June 28, 2012: Corporations have targeted workers' pensions for elimination. Teamsters, teachers, fire fighters, Verizon workers and more are in this fight together. Now add rail workers to that list, including 65,000 Teamsters.
Incredibly, their pensions are under attack even though their plan is well-funded, and it costs zero tax dollars. And they are not covered by social security.
It's under attack in Congress, with Paul Ryan (R-Wisc) as the point man. Since it would require passage by both the House and Senate and the signature of the President, the attack can't succeed at this time.
Ed Michael, a member of BLET Div 724, says that "it's a continuous fight to defend our pensions, and the other side is getting more aggressive. Depending on the outcome of the November elections, we could really be under the gun."
But the 232,000 active rail workers and 270,000 retirees and spouses want to nip this in the bud, and defend and improve their pensions for the long haul.
A unique and effective retirement system
Railroad workers are covered by the railroad retirement program. This old, and well-funded program, was in fact the model for social security when that was created in the 1930s.
The system has a "Tier 1" benefit, similar to social security with the carriers and workers both contributing to it. There is also a “Tier 2” benefit, over and above social security, with workers contributing to it, and the carriers contributing much more to it. It has a “60/30” provision, allowing full retirement at age 60 with 30 years of service.
Pension plans are especially important in an industry like rail, where workers suffer a higher rate of health problems.
Rail Teamsters in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLET) and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE), along with other rail workers, have no other pension plan. So “Tier 2” for rail workers is the equivalent of a negotiated pension for other union members. The rail industry is very highly unionized.
So when a politician cries that a rail worker can enjoy a good retirement from a government program, they are distorting the truth in two ways. First, this “government program” receives zero funding from the government. Second, the benefit is really like combining social security and a Teamster pension together.
A unionized industry. An industry making record profits. A well-funded pension program, at no cost to taxpayers. Pensions that workers and families can live on.
This is a formula we need for the whole country. No wonder corporations and some politicians under their control want to attack it.