December 12, 2014: Thomas Nyhan testified in Congress and lobbied hard – with our pension money and staff – to get the pension-cut bill passed. Now, he got his wish: a 163-page bill sneaked through Congress, tacked onto the budget.
We propose some small measure of equality of sacrifice, which is a basic principle of the labor movement.
The executives of the Central States Pension and Welfare Funds should take a 30% cut, to show their sincerity when they talk about the need for sacrifice.
Let’s start with Thomas Nyhan, who was paid $662,060 in 2013 and Al Nelson who was paid $305,811. There are plenty of other fund executives in their bracket: in our review of the 5500 forms for Central States Pension and H&W Funds, we found 13 pulling down over $200,000, and seven over $300,000.
What do you think?
December 11, 2014: We need your help NOW! The House is poised to vote on the omnibus spending bill, which includes provisions that would allow pension plan trustees to cut the hard-earned pension benefits of current retirees – as a purported solution to shoring up certain financially-troubled multiemployer plans.
Click here to contact your members of congress and tell them to strip the pension cut ammendment from the omnibus bill.
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At last the actual language has been released of the backroom, last-minute congressional deal allowing benefits of millions of retired workers to be shredded.
It's even worse than its critics anticipated.
We've tracked this inexcusably hasty, secretive maneuvering during the last week, reporting that it allows extreme, potentially premature cuts in benefits for retirees who are members of multi-employer pension plans. Such plans typically are sponsored jointly by unions and employers in given industries, like trucking. See our posts here and here for more background.
Click here to read more at the Los Angeles Times.
Dave Erickson of Isanti, Minn., believed his pension benefits were guaranteed when he contributed a fixed portion of his pay into the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.
On Wednesday, Erickson learned that those benefits might be cut under a provision that Minnesota Rep. John Kline aims to tack onto the new federal budget bill.
Click here to read more at the Star Tribune.
A bipartisan group of congressional leaders reached a deal Tuesday evening that would for the first time allow the benefits of current retirees to be severely cut, part of an effort to save some of the nation’s most distressed pension plans.
The measure, attached to a massive $1.01 trillion spending bill, would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets.
Click here to read more at The Washington Post.
A provision that would suspend parts of an hours of service rule has been included in a $1 trillion bill congressional lawmakers plan to advance to President Obama’s desk this month to keep federal agencies funded through fiscal 2015.
The provision, offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), would suspend for a year a requirement that drivers take off two consecutive periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during a 34-hour restart. It also would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to provide Congress with an extensive study detailing the rule’s safety benefits.
The bill language says that within 90 days of the enactment of the act, "the Secretary shall initiate a naturalistic study of the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts of the restart provisions." It would suspend the current restart provisions through Sept. 30, 2015, "and the restart rule in effect on June 30, 2013, shall immediately be in effect."
American Trucking Associations’ leadership had urged its membership to press federal representatives to back the HOS suspension language in the omnibus.
"We're pleased that the Collins language is included in the fiscal 2015 omnibus spending bill. We now urge the House and Senate to pass the overall bill and that the president sign it into law," said Sean McNally, ATA vice president of public affairs.
The bill also would provide $500 million for U.S. Department of Transportation infrastructure grants that have become popular with states and municipalities.
Congressional leaders are now in a race against the clock, as they look to advance the massive multi-bill legislation through the chambers. A short-term funding law expires Dec. 11. Without an omnibus package or another short-term funding measure reaching the president’s desk by that date, a government shutdown is likely.
“As we close in on our Dec. 11 deadline, we now ask that the House and Senate take up and pass this bill as soon as possible, and that the president sign it when it reaches his desk. The American people deserve the certainty of a continuously functioning and responsible government, and the knowledge that both parties in Congress have heard their demands and have worked cooperatively on their behalf,” said the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations panels, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
Opposition to Collins’ proposal has come from the Obama administration, a small number of groups, and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
The two Democrats had asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to remove the HOS suspension in the omnibus.
In addition to the $500 million in TIGER grants, the bill also provides:
- $40.3 billion for the federal-aid highways program (MAP-21), which is equal to the level enacted for fiscal year 2014.
- $1.39 billion for Amtrak
- $830 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to allow NHTSA to make important investments in its safety defects analysis and investigation programs and improve the agency’s ability to aggressively screen defect trends.
- $104 million for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
View the full bill here. HOS section begins at page 1443.
UPDATED December 13, 2014: There's still time to fight Congress's last-minute pension cut deal by calling and emailing your Senators today. Do it now. The vote could come Monday on the budget bill.
Click here to read AARP's letter of opposition.
Click here to read a Statement from the Pension Rights Center.
Click here to read a Statement by Senator Tom Harkin.
The proposed pension cuts amendment has now moved on to the Senate. They need to vote on it. We still have a chance to shoot down the earmark.
Our allies in Washington encourage the following:
Contact your Senators ASAP.
We need them to say NO to the earmark on pensions. The legislation was developed behind closed doors. The 163 pages have barely been seen and have not been debated. There has been no discussion of the earmarked legislation. This is not a consensus proposal and is opposed by AARP, the Pension Rights Center, The International Association of Machinists, The Teamsters, The Steelworkers, and other organizations.
Adding this earmark to the Funding Bill is a last minute maneuver to allow pension cuts that have been protected by ERISA for forty years. There is no reason to rush this through in this manner.
As lawmakers pressed Monday to finalize the legislative language of a must-pass omnibus spending bill, labor unions and retiree groups were mobilizing to defeat what they are characterizing as a lame-duck sneak attack on the pensions of some already-retired workers.
At issue is an effort led by Reps. John Kline and George Miller, the top Republican and Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, to bring reforms to troubled multiemployer pensions. The exact language of the proposal had not yet been announced, and it was not clear whether House leaders had in fact decided whether it would be attached to the spending bill.
Click here to read more at National Journal.
Dear Member of Congress:
On behalf of the 1.2 million active and retired members of the United Steelworkers Union (USW), I urge you to oppose last minute legislation added to year-end spending legislation which will dramatically reform the multi-employer pension system and cut benefits to existing retirees. The lack of transparency and the inability to provide significant input into legislation which impacts close to 250,000 USW members and retirees in multi-employer pension plans is the wrong approach to former workers who deferred decades of wages into this retirement option.
The multi-employer pension system does need assistance to create long term stabilization and we applaud the efforts to craft a solution. However, the issue is a long term one. Many plans which are facing financial burdens have 10 years or more to find methods to fund the liabilities owed to participants. The proposal which from our understanding, dramatically reduces benefits to retirees in pay status is an extraordinary change to long standing ERISA “anti-cutback” rules and deserves intense scrutiny before being considered as a viable solution. Every effort should be made to find solutions that do not force retirees in pay status to bear the brunt of massive cuts when many employers who withdrew from these pension plans paid pennies on the dollar to get out.
Retirement Security for Americans is an issue that is intensifying in importance for our nation. The average working household has virtually no 2 retirement savings. When all households are included— not just households with retirement accounts —the median retirement account balance is $3,000 for all working-age households and $12,000 for near-retirement households. The failure of individual savings accounts to adequately prepare working Americans for retirement highlights the importance of well-run defined benefit plans, including multi-employer pension plans.
Belonging to a union, and participating in a defined benefit pension plan like a multi-employer pension is the best way to reverse the growing retirement security crisis. That is why USW opposes this last-minute, backroom deal that did not have adequate stakeholder engagement, will potentially force massive benefit cuts to retirees, and could undermine the full faith and promise of the entire pension system.