Hoffa Pushes Pension Bill That Could Cut Your Benefits

July 27, 2005: On June 29, a congressional committee passed a pension bill that would endanger Teamster pensions by making it easier for multi-employer plans to cut retirement benefits.

The misnamed “Pension Protection Act” contains a dangerous provision that would allow troubled pension plans to cut benefits that members have already accrued—and even cut the benefits of Teamsters who have already retired for less than one year. Under current laws, these cuts are illegal. Only future pension accruals can be cut.

Not surprisingly, UPS management lobbied heavily for the bill’s passage (HR 2830). But the bill was also supported by the trustees on the Teamsters Central States Pension Plan. And James Hoffa himself hailed the bill as a “great first step.”

All 29 Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce supported the bill, introduced by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), and all 22 Democrats refused to vote on the measure. The bill will be considered in other committees and by the Senate

Teamsters, take warning: this bill is dangerous. UPS management supports this bill because they want the Teamster Central States Pension Fund, and possibly other Teamsters funds, to be able to cut already-earned benefits.

If passed into law, the bill would reduce pension security for Teamster members—and all working families. That’s why the Pension Rights Center, the organization in Washington that protects and promotes the pension rights of American workers and retirees, opposes changes that allow cuts in earned pension credits.

Your Pension in Danger

The proposed bill would make it easier for a troubled multi-employer pension plan to go into “reorganization” status. Once a plan is in “reorganization” the trustees would be free to drastically cut benefits, even benefits already accrued.

If this happens, a Teamster with 30 credit years in Central States could possibly be told, “Sorry, your 30-and-out credits won’t work. You have work until you are 62 to get it.” Disability pensions could be cut, 25-and-out and 30-and-out benefits could be cut for working Teamsters and for those who are retired less than one year.

Only retirement benefits at “normal retirement age” would be legally protected. This is age 62 or 65 for most pension funds.

Employers, Hoffa Want More Power to Cut Your Pension

Under present law, these cuts are illegal.

UPS management wants that changed. So does the Hoffa administration. In a letter to all local leaders in February, IBT leaders complained that “Trustees are limited by ERISA and can only affect [cut] future accruals.” ERISA is the federal pension law that makes it illegal for pension plans to cut benefits that employees have already accrued.

Hoffa, sold his “Best Contract Ever” at UPS as well as the freight and carhaul agreements on the promise that our benefits would be protected. Now he is using your dues money to lobby Congress so Teamster plans can cut benefits that members have already earned! Hoffa’s own lucrative pension plan is unaffected by this proposal.

Why would the Hoffa administration do this? Because Hoffa and other top Teamster officials are intimidated by UPS management. UPS has told them either the company get pension cuts or they will try to pull out of the Teamster pension plans in the next contract.

Time to Fight Back, Not Give Up

Instead of caving in to the company’s threats three years before the next negotiations, our union leadership should be leading members in a fightback to protect our benefits. We should be lobbying Congress for pension reform that protects Teamster retirement security—not undermines it.

The IBT should be educating members about the threat that a UPS pullout would pose both to all Teamsters’ retirement security. Instead, the IBT has let UPS’s rumors and attacks on our pensions go unanswered.

Finally, the IBT should be mobilizing members to fight for adequate funding of our pension plans in the coming contracts. It may require some sacrifice such as reduced wage gains, but we can negotiate these increases.

In fact, on August 1 another sixty cents per hour will go into the Central States Pension Plan for UPS, freight, carhaul and certain other Teamsters. That increase alone will put nearly $100 million a year in new money into Central States. More of that can be done in the next contract.

What You Can Do

This is time for Teamsters to speak out. Write your Congressional reps and Senators. Urge them to oppose any pension bill that allows for cutbacks in earned benefits. Ask your union officers to do the same.

We also urge Teamster members to contact James Hoffa and tell him to use our dues money to fight to protect our benefits—not to lobby for legislation that will make it legal to cut pension benefits we have already earned.

Click here for a downloadable TDU Pension Cut update to distribute to fellow Teamsters

Central States Teamsters click here for a flyer from the Central States Pension Improvement Committee
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