December 5, 2005: For nearly a year, the Hoffa administration has been lobbying for legislation that would allow Teamster benefit plans to cut members’ previously guaranteed pension benefits—and even to cut the pensions of Teamsters who have already retired.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union has fought this legislative attack on our pension security. Now at the 11th hour, James Hoffa has reversed himself and adopted TDU’s position—coming out against the so-called Red Zone Amendment.
Since early 2005, the Hoffa administration has lobbied in favor of the Red Zone Amendment—a proposal that would allow Teamster plans to cut pension benefits that members have already earned.
But in a letter to Congressional Representatives on December 2, Hoffa said, “So-called ‘red zone’ benefit cuts, would result in a reduction of vested benefits and should not be included.” This is exactly what TDU has demanded for the past year, along with many concerned Teamsters and the Pension Rights Center.
TDU members visited Congressional leaders to lobby against the Red Zone Amendment and fight to preserve federal “anti-cutback protections” that make it illegal to cut pension benefits that members have already earned.
Before Hoffa’s flip-flop on December 2, his administration had lobbied in favor of eliminating those protections. In February 2005 the IBT Legislative Director complained that “Trustees are limited by ERISA and can only affect [cut] future accruals.” In May the International again called for members to support repeal of the 1984 anti-cutback law, to give “more tools” to pension trustees to cut benefits from retirees.
“It’s nice to finally have our International Union with us, instead of against us,” said Frank Bryant a TDU member who lobbied Congress against the cuts. “My question for Hoffa would be, ‘What took you so long?’”
The pension bill is heading for the final steps. It remains to be seen if the Red Zone Amendment will be included. Hoffa’s 11th hour conversion to retirement security comes too late to affect the outcome of this legislative fight.
Fortunately, concerned Teamsters and TDU were there all along, working to protect Teamsters’ pension rights.