Teamster Widow Calls on U.S Senate to Protect Pensions

Rita Lewis, the widow of long- time Cincinnati Local 100 leader Butch Lewis, testified before a Senate Finance Committee hearing today and called on the Senate to address the devastating potential impact of proposed Central States benefit cuts.


“This is not a partisan issue, stated Lewis. “This is an issue of fundamental American values, of keeping promises to this nation’s retirees. We are Republicans and Democrats and Independents. We live in your states – we are your constituents. We worked hard our whole lives and did everything right so we could have a comfortable retirement....” Read Rita’s written testimony to the Senate.

Over the past year, Rita stood side by side with her husband and hundreds of other current and retired Teamsters active in the Southwest Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions. This committee and others that have sprouted up throughout the Central States have been on the frontlines in the fight to defend our pensions. 

She spoke for thousands when she stated, “We’re asking you today to please help us. The cutback provisions of MPRA are not the right way to solve this problem. As you know, the MPRA was negotiated behind closed doors, without any public hearings on the actual bill, without input from the retirees and employees and their widows and spouses, who will be most affected.... I’m confident Congress could certainly come up with a better solution to the funding problem....”

She concluded, “... please do not let politics get in your way. We need a comprehensive bill that both parties can support that truly fixes the problem for current and future retirees. The America I know is one that keeps its promises to its citizens, particularly those who are older and vulnerable. My husband Butch was a hero who fought for his country and for the American values we all hold dear. Now I’m asking you to be heroes too and help us solve this problem by finding a solution to support plans, the PBGC and save our pensions.”

Karen Friedman, Policy Director of the Pension Rights Center, reports that “Senators on the Committee were visibly moved by her powerful testimony.”

Immediately following the hearing, the Democrats on the Finance Committee sent the Chairman, Orrin Hatch, this letter urging "bipartisan action to help ensure hard working Americans can count on the pensions they have earned."  

Rita Lewis and hundreds of other active and retired Teamsters plan to return to Washington, D.C. on April 14 for a rally to call on Treasury to reject the Central States proposed cuts. Many will be there to honor the memory and inspiration of Butch Lewis, who worked tirelessly until his final day to defend our pensions. Butch was a long-time member of Teamsters for a Democratic Union who stood strong on principles, not politics. 

Check out this excellent piece in the Duluth News Tribune on the roots of the pension crisis.

Showing 29 reactions

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  • Stephanie McAllister
    followed this page 2016-08-15 16:58:08 -0400
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-13 14:24:33 -0400
    James Oneil: In your post of 16 hours ago, you have quite a few misspellings in just one paragraph so I suggest you not call these people stupid and uneducated.

    Look in the mirror if you want stupid and uneducated.
  • Joseph Hoyt
    commented 2016-03-13 10:30:16 -0400
    Oniel you aren’t a member of Chicago Local 705, your a CSPF minion troll that does what they tell you to do. If you were a 705 member you would be up on charges to be tossed from the Teamsters, with your pension taken away, little boy
  • Rob Ban
    commented 2016-03-13 05:33:39 -0400
    Hey, Oneil, go troll sum place elsewhere will you.
  • James Oneil
    commented 2016-03-12 21:54:38 -0500
    Joe Hoyt says its obvious, James Oneil is not a teamster ? Hey Joey don’t like people expressing a different view then a typical 12 th grade graduate teamster lemming? joey, your own Union selling you out ? Sounds like you have anger issues. It’s ok little joey, go cry some more while your Union steals from you. Say goodbye to the Central States Pension it’s going down the tube. LMAO.
    Hey joey, let me give you a little math lesson : look at the numbers joey, more teamsters retire, quit, get fired, die then ARE ORGAINIZED PER YEAR. Do you know what that means high school graduate joey ? Your Union is slowly suffocating. LMAO !
  • James Oneil
    commented 2016-03-12 21:38:45 -0500
    As I said earlier, you are uneducated. 12 th grade graduates. Your Union stole from you and continues to steal from you. You are slowly suffocating you are just to stupid and uneducated to figure it out. Your membership is in a death spiral. NON Union freight companies are paying their drivers more then your Teamster brothers at YRC. Your leaders are taking home six figure saleries while you scrape together enough money to pay your bills. Taxpayers are not going to bail you out when you have less then 11% in the private sector !
  • Joseph Hoyt
    commented 2016-03-12 12:00:30 -0500
    Oniel it’s obvious you are not a Teamster, by the comment’s you make. You and Dolyniuk should stop your nonsense you both are CSPF minion trolls. Just STFU your nothing but s**t disturbers
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-09 02:10:53 -0500
    Part 2
    Not only did the gov’t (taxpayers) bail out the GM pension but they also bailed out Wall Street and big banks. Those guys bilked many people out of their life savings and still got bailed out.
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-09 02:07:58 -0500
    James Oneill, may I point out to you that the taxpayers would not be bailing the teamsters out; they would be bailing out retirees. Just as they (we) bailed out the GM pension. Why do they deserve it and we don’t?

