Retirees, Workers Deserve to Receive Their Pensions


The golden years of everyday Americans who worked hard for decades to put away money for retirement are increasingly being jeopardized by the nation’s pension system. But the Teamsters are working hard to fix it.

In September, several hundred Teamster members and retirees came to Washington to voice outrage over proposed rules governing pension cuts, attend IRS hearings on the issue and support for legislation offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) that would bolster multi-employer plans at the center of the dispute.

The “Keep Our Pension Promises Act” (KOPPA) would protect workers and retirees from cuts to their earned retirement benefits. In order to shore up the long-term sustainability of the existing federal pension insurance program, KOPPA creates a $30 billion legacy fund over 10 years, paid for by closing two tax loopholes used almost exclusively by the super-rich to avoid paying taxes.

I have also written to Thomas Nyhan, executive director of the Central States Pension Fund, to urge him to rescind their submission with the Treasury Department asking for permission to cut the pensions of thousands of Teamster members and retirees who have earned them. Reducing their retirement will devastate many of their lives at a time they are most vulnerable.

While the Central States Fund is certainly financially troubled, it is nothing short of outrageous to try to prop it up by proposing draconian benefit cuts that will impose significant hardships on the very people the Fund is supposed to serve.

The benefits these workers and retirees earned were the result of their own hard work as well as that of their fellow Teamsters.

Wiping it out in order to balance the books is tantamount to highway robbery.

Of course, this nation’s retirement security problem goes deeper than just one pension plan. Workers should have enough money to live comfortably when they retire. Financial institutions have done a number on pensions. A majority in Congress attacked workers’ pensions that now put the retirements of thousands of Teamsters and other workers at risk. Meanwhile, Wall Street banks that raked in hundreds of millions of dollars managing pension funds during the Great Recession have largely been left unscathed.

Banks caused the pension problem, they should help solve it. As it stands, these institutions get to keep making millions on the backs of the very pensioners whose benefits are being cut. That is unfair, unjust and plain un-American. It can stop now, however, if lawmakers see the error of their ways and support a fix.

Retirees should get what they were promised.