Senators Call on Treasury Dept to Slow the Rush to Pension Cuts

May 15, 2015: Seven Senators have written to Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew calling on him to vigorously enforce retiree and worker rights before any pensions are cut under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act passed last December.

US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) issued a statement and the letter today calling for guidelines to prevent a rush to pension cuts. The Central States Pension Fund is moving quickly to try to implement cuts, without careful oversight or any independent actuarial audit.

The letter, signed by seven members of the Senate Subcommittee on Social Security, Pension and Family Policy, notes that 60 days is a short time for a “retiree representative” required by the law to adequately perform a genuine independent review. The Senators also call on Treasury to require the pension plan to disclose how they chose the retiree representative.

The Central States Fund has chosen Sue Mauren as the retiree representative. They defend this choice with the claim that Mauren is facing the same cuts as other retired Teamsters. But this evades the fact that she was entitled to a total of four pensions or dues-funded lump-sum retirement plans. Mauren has declined to meet with any retiree committee working to prevent cuts, and has even failed to respond to correspondence, so it is not clear how she “represents” retirees.

The Senators’ letter calls for the Treasury Dept to require an “unbiased” report to all members, detailing the impact on their individual pension. The Senators also call for a fair balloting procedure, so that Teamsters and retirees can make an informed vote; the vote in Central States of all actives and retirees is expected sometime this summer.

The Senators requested the Treasury Dept. prohibit one kind of cut that Central States is planning. They state that the pension of disabled participants should never be cut, even if they are receiving a full pension because they reached normal retirement age. The Teamster officials and employer rep trustees of Central States intend to cut those pensions.

We thank Senator Brown – who opposed the pension cut law – and the other Senators for watchdogging the process. And we call upon them to take the important next step: co-sponsor and support legislation to repeal the cut-back provisions and provide for positive alternatives to protect pensions. 

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