The Pension Movement: How We Can Win

With only token help from the International union, a grassroots movement of Teamsters has put proposed cuts to earned pensions on the national agenda.


What will it take to win this fight to protect pensions from drastic cuts by the Central States Pension Fund?

The pension movement is growing fast. More than 1,000 Teamsters and retirees attended Save Our Pensions organizing meetings in the weekend before we went to press.

When Teamsters for a Democratic Union began warning about the looming issue over two years ago, few people listened. Many Teamster officials said it was “TDU propaganda.”

But we kept educating—with help from the Pension Rights Center—and a movement has taken off.

Retirees and working Teamsters have formed over 20 committees. Together, they’ve:

  • taken hundreds of actions
  • organized multiple lobbying trips to Washington DC and rallies at Central States
  • made the cuts a national media story and generated over a hundred items in the press, TV, and radio
  • introduced a bill to solve the problem into Congress (KOPPA) now co-sponsored by a few dozen Senators and Representatives
  • informed tens of thousands of retirees about the fight, in meetings, rallies, forums, Facebook pages, and the TDU and Pension Rights Center websites
  • reached out to win the support of seniors’ groups and unions beyond the Teamsters, and more.

It’s a good start. But we need more support, more organization and more power to win this fight.

The various Pension Protection Committees are doing a tremendous job lobbying, publicizing, outreaching, but we need more of them. More active committees in more states means more influence on the ground and more ability to mobilize for major actions.

Demand Teamsters Union Support—and Get it

Members and retirees deserve to have the power of their union put behind this movement.

So far the Hoffa administration has issued some good statements, token funding, and photoops. We’ve won this support through grassroots pressure—and we can win more.

Local unions are key. Activists are asking locals to open their halls and to commit money to build this movement—and they’re getting results.

Louisville Local 89 has pledged $25,000 to a special fund drive to help jump start a big campaign. The funds will be managed by the Pension Rights Center.

Local 89 is one local—now every local in the Central and Southern Region should contribute to build the pension fight. Smaller locals can’t afford that sum, but almost all locals can afford to contribute something. Columbus Local 413 has already joined in with a pledge of $5,000.

Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman sent a letter to General President Hoffa requesting that the IBT help the campaign by contributing $.50 or $1 per participant in the Central States Fund.

If officers refuse to help defend our pensions and our pension fund, it’s time to call them out for it. Let members know where they stand.

This dedicated fund will enable us to turn local media coverage into national coverage, to expand our lobbying, to involve more allies, and to further explore any possible legal avenues.

Two Big Elections

One year from now there will be two very important elections.

First, the federal election for President and Congress, and second, the Teamster election for General President and all International officers. Each of them gives some leverage to our movement.

Congressional candidates who see a meeting of hundreds of angry retirees in their district will feel pressure and may see a political opportunity. This strategy is paying off—and needs to be escalated in the coming election year.

Teamster officials can feel the same pressure, including Hoffa, Hall, and the International officers and local officers who are aligned with them.

The Teamsters United team, led by Tim Sylvester, is committed to strengthening Teamster pension funds, not giving them away to employers or letting them fail.

The pension protection movement is for all Teamsters and is non-partisan, as it should be. But the fact is that the Hoffa administration has run the Central States Fund into the ground. In Hoffa’s second year in office, our union had 181,000 Teamsters under contract with employers paying into Central States. Today, that number is under 60,000.

Hoffa lost two-thirds of the fund’s support base. He gave UPS an exit pass and other employers followed, and now he is trying to let Kroger bail out of the fund.

Building a strong Teamsters United campaign will pressure the Hoffa administration to take more meaningful action to protect our pensions. A winning campaign will mark a sea change in our Union and for the Save Our Pensions movement.

A Winter Offensive

To win, the pension movement needs to expand its visibility and organization in the coming months.

The Treasury Department’s Special Master, Kenneth Feinberg, will be holding public forums which will be an opportunity to mobilize and make our voices heard. Forums with political officials who are running for re-election are another.

We should organize coordinated Days of Actions in the coming period, to bring national attention to our cause.

The movement is growing and we have a chance to defeat mean-spirited pension cuts and score a win for all working Americans and retirees.

The time is now to build the pension movement on all fronts. In numbers, public outreach, and political clout.

