Thursday, September 10, 2015

Teamsters demand Congress, feds save pensions

Teamsters President Hoffa and Sen. Sanders talked pensions on the Hill today.
Hundreds of Teamster members and retirees came to Washington today to voice outrage over proposed rules governing pension cuts and support for legislation that would bolster multi-employer plans at the center of the dispute.

They gathered at both a Capitol Hill rally this afternoon and a hearing earlier in the day hosted by the U.S. Treasury Department to share how legislation proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) is needed and how they would be adversely affected by potential cuts to their retirements.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa told workers during the Hill event that the federal government guaranteed pensions would be there for workers when they enacted the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) more than 40 years ago and must not go back on it now:
You played by the books and they pulled out the rug. It is devastating. We've been fighting it. There was a promise made, and we've got to keep it. 
Sen. Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, said the legislation is key because it would protect retirees who could suffer from pension changes imposed by Congress late last year
through no fault of their own. He said it would be a travesty to implement cuts that could reduce benefits by as much as 60 percent:
Tens of thousands of retirees in the middle class today, who intended to retire in the middle class, could slip into poverty. That is unconscionable and we cannot allow that. We have got to send a very loud message.
Teamsters rally against pension changes.
Earlier in the day, Teamsters International Vice President John Murphy and others testified before a panel of federal officials representing the Treasury and Labor departments as well as the International Revenue Service and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. They urged members to do everything they can to protect retirees in failing pension plans.

If cuts are ultimately necessary, Murphy said they should be phased in to minimize the burden on retirees and should be as low as possible to keep a given pension solvent:
The final regulations should not provide methods for plans to make larger cuts than necessary. A phase-in will ease the shock of the reduction. Maybe, instead of $100, you reduce $50 and then two years later, $25. That way it's not an open cut.
Retirees and workers also offered their own suggestions. They noted it is ridiculous that they are getting punished for decisions made by others and said there are better ways to keep pensions afloat, such as cutting the large investment fees paid by pensions.

Paul Flacke, a former president of Local 661 in Cincinnati who worked for 32 years before getting injured and forced to retire, said he knows workers paid their fair share into pensions because he helped negotiate many contracts. He urged the board to consider new pension rules to look at financial fees as a potential way to bolster retirement funds:
We are talking about millions of dollars being charged for moving our money. Why are they moving our money around?