The Pension Fight


On May 6, Kenneth Feinberg, Special Master appointed by the Department of Treasury, announced that the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund (CSPF) application to cut the pensions of an estimated 270,000 Teamsters retirees, had been rejected.

This decision means that there won’t be any cuts to retirees’ pensions this July. CSPF also announced on May 19 that the fund would not resubmit an application for cuts.

Make no mistake, despite winning this battle we have a long road ahead of us. We must find a solution to the growing pension crisis that will allow members and retirees to continue to retire with dignity.

The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) was passed in December 2014 as part of the federal spending bill and changed 40 years of pension law that prohibited cuts to earned benefits. As a result, we will continue to see funds that qualify under MPRA as “critical and declining” apply with the Treasury to cut retirees’ pensions. We cannot allow these cuts to happen.

Pensions are a promise between workers and employers. Pension contribution rates are set by the Fund Trustees and the union then negotiates those rates as part of the contract’s total economic package. Over the years, there have been many tradeoffs so that when we retire, we have the safety and security of a guaranteed benefit. That promise should never be broken.

However, due to the chronic underfunding of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the federal agency created by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to protect benefits in private sector defined benefit plans, all of the plans currently in crisis do not have a security net.

As I write this, numerous pensions from nearly every union have declared a “critical and declining” status—the first step in applying for benefit cuts. Unless this legislation is overturned, millions of retirees and participants face the prospect of seeing their retirement benefits significantly reduced.

That is why every member in the Teamsters must join the fight for pension reform legislation. Congress must act now.

The Teamsters Union supports legislation like the Pension Accountability Act, which addresses concerns with MPRA, and the Keep Our Pension Promises Act, which would protect workers and retirees from cuts to their earned retirement benefits.

We will continue our legislative efforts to find a viable solution to the pension crisis. This is a fight we must win!