    Not that it is very likely to happen, though.

    The gov’t oversaw the union for many decades and they did not do a good job of it, did they?
  • James Oneil
    commented 2016-03-09 00:08:14 -0500
    Why should taxpayers bail the teamsters out ? Let them take the cuts. They (teamsters) supported the corrupt leaders with their dues. They failed to properly plan for their retirements. That’s what happens to High School graduates.

    You earn what you learn.
  • Rudy Valentino
    commented 2016-03-04 14:00:18 -0500
    Many Thanks to Rita Lewis for her testimony to the senate on these proposed pension cuts.Her late husband would be very proud. When will the powers to be do the same?More news on MSN money on benefit planned at TVA the domino effect for sure.
  • Rudy Valentino
    commented 2016-03-04 13:04:49 -0500
    Lorealyn,God knows been doing that for a long time with the same results.there really is nothing more.I am but one voice.
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-04 11:52:39 -0500
    Hey, Rudy, if you don’t like what they are doing, vote the incumbents out. That is what I plan to do. ALL of them. After I had my 3 tell me a number of times that we can’t have the taxpayers pay for a bailout for you and it is the law now; I told all 3 that I am not voting for you anymore.
    Seems like they have been bought off by big businesses so that is who they represent now.
  • Rudy Valentino
    commented 2016-03-04 09:04:31 -0500
    Stop the the BS congress doesn’t care about our wants.Its all about the new voters coming in to the country.
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-03 18:59:00 -0500
    I don’t know much about him other than he said one time that he and his fellow employees lobbied to get MPRA passed and that was enough for me to know that he is not someone to befriend. He comes on here to just poke everyone in the eye with a sharp stick.
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-03 16:02:19 -0500
    Hey, Tom D, did Nyhan ever get back to you? You did say you were going to talk to him on Tuesday.
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-03 13:59:58 -0500
    Heck, I wouldn’t trust the smarmy, two faced slick lawyer any farther than I could throw my set of doubles.

    He had all sorts of excuses/reasons for making the cuts. What a sleazebag.

    Go check out the letter. Several pages and quite close to the top of the latest posts page.
  • bob krouse
    commented 2016-03-03 13:18:52 -0500
    I in no way trust Tom Nyhan.
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-03 12:30:57 -0500
    Justin, what are you talking about? I worked at UPS from 1974 until 2000 when my back and neck wouldn’t take it anymore. I am being cut just a few $$$ short of 50%.

    I have been out of the loop for 16 years now but it appears like UPS is going to make whole anyone who retires after 2008. It seems as if UPS paid CSPF from $6-7 billions to get out of the the CSPF. Seems like it was to pay for the retirees prior to 2008 but the same amount was used to get the MPRA passed through Congress.

    Has anyone gone to and looked at Tom Nyhan’s letter he wrote on 3-1-16. Interesting.
  • Scott Kendall
    commented 2016-03-03 06:00:11 -0500
    I hope congress can help these people but not at the expense of stealing 60% of UPS workers pensions. They have given 60% of there pensions that will never come back for 40 years so orphaned workers from bankrupt could be made whole at 100%. I can’t believe these people are whining when they stood happily by while UPS workers lost 60% of there pensions.

    They call it a rush to cut when actually its been 30 years to slow. They should have cut or recalculated benefits when the ration of workers to retirees drop below 5 to 1. “Rush”?
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-02 20:25:08 -0500
    Tom D, all your comments about how much we have paid in compared to what we are getting now or have taken out already are bunk.

    To be honest I can’t remember what we were having taken out of our paychecks per week in the early years but in the later years it seems like it was around $343. or so. Multiply that times 52 weeks times, in my case, 26 years. I believe it will be much more than the low amounts you have figured.

