Teamsters, YRC Team Up On Pension Legislation

February 26, 2010: The Teamsters and YRCW are working together to support proposed pension legislation that would help both the company and union pension plans.

It’s up to our union to make sure that Teamster retirees are protected in the process.

The Teamsters Union and YRCW are both supporting proposed legislation to strengthen union pension plans.

One aspect of the proposed legislation would give funds more time to recover from the stock market collapse. This is widely supported by industry, labor and multi-employer pension plans. The logjam created by disputes over health care legislation has meant this pension change has not moved forward, but hopefully it will be enacted soon.

Another part of the bill could lead to taking retirees from companies that have gone out of business and separating them out from our union pension plans. The legislation would strengthen union pension plans by making the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) responsible for some of their pension fund liabilities.

The Teamsters Union is supporting House Bill 3936, sponsored by by Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Pat Tiberi (R-OH), which would provide this funding relief.

How the Bill Works

The Pomeroy bill would allow deeply troubled plans to “partition,” separating those pension obligations owed from companies that have gone out of business (think Consolidated Freightways, Preston, PIE, and numerous other companies) and putting responsibility for those pensions on the PBGC.

Under the bill, a plan like the Central States Fund could possibly partition. Central States would pay pension obligations for companies that are still in business. And the PBGC would pay the pension obligations owing from failed companies.

YRC backs this bill because it would save them huge pension obligations. They claim it would make it easier to re-join Teamster pension plans. And troubled pension funds like Central States could get much healthier.

This is win-win for Teamsters and employers like YRCW—as long as the pensions of all Teamsters are fully protected, and no “orphan” Teamsters are forced to take drastic pension cuts.

Our concern is that the bill could be amended to undermine that funding of so-called “orphan” pensions. Presently, the PBGC has a maximum pay out of only $1,080 per month for a retiree with 30 years of credits.

Corporate America—including YRC—doesn’t care if retirees get their full pensions. Their interest is in reducing their debt by moving so-called orphans out of the pension funds—even if Teamsters end up with reduced pensions from the PBGC as a result.

It’s up to our Teamsters Union to make sure that any bill that is passed would guarantee that the PBGC would pay full pensions and would have sufficient funding to do that.

The Teamster-backed Pomeroy bill provides these protections and deserves our support.

Support the Pomeroy Bill

The International Union has said the right things on this issue. Now it’s time for action.

The Pomeroy bill could be a lifeline for pension funds and protect millions of American families who have worked hard and earned a decent retirement.

If we want to win these pension protections, the International Union needs to mobilize our members, other unions, and allies who care about the 10 million Americans in multi-employer plans.

Corporations are trying to eliminate pensions and replace them with 401(k) plans. Our Teamsters Union can take the lead in a campaign to save union pensions.

Teamster members should do our part. And we should also be on guard against changes to the bill that could cast vast numbers of Teamster retirees (and soon-to-be retirees) into second class status.

YRC and other corporations are looking to lower their pension obligations by shifting some costs on to the PBGC. That could be fine and even help Teamster pension funds—but not if it means labeling good Teamsters “orphans” and then cutting their pensions.

Ten More Years on the Job

“I’m a 31-year Teamster driver. I had one year left to go before I retired. I called up the hall, and I asked them point-blank if my benefits were going to be cut. They told me my pension was safe.

“I went down to Florida and put a down payment on a new house. Six months later, my local cut early retirement with almost no warning.

“I should be enjoying my retirement this year. Instead I’m looking at ten more years on the job.”

Luther Clark, New Penn, Local 355, Baltimore

Keeping My Eye On the New Bill

“I’m concerned about possible changes coming down the line with new federal legislation under the Pomeroy-Tiberi bill.

“I made a point of visiting my congressman to discuss pension protections and plan to do the same with my senators.

“It’s great that the IBT is paying attention to the issue but we have to make sure that our locals get involved and get working Teamsters talking directly with our representatives. We vote and they know it.”

Greg Smith, YRC, Local 24, Akron, Ohio
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