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  • Workers To Rally In Washington, Pension Benefits For 400,000 At Risk
    Posted On: Apr 11, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, April 12, 2016

    Workers and retirees from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are calling on Congress to block the Central States Pension Fund from making huge cuts to retiree benefits.  Retired Teamster Mike Walden, Chairman of the Northeast Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions, says they were ambushed by the Multi-employer Pension Reform Act of 2014 which Central States lobbied to get quietly attached to a major spending bill:

    [Mike Walden]:  “What they did was pretty much erase the ERISA law of 1974 that says once you receive a pension, your pension can not be reduced.  In the meantime, with the money they’ve lost and what they say that they need to make the fund solvent, they’re reducing pensions.  About  53 percent of us, our pensions reduced so much that it’s going to affect our lives entirely, bankrupt some of us, with a thirty day notice, so to speak.  Taking 50, 60, 70 percent away, these people can’t live on that.  These older people have medication costs higher than that.  These people can’t pass the physicals.  Some of them have lost their eyesight.  I talked to one gentleman, just lost both his legs to diabetes.  He’s getting reduced over fifty percent.  He can’t go to work.  Their borrowing power’s going to go down, their credit scores are going to go down, and I guarantee you there’s gonna be bankruptcies all over the place.”

    The pension fund, which provides benefits for 400,000 American workers, retirees, dependents and survivors, is facing financial difficulties for many reasons.  The Committees are looking for a solution instead of a bailout, supporting certain legislation to restore the anti-cutback provisions.

    If the application is granted, Ohio would be number one in terms of economic impact:

    [Mike Walden]:  “Economists use a figure of your money turns over six to seven times.  If you look at it that way, realistically, losing five billion in Ohio you’re actually losing thirty billion.  Right now the taxpayer doesn’t have a dime in it, but if this happens there’s going to be a lot of people going on government programs, and it will affect the taxpayer.”

    With 1400 other multi-employer retirement plans across the country, Walden says the results of the Central States application are being closely watched:

    [Mike Walden]:  “There’s a lot of greed in this country.  Many of us think that’s what’s going on at Central States.  They just want to keep our money for the next ten years, probably, to keep their salaries.”

    With a Treasury Department decision expected by May 7th, Teamsters’ Committees to Protect Pensions held simultaneous demonstrations in seven states at the end of March, reaching out to state and local governments.  They are now moving their advocacy to the nation’s capital on April 14th.  Dale Dobbs, Organizer for the Committees, expects thousands of teamsters, families and supporters:

    [Dale Dobbs]:  “We’re very, very active…reaching out to everybody.  We’re going to be in Washington D.C. with the same message, but not to local legislators…we’re talking to the federal people.  This is hopefully going to materialize into quite a high number of participant activity at the Capitol.”

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