May 20, 2015: Nearly 400,000 Teamsters and retirees are threatened with pension cuts. How Hoffa helped put the hit on their retirement.
Nearly 400,000 Teamsters and retirees in the Central States Pension Plan are threatened with the worst pension cuts in Teamster history. So are thousands more in some local plans in New York, New Jersey and Western Pennsylvania.
May 20, 2015: Sometime this summer nearly 400,000 Teamsters and retirees will be mailed a ballot, asking them to approve cutting their own pension.
That vote is our voice. Use it to Vote No to demand improvements in the Central States pension cut plan.
- Sign the Petition to demand an independent audit of the Central States Fund. Teamsters deserve an independent audit and review of alternative plans before the Central States cuts are imposed.
- Support upcoming Congressional legislation that offers alternatives for strengthening pension funds that go beyond slashing the pensions we earned.
- Build the Movement to Vote No & Reject the Pension Cuts. Help mobilize Teamsters and retirees to Vote No to reject the cuts in the Central States balloting this fall.
- Make your voice heard. Contact TDU to find out how you can help get information to retirees and working Teamsters in your area.
May 20, 2015: Hoffa’s newest International Trustee hires a boss to help run the Teamsters’ biggest local.
Local 237 represents over 10,000 Teamsters at the New York City Housing Authority. So why would the local hire a NYCHA boss to a union post?
May 15, 2015: Seven Senators have written to Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew calling on him to vigorously enforce retiree and worker rights before any pensions are cut under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act passed last December.
US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) issued a statement and the letter today calling for guidelines to prevent a rush to pension cuts. The Central States Pension Fund is moving quickly to try to implement cuts, without careful oversight or any independent actuarial audit.
The letter, signed by seven members of the Senate Subcommittee on Social Security, Pension and Family Policy, notes that 60 days is a short time for a “retiree representative” required by the law to adequately perform a genuine independent review. The Senators also call on Treasury to require the pension plan to disclose how they chose the retiree representative.
The Central States Fund has chosen Sue Mauren as the retiree representative. They defend this choice with the claim that Mauren is facing the same cuts as other retired Teamsters. But this evades the fact that she was entitled to a total of four pensions or dues-funded lump-sum retirement plans. Mauren has declined to meet with any retiree committee working to prevent cuts, and has even failed to respond to correspondence, so it is not clear how she “represents” retirees.
The Senators’ letter calls for the Treasury Dept to require an “unbiased” report to all members, detailing the impact on their individual pension. The Senators also call for a fair balloting procedure, so that Teamsters and retirees can make an informed vote; the vote in Central States of all actives and retirees is expected sometime this summer.
The Senators requested the Treasury Dept. prohibit one kind of cut that Central States is planning. They state that the pension of disabled participants should never be cut, even if they are receiving a full pension because they reached normal retirement age. The Teamster officials and employer rep trustees of Central States intend to cut those pensions.
We thank Senator Brown – who opposed the pension cut law – and the other Senators for watchdogging the process. And we call upon them to take the important next step: co-sponsor and support legislation to repeal the cut-back provisions and provide for positive alternatives to protect pensions.
May 15, 2015: The 2014 financial report on the Central States Pension Fund shows that the fund’s money manager – Northern Trust -- performed rather poorly last year, causing the fund to get a sub-par return of 6.86% on investments. The fund’s assets declined to $17.9 billion.
Despite losses in 2014, the fund still has net growth over the past six years, since the end of 2008 when the fund had $17.3 billion in assets. It was during the 2008 financial meltdown, caused in large part by Goldman Sachs, that the fund lost $9.5 billion. Goldman Sachs was managing most of the Central States assets at that time.
The Hidden Truth
The 2014 Special Counsel Report details at length many of the fund’s problems and its policies, but in 24 pages it fails to mention one word about the biggest disaster inflicted on the fund: the Hoffa-Hall deal to let UPS pull out of the fund.
These simple facts illustrate the magnitude of that disaster: The financial and analytical report on page 3 projects employer contributions of $635 million for 2015. But if UPS were still contributing to the fund, it would contribute an additional $800 million, more than doubling the income! (This assumes that UPS would be contributing at the same rate as ABF, $342 per week. $342 x 52 x 45,000 = $800.3 million.)