    The first thing Congress needs to do is have an IRB investigation into CSPF’s finances and a forensic audit back to the times that the consent degree was in effect. Second to investigate whether Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust and any and all others did illegal things. They all had stewardship over our monies.

    If there are guilty parties, seize assets and throw them into the Graybar hotel with Madoff.

    There are so many unanswered questions that need to be answered before there are any cuts.

    We put in our time.
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2016-03-02 13:32:35 -0500
    Loreyln Essig, how do you propose Congress should right this wrong anyway?? Let’s here it!!!
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2016-03-02 13:30:26 -0500
    Lorelyn Essig. The way that CSPF is set up I ( and other actives) will NOT rely on others for our retirement. WE have been CUT long ago, and will be lucky to get back our total contributions, once we retire. The math says 8 years 4 months for old contributions, and over 11 years for upcoming contributions at the .75% rate proposed. And this is at age 65 or we get a 6% deduction/year if we try to collect earlier. Therefore, your statement is incorrect!
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2016-03-02 13:18:26 -0500
    Here is one solution or perspective!! Central States Pension could be dissolved!! The Department of Treasury could rule for them to divide the money amongst all retirees and active members. That amount would depend on a number of factors, including age, total contributions, total pension payments. This amount would be very small for some people, and not everybody would get the same amount. The 15 billion would be divided amongst the 370,000 people, not equally though. Instead of employees putting 15k/year into CSPF, they could earn 10k more in wages and have 5k put into a PERSONAL retirement plan yearly, such as a 401k. I suggest a Vanguard S&P 500 indexing fund with an expense ratio of .05%. This would eliminate the “middleman” of Central States, that has been using fund money to lavishly compensate themselves. It would also DECREASE the burden of companies to pay these absurd 2.5% annual increases into the pension. Here are some numbers $15billion x .05% = $7.5 million . $15billion/370K = $40,540. Personally, I have put more than $180K into this CSPF and have not received a single penny yet, I would gladly take my 180k back WITH NO INTEREST to get out of this Ponzi scheme! Current contributions are used to pay retirees and/or Central States employees and Northern Trust!! Obviously, I am not alone. This is the case for many active participants!!
  • Lori Essig
    commented 2016-03-02 13:17:33 -0500
    Tom D , first of all, why don’t you go find the forum for the few who support the cuts and post on that one. You are just a troublemaker here.

    Second, there is a thing called seniority in union jobs. Full timers have seniority over part timers and you might have gained full time status earlier in your career. Did you complain at work like you complain here? Maybe that is why you did not gain full time.

    Face it, actives in the union as well as Social Security carry the retirees. That is the way it goes and soon it will be your turn. Stop grousing about it.

    BTW, you may not have Social Security in the future, either. Better start saving all you can.

    I thought Rita Lewis did an exception job in her testimony before Congress. I hope it spurs Congress into righting a wrong.
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2016-03-01 19:56:14 -0500
    No wonder why this country is in debt. The last resort is to print more money or ring up the national debt!!! Everyone (almost everyone) wants theirs, and few are willing to make the sacrifice. This starts at the top with corporate greed, such as Central States, and filters its way through society.
    Many retirees have been riding the gravy train at the expense of active participants. Now that there is not enough money, some want to keep the silver spoon in their mouths by sticking it to the taxpayers!! Central States made a BIG mistake giving some retirees to much retirement pension relative to what their total contributions were. Now retirees, feel like they deserve that amount. If they would have got less to start with ( what they mathematically deserved) then this would not be happening.
    Mistakes have been made. And hopefully, people such as Nyhan can learn from them. The key is what to do MOVING FORWARD. It will all come out in the wash. Let’s all hope that the right washing machine is used!!!!!!!
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2016-03-01 19:42:33 -0500
    Where will the money to pay retirees , both present and future, come from? Clearly, Central States is NOT capable, without cuts!! If a bailout, taxpayers, pay for this other underfunded pensions will get in line!! Then what next? Personal 401k"s? There is a BIGGER picture here!!
  • bob krouse
    commented 2016-03-01 18:05:43 -0500
  • Dave Smolinski
    commented 2016-03-01 18:02:31 -0500
    Outstanding job, we need more of this kind of devotion to help our cause
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