June 11, 2016
Teamster Retirees Need Help
Our new friends in the North Texas Committee to Protect Pensions are fighting to save the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of seniors from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). Gary Standard, a retired UPS truck driver from IBT 767 in Fort Worth, spoke to the retirees at the nation’s largest freight local, IBT 745, in Dallas on June 11. He said that his organization was one of 63 nationwide. Larry Daniels of IBT 745 joined Standard at the podium.
BRING ON THE SOLIDARITY!
The President of the IBT 745 retirees, Carl Branch, emphasized how important it is for Teamster retirees to back the effort. Gene Lantz, President of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, offered support and said that Gary Standard would soon be on his Saturday radio talk show, “Workers Beat” at 9 AM on 89.3FM.
The Teamster group will also join the state retiree alliance at their caucus at 12:30PM on June 17 in Club Level 4, Room 209, at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Two Democrats in Congress would like to rescue the Teamster pensions. Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative March Kaptur introduced the “Keep our Pension Promises Act (KOPPA) last year. Teamster President James Hoffa endorsed it. The bill would eliminate some tax loopholes for the richest people and use the money to restore the pension plan.
NOT A NEW CRISIS
The crisis for Teamster retirees was evident years ago. Most freight-hauling Teamsters rely on the Central States Pension Fund for their retirement. Like many pension funds, it took a strong hit when the banks bombed the U.S. economy in 2007. UPS management made it worse by pulling out of the pension fund that same year. The government bailed out the banks, of course, but, Gary Standard said, “No money that we are aware of went back to Central States Pension funds!” Bankers, who caused the mess, came out OK, but their victims go on suffering.
In the Omnibus Spending Bill of 2014, Congress gave permission to multi-employer pension fund trustees to cut people’s pensions if they were in financial trouble. Before long, the trustees decided on drastic cuts for the Teamsters. On May 6, President Obama’s Department of the Treasury responded to grassroots pressure and rejected the plan, according to a June 8, 2016 article in “In These Times.”
Teamsters celebrated their victory, but the long-term problem hasn’t gone away. The pension plan is still underfunded and may, eventually, have to turn to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) for relief. The relief may not be much.
AREN’T PENSIONS UNDERWRITTEN BY THE GOVERNMENT?
It is commonly thought that the PBGC will pay people’s pensions if their plans default. Millions of retirees have already learned that it isn’t true. The PBGC may pay something, but it won’t be the original amount!
Gary Standard told me that the PBGC has different standards for multi-employer plans and single-employer plans. The single-employer plans may pay retirees up to $59,000/year; but the multi-employer plans are limited to $13,000, Standard said. What’s much worse is that PBGC is itself underfunded and may not be able to handle the giant Central States Pension Fund and many others that are in trouble.
Gary Standard says that tragedies have already happened over pension worries. There are people in nursing homes revising their expectations, people have sold their homes because they aren’t sure they can make the payments, and retirees have even taken their own lives, Standard said.
RETIREES MUST UNITE!
Retirees have three great issues in common: health care, pensions, and Social Security. No matter what we may have done as younger folk, we are politically defined as seniors by those three issues. All of them are under threat. All of us are under threat. All of us must unite and fight!
––Gene Lantz, President
Texas Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund
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