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Iowa cereal workers win $241M lottery jackpot

10:38 AM, Jun 21, 2012   |    comments
(Charlie Neibergall, AP/USA Today)
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- They call themselves "The Shipping 20," but today these Quaker Oats workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa are "The Rich 20" after claiming a $241 million lottery jackpot, the state's largest ever.

The winners, 18 men and two women ranging in age from 35 to 64, work in the shipping department of the cereal plant. They chose to accept a $160 million lump-sum payout, with each receiving about $8 million before taxes, $5.6 million after.

The workers, members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 110, chartered a bus that brought about 50 people to the lottery's headquarters. The Des Moines Register writes that they "had broad smiles as they got off the bus. They whooped and hollered. Asked how they felt, they responded 'Great!' and 'Awesome!'"

At least 11 of the winners indicated they would retire, says The Gazette of Cedar Rapids.

Although the Gang of 18 (two stayed home) showed up in Des Moines for the televised event, they want to remain anonymous and seek a court injunction to prevent the lottery from releasing their names, according to lottery officials and news reports.

"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," said the group's spokesman, identified only as Al, 61, who has been the designated ticket buyer for more than a decade.

The Iowa Lottery considers winners' names public information and has disclosed them in the past. Chief Executive Officer Terry Rich said he doesn't know of any instance when winners were not identified.

The lottery has given the group 10 business days to seek an injunction. The Des Moines Register and the Cedar Rapids Gazette made requests for the names to be released under Iowa's Open Records law.

One winner named Mike, 55, who has worked at Quaker for nearly 35 years, said he plans to keep working and will take some time before making any big decisions.

"I think it makes my kids debt-free, and that was my main goal," he said.

Another winner, Denise, 52, who has worked at the plant for nearly 34 years, said, "I'm just such in a fog, it's hard to describe everything. I'm shaking. It's hard to wrap your head around."

She said she plans to use her winnings to help her adult children. Her husband is also one of the 20, she added. Friday will be his last day at the plant.

The group's union issued a statement.

"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," said Al Hartl Jr., president of Local 110 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

(USA Today)

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