which is allowed under Iowa's open records law but one that had lottery officials and news organizations in disagreement.
All but two of the winners led an entourage of nearly 50 people via charter bus to the lottery headquarters to validate their winning ticket and lay claim to a lump-sum award of $160.3 million, which whittled down to $112.2 million once $48.1 million in federal and state taxes were deducted – leaving each winning trust member with about $5.6 million.
The group's spokesman, Al, 61, said he bought tickets on behalf of the employees who have pooled their resources for a decade or so to buy $100 worth of Powerball tickets whenever the jackpot would exceed $150 million.
"A lot of times we get nothing," Al said, "but not this time" chimed in a happy co-worker before they received a ceremonial over-sized check bearing the jackpot amount. The winners also were showered with mini, fake $100 bills shot from confetti cannons as part of the lottery celebration that included the playing of a song entitled "I'm Calling in Rich" composed for the winners by Cedar Rapids co-worker David Bosier. -CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SONG-
At least 11 of the winners – who wore blue "You're looking at a winner" t-shirts and ranged in age from 35 to 64 years -- indicated they would retire from their jobs now that they have become instant multimillionaires. The 20 winners all live in and around Cedar Rapids, are long-time employees of the Quaker Oats plant, and are members of Local 110 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/United Food and Commercial Workers International Union whose job is to ship out boxes of cereal from the plant. Lawyers for the trust informed lottery officials on Tuesday that the members of The Shipping 20 trust, which was organized in Linn County District Court, want their individual names to remain confidential and intend to request an injunction to keep that information private.
Joe Day, a Cedar Rapids attorney representing the trust, said "I think we'll be fairly successful" in getting court approval to keep the winners' names confidential.
"It was their request. I'm their lawyer, I follow their request. They didn't want their last names made known. That's their choice. This is still a free country, for awhile anyway."
During a televised news conference with the winners, Al said the winners want to maintain some privacy and avoid some of the negative trappings that go along with winning a large lottery prize. Others said people who viewed Wednesday's event will recognize them so friends, family members and others already know their identities.
"Obviously, we don't want people knocking at our doors. We're common people, simple people. We don't want the limelight. I don't want this, but I'm here," Al told reporters.
Iowa Lottery chief executive officer Terry Rich said his agency believes the names are public and should be disclosed, but understanding the specifics of the law, the lottery has agreed to give the group 10 business days to seek an injunction.
"To my knowledge, this is the first time we've had this request," said Rich, who called the issue a "gray area" in Iowa law. "We read it as it's open and the information is available unless a court says separately."
Requests for release of the names were made by at least two newspapers after Wednesday's announcement.
Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said the lottery took its position after consulting with the Iowa Attorney General's Office.
"I think in this age of social media anybody understands that people might have a concern about the information being out there," she said. "However, the law says that lottery winner's information is public."
Molly Juffernbruch, vice president and general counsel for the Iowa Lottery, said lottery official needs a petition on file by July 6 or they will release the names. If petition is filed, it will be up to a judge to decide if the names will be made public or kept sealed.
WATCH: Powerball Winner Press Conference
Group members laughed Wednesday that their purchase of the winning ticket at a Cedar Rapids grocery store last week was the worst-kept secret in Iowa as word of their win spread like wildfire -- first through the Quaker Oats Co. plant in downtown Cedar Rapids where they worked and then nearly as quickly through the community. Mike, 55, who has worked at Quaker for nearly 35 years, said he initially was deluged with text messages from family and friends. "I just went in shock," he said. "But I made it through," noting that he plans to keep working and will take some time before he makes any big decisions.
"I think it makes my kids be debt-free and that was my main goal," he said.
Kelly, 54, noted that the group bought the winning tickets four years to the day that a record flood reached its crest as it ravaged downtown Cedar Rapids and temporarily shut down the Quaker plant. They expressed appreciation Wednesday that the plant was able to reopen Denise, 52, has worked at the plant for nearly 34 years, and said The Shipping 20 has a combined seniority of 686 years at Quaker Oats. "I'm just such in a fog, it's hard to describe everything," she said. "I'm shaking. It's hard to wrap your head around." Denise said she planned to use her winnings to help her adult children. She said her husband also is a member of the group and his last day at the plant is Friday.
Officials with RWDSU Local 110 in Cedar Rapids issued a statement Wednesday saying the lottery winners are considering positive ways to contribute to their union family and community initiatives that will benefit local residents.
"The union has stood up for us, on and off the job, and brought us together as one family. We've been through a lot together, especially since the flood of 2008 and this has given us a renewed appreciation for our union values," one of the Powerball winners and a long-time Quaker plant worker was quoted as saying in the union news release.
"These guys have worked very hard for many years, and they want to use their good fortune to make life better for others at the plant and in their community. This is a great American story but also a great union story. These are some of the most decent and generous people you'll ever meet, and all of our members couldn't be happier for them," Al Hartl Jr., president of RWDSU Local 110, said in the statement.
During Wednesday's celebration, lottery played a song entitled "I'm Calling in Rich" Neubauer said that a Cedar Rapids co-worker told lottery officials he had composed a song entitled "I'm Calling in Rich" in honor of the winners. She said the group told her they would pool their money and buy Powerball tickets together, but only when the jackpots got above $100 million.