This single disaster, costing the fund $800 million per year over shadows any other problem the fund has experienced.
Unfortunately, the Hoffa-Hall administration is continuing to undermine the fund. The report details on page 20 the attempt by the Kroger Co and the IBT let Kroger pull-out of the Fund without even paying the withdrawal liability, and the fund’s refusal to accept this sell-out deal.
The 2014 financial report was yesterday turned over to the attorney for TDU members who previously sued the fund to make information available to members.
Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee asked Treasury Department officials to tread carefully as they develop the process for implementing multiemployer pension reforms enabling some plans to cut benefits.
“These reforms are unprecedented and, therefore, we ask the Treasury Department to take its role in overseeing the benefit suspension provisions very seriously. In particular, it is critical that you ensure that participants’ and retirees’ rights are protected,” Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown, Ohio; Ron Wyden, Ore.; Debbie Stabenow, Mich.; Bill Nelson, Fla.; Robert Menendez, N.J.; Ben Cardin, Md.; and Robert Casey, Pa., said in a letter sent Thursday to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.
Click here to read more.
May 7, 2015: The Central States Pension Fund has decisively rejected a proposed deal between the Hoffa administration and the Kroger Co which would pull all Kroger Teamsters out of the fund, without even paying the required withdrawal penalty.
In a letter to the IBT and Kroger, Central States Director Thomas Nyhan pointedly reminds them that federal law requires cash payment of withdrawal liability before an employer can pull out of a union pension fund. The letter details the ways that the proposed deal violates the law, the fund’s Trust Agreement and the Plan Document.
Meanwhile, the IBT is proceeding with the plan to pull all Teamsters working for Kroger and Kroger contractors out of the pension fund. Votes are being taken on the national Kroger contract, covering warehouse operations in Houston, Memphis, Wichita, and dairies in Indiana and Michigan.
Many Teamsters see no alternative but to vote for the plan, in hopes of saving their hard-earned pension benefits. But as more than one Kroger Teamster has noted, pulling out of the union pension fund could be a first step in a plan to bust the Teamsters Union at Kroger.
The IBT’s proposed deal also covers Kroger third-party contractors who operate its distribution warehouses in Atlanta, Louisville, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati, along with other Kroger operations. A detailed memorandum of agreement for these operations actually provides for the employer to pull out of the pension fund in mid-contract. Nyhan’s letter reminds the IBT that the pension fund cannot approve a contract which allows for a mid-contract pull-out.
Nyhan’s letter notes that the pension fund “cannot prevent an employer from withdrawing from the fund if the employer and union are determined to do so” and if the employer pays the withdrawal liability, estimated at $1 billion for Kroger. He seems to be reminding the IBT Warehouse Division and the Hoffa administration that defense of union pensions is a primary responsibility of union officers. At the very least, he is telling the IBT that giving a $1 billion gift to an employer while letting them gut the pension fund stinks.
How will the IBT and Kroger fix this deal? Stay tuned.
April 29, 2015: Today the Pension Rights Center presented a call for action to the US House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, calling for hearings on the devastating impact of pension cutbacks authorized by December 2014 changes in pension law.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union and the pension protection movement support this call, and will work to advance legislation to correct the injustices of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) passed in December.
The Subcommittee held a hearing on other aspects of pension law.
The Pension Rights statement concludes with a call for action: “We urge the Subcommittee to hold another hearing in the near future to listen to the concerns of the retirees and widows whose retirement security will be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by MPRA, to address their concerns, and to examine other ways of addressing the long-term financial problems of multiemployer plans and the PBGC.”
April 29, 2015. Teamsters and retirees have launched a petition campaign calling on the Central States Trustees and IBT President James Hoffa to support an independent actuarial audit of the Central States Pension Fund to determine the extent and necessity of pending benefit cuts.
Teamsters are demanding a “second opinion” with experts chosen by the pension protection committees across the region, prior to any rollout of the so-called “rescue plan” by the Fund. The “rescue plan” will propose to slash promised pensions for current and future retirees covered by the Central States.
You can help save pensions for Teamsters.
Click here to sign the online petition.
Click here to download a paper copy.
Circulate the petition at local union meetings, retirees clubs, and Teamster worksites.