The fight to protect the earned pensions of Teamsters—and all workers—is a critical battle. Over a million workers stand to lose their pensions, unless we can pass legislation to make good on the promises made to workers. And the clock is ticking.
An interview with Mike Walden,
Chairman of the National United Committee to Protect Pensions (NUCPP)
Where do we stand at present?
Well, the Butch Lewis Act passed in the House but has not made it through the Senate. Thirty Democrats in the Senate and one independent are on board. Republicans Grassley (R-IA) and Portman (R-OH) and Democrats Brown (D-OH) and Wyden (D-OR), are working on potential solutions.
Does that mean it’s on hold?
No. Lots of meetings have been happening with Congress. The Teamsters, the Mineworkers, and other unions are working to get changes. Employers, like UPS, know that a solution has to be found. I hear from a range of representatives in Congress that they want to get it done. We need to push and pressure all House and Senate members to work with Senators Brown, Wyden, Grassley and Portman as they have a framework to solve this crisis.
Is the big issue getting funding?
Yes, it’s where to get the billions we need to stabilize things. Some are looking at taxes, increased premiums, and other options that include all stakeholders. The Butch Lewis Act gets funding through setting up low interest loans. But critics continue to frame this as a bailout. Well, Wall St. got bailed out, why not us? And I don’t see it as a bail out. We earned our pensions and did absolutely nothing wrong. I continue to ask why money can’t be freed up from the billions that was collected on fines from the banks held responsible for the 2008-2009 Wall Street meltdown.
Rita Lewis, widow of Butch Lewis, also spoke with Memphis area Teamster retirees.
What role is the Central States Fund playing?
Over the past year or so, they’ve been helpful. They’ve gotten all the data and numbers that Congress has asked for. But the picture isn’t getting better with time. The Central States is now down to $12.9 billion and the numbers show it will take twice the loan money now, than two years ago, to right the ship.
What’s next for action to save pensions?
I’m confident that something can get passed by the end of this year. We expect any legislation to be attached to the federal spending bill. The President has stated he will sign a pension bill that comes to his desk. We continue to visit Washington. And we continue to hold meetings in local areas to inform retired and active Teamsters and bring pressure to bear on their representatives.
The NUCPP is at the center of the action?
Many of us have been at this for over five years. There are thousands of Teamsters who rely on our committees to continue to fight for pension security. We recently expanded our NUCPP board and we now have seven directors. We’re also in the process of expanding our advisory board from seven regions in our national structure.
I remain optimistic that we can secure our pensions. We’ve shown what a grassroots movement can achieve over the past five years. We will continue to do that work to win what we need.