Petition Drive, Pension Movement Grow in Baltimore

May 1, 2008: Two months after their fund froze working members’ pension accrual, the movement to protect Teamster pensions is growing in Baltimore Local 355.

On March 1, the Local 355 plan cut the accrual rate to zero. That means that members’ pensions are frozen and working Teamsters are earning zero additional retirement benefits for any of their hours worked since March.

In April, Local 355 members launched a petition campaign to demand more information from the fund about the freeze—and a timeline for improving benefits.

“Members have been taking petitions from me and returning them full of signatures,” reports Ron Reinhardt, a full-time inside worker at the main UPS hub in Baltimore. “We want information about what’s going on with our pensions and we’re willing to do what it takes to get that info.”

The petition drive started at UPS but it has now moved to other companies in the local. “I’ve met Teamsters at Sysco and DHL who are just as angry about the pension freeze as I am,” says Gary Payne, a UPS feeder driver and one of the rank-and-file leaders of the petition campaign.

Members Get Answers

The petition campaign is already getting more information into members’ hands.

When the cuts were announced in February, Local 355 President Denis Taylor told members that the cuts could last three years or more. He refused to give members a timeline for when benefits would be improved.

But at the April meeting, Taylor announced that he personally expected to improve benefits in one year.

Using new language in the Pension Protection Act, Baltimore UPS feeder driver Gary Payne has obtained the Actuarial Valuation of the Local 355 fund.

In this document, independent actuaries warned that the fund would be in the Red Zone by the end of March 2008 if the fund did not take action.

This report was produced months before the pension freeze, but the Local 355 fund made it available only after members requested it under the terms of the new pension law, which gives members the right to receive copies of certain plan documents.

No Freeze Under Red Zone?

Local 355 trustees say they froze benefits to avoid putting the fund into the Red Zone.

But the Red Zone would have stopped cutting the accrual rate down to zero.

Under the new pension law, plans in the Red Zone cannot cut the accrual below one percent of annual employer contributions. Funds in the Yellow or Green Zone can cut the accrual rate down to zero, though.

“Taylor kept us in the dark about what was going on with our pension,” Reinhardt said. “Our local had a tough decision to make, and we deserved to have a say.”

Taylor has said the fund is now in the Green Zone. But as Convoy goes to press, Local 355 members have still not seen the notice from the fund announcing if it is in the Green, Yellow, or Red Zone. Under the PPA, this announcement is due by April 30.

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