If you are not involved, get in the game. You’ll find friends, knowledge, and solidarity. United, we win.


“We’re in the fight of our lives to defend our pensions. We’re holding monthly meetings and actions in Kansas City. We held a rally downtown to get our message out to the public.

“Now we’re gearing up for some more media attention by rallying in front of the Kansas City Star. We need to be loud and visible if we’re going to beat these cuts.” 

Wes Epperson, UPS Retiree Local 41, Kansas City

gary-mcquiston.jpg“Central States proposes cutting my benefit from $3900.00 to $1400.00 because most of the companies I worked for are not in business anymore. But they all paid into the fund, never missed a month. And I kept doing the same work all those years, and have continuous seniority under our contract. 

“Carhaulers are getting a raw deal. We need to join the fight to protect our pensions.”

Gary McCuiston, Jack Cooper Local 299, Detroit

What You Can Do

Get involved in the campaign to defend our pensions. There are committees organized across the Central States and new committees forming. Want a meeting in your area? Contact TDU to learn more about a committee or to form one in your area: or 313 842-2600.

Contact your Congressional Rep and Senators. Ask them to support the Keep Our Pension Promises Act. (KOPPA) S.1631 in the Senate and HR.2844 in the House. Ask them to support the Pension Accountability Act S.2147 sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and HR.4029 in the House. Contact TDU for help on how to do this and to get in touch with a pension committee in your area.

Stay in the Loop. The Pension Rights Center is a great source for info and the TDU website is updated on a regular basis with news, analysis and organizing tips on the pension issue

The U.S. Treasury Department is taking comments on the Central States Plan Reduction proposal. Go to: Then enter MPRA in the search function and then click on the comments section. The deadline for comments is December 7, 2015. Contact TDU or the Pension Rights Center for information and suggestions on comments.


Showing 18 reactions

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  • Stephanie McAllister
    followed this page 2016-10-31 15:51:04 -0400
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2015-12-05 23:37:54 -0500
    I suggest that everyone read the Central States “rescue plan” site. Although very biased, it has some very relevant facts and viewpoints in it. READ IT!!
  • Glenn Nicodemus
    commented 2015-12-03 16:17:53 -0500
    I keep seeing that 110k number and I know some of those people who are in that bracket. NONE of the ones I know have received anything about the coming changes to the plan. Of the 3 I know that have 5,8 and 8 yrs respectively and neither have received anything from CSPF in so long they don’t remember when they did. If you had one payment made in your behalf CSPF counts you as one of that number. They have no way of proving most of these people still exist and if they do they should provide that info, fat chance that will happen. That 110k is what leadership at CSPF hopes will be what passes this plan. If you don’t get a ballot you can’t vote and I am sure most of them will not. This is just another reason the Portman bill needs to be passed. Thomas Nyhan always through out the number of 400k in the plan at the hearings he had prior to the recent bill passing, but never did produce the documents to back it up.
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2015-12-03 13:37:59 -0500
    Glen, there are 110k teamsters waiting in the wings! Employees who are no longer contributing into the pension fund, but will eventually be taking out of it. Also, currently the Department of Treasury can VETO any no vote.
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2015-12-03 13:29:04 -0500
    Fight for a bailout!! Tax payer dollars should go to retirees!!! We need money!!!
  • Glenn Nicodemus
    commented 2015-12-03 13:25:17 -0500
    When you look at the figures being tossed around on the solvency of the fund in 10 to 12 years you are leaving out one major contributing factor. How many of the 206k will still be living and drawing from the fund in that time frame? Assuming that the number of contributing members remains some where in the same area it is now attrition will surely reduce that current retirees numbers. With rules baring many from retiring before 65 now (without steep penalties) and future rules making it even harder later. What is the average age of the current retires? I have ask CTPF for there actuaries on the life expectancy of the existing retires but I am still waiting for that number. They keep telling me it is in the Treasury Dept. report but I haven’t seen it there either.

