Billions to Bail Out Banks, Time to Protect Our Pensions

April 10, 2009: Reckless Wall Street schemes have devastated Teamster pension plans. Can our union help lead the fight for retirement security for working families?

The Teamsters Union has formed a high-level committee to look for ways to protect union pension funds that have been devastated by the financial crisis. And not a moment too soon.

It’s no secret that many Teamster pension plans are in trouble. The Central States Pension Fund lost $9.5 billion in assets last year. The problem goes well beyond our union. Pension plans covering millions of American families are in danger.

Now the International Union is looking to legislation and policy changes that can increase workers’ retirement security.

Fix the Law

Three years ago, Congress passed the misnamed Pension Protection Act. This law may have been well-intentioned, but it has made a bad situation worse.

The PPA puts pressure on our pension funds to cut members’ benefits to meet strict funding timetables prescribed by the law.

In the wake of the stock market meltdown, our pension funds need time to recover and build up their assets—not unrealistic timetables that may lead to deep benefit cuts.

Even more importantly, we need programs to protect workers’ pensions. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) was set up to insure workers’ pensions, but unlike the FDIC it guarantees only a fraction of what you’re owed.

The PBGC needs to provide workers with real, not token, protection—and it needs to help keep pension funds from failing by helping to finance the pensions of retirees whose companies have gone out of business.

To win public support for these retirement security programs—which will cost federal money—our union needs to mobilize members and retirees. And we need to join forces with other unions, pension funds, AARP and other allies.

Protecting workers’ pensions is not as controversial as spending tax dollars on bonuses for Wall Street executives. Retirement security is a fight that can be won.

United Teamster Action

Let’s be honest. The Hoffa administration’s record on pensions has been an uninterrupted streak of broken promises and pension cuts.

But if they are serious about building a coalition for workers’ retirement security, Teamster members and retirees should join the fight.

What do you think? Click here to send your comments to Teamsters for a Democratic Union.

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