    One last thought. Do I take a 50% cut now and live with it the rest of my life or vote NO and remain at 100% until (if and when) the fund is depleted and then take roughly the same % cut from the PGT then; to me it’s a no-brainer.
  • Bob Amsden
    commented 2015-12-02 19:04:33 -0500
    The correct number of Pension Committee’s is now 44 and growing. Lobbying efforts by the Pension Committee’s ,The IBT and PRC behind the scenes in Washington DC on a daily basis is what’s not being seen by everyone . More Co- Sponsor’s of both bills are happening daily.
    The upcoming Columbus Ohio and Milwaukee Wisconsin town- hall meetings with Special Master Ken Feinberg were arranged by both the Treasury Department and IBT Vice-president John Murphy. With more meetings to be held in other cities in the coming months.This is a movement that has and is growing with everyone’s help . Recriminations are not going to get us moving forward. Us Retirees need everyone’s support and help whether it’s PRC,TDU,IBT or any other organizations willing to step up and help this devastating attack on our pensions.
    In Solidarity, Bob Amsden
    Wisconsin Committee to Protect Pensions.
  • Ronnie Mullis
    commented 2015-12-02 19:00:17 -0500
    I have a question, will the UPS retires that retired after 2007 get to vote on this cut?, because the company promised to replace whatever the fund cuts for them. Also if this is voted down will they have to continue to pay us the full amount for the next 10 or 12 years?
  • Bill Overkleeft
    commented 2015-12-02 18:43:09 -0500
    i don’t think teamsters that are not getting cut should have the right to vote.
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2015-11-29 20:05:40 -0500
    Rob Ban, that is why I said a 7% return. Do the math yourself. 62k actives putting in .7 billion and 206k retirees taking out 2.8 or 2.9 billion and 17.3 billion in the fund. At a 7% return every year the fund goes to ZERO in 12 years. This is with no cuts and no bailout!!
  • Rob Ban
    commented 2015-11-29 16:50:17 -0500
    So tell me Tom about your economic crystal ball you have for 12 to 15 years out. Not even the most economic strategies would go out that far. Get real.
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2015-11-29 16:08:54 -0500
    Tom Krekeler, IF Portman’s bill is passed AND the vote is for cuts, then the pension fund WILL go to ZERO in 12 years assuming a 7% return in the fund , and no additional money by a bailout. Is this a winning formula?
  • Rob Ban
    commented 2015-11-28 19:14:38 -0500
  • Tom Krekeler
    commented 2015-11-28 15:31:22 -0500
    As I read the recent comments from Tom and Donald, I feel the need to update you both on what we are doing out there to keep this collapse of our income from happening. Please stop the naysaying and get on board to help save our hard-earned pensions and the lifestyle that you have grown accustomed to. Join a committee in your area and get educated about what can be done. Don’t believe all of the propaganda from Central States and their lobbyists. They want you to believe in hopelessness and they want you to be a sheep led to the slaughter house. Haven’t you guys ever fought for anything in your lifetime? Step up to the plate now and get active in this fight. There are solutions other than cutting your pension by 50%. The vote WILL mean something and it WILL be binding if Senator Portman’s bill is passed. Instead of accepting Central States plan to bankrupt your family, get busy writing letters to your elected officials and calling them to ask them to support Portman’s Pension Accountability Act. Write editorials for your local newspapers. Talk to the media. Quit feeling sorry for yourself and get out there and fight like your fellow Teamsters. Tom Krekeler, Cincinnati Retired Teamsters Club
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2015-11-27 14:35:59 -0500
    The KOPPA plan was introduced on June 18, 2015, by Bernie Sanders. It was sent to the Committee of Finance. I suggest that everyone google KOPPA to see what it entails. Call or write you state legislators and voice your support of this bill. Personally, I do not believe it has much of a chance to become law, but it is worth the effort.
  • Tom Dolyniuk
    commented 2015-11-27 14:17:28 -0500
    Our vote can and most likely will be overturned by the Department of Treasury, anyway. Law requires us to vote, however. People that don’t want cuts , either want the fund to run out of money or a bailout. A bailout would be nice, be doesn’t seem likely, and Nyhan and his staff don’t want to see the pension plan become insolvent. so where does that leave us? With cuts!!
  • Donald Caldwell
    commented 2015-11-26 22:58:50 -0500
    Call me a pessimist but I think we are in a lose lose situation If we vote for the cuts we lose up to 60% of our pension if we vote it down we will eventually lose it all. just my thinking Can’t trust no one!
  • Rob Ban
    commented 2015-11-25 04:36:36 -0500
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