Five years ago, Cindy McDaniel and her husband Ted – a retired Teamster – were enjoying the fruits of his hard labor. After he’d worked for 35 years as a truck driver and contributed to a pension, Ted and Cindy had a comfortable retirement that allowed the Appleton City, Missouri residents to pay their bills and help take care of their grandkids as well as their aging parents.
But that all changed when Congress enacted the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014. The couple was informed that Ted’s Central States pension could be cut 57 percent, down to $1,295 a month. It was all too much for Ted, who shortly thereafter suffered a massive heart attack and now is limited in his activities. While his retirement pay has yet to be affected, a reduction looms unless Congress comes up with a fix.
That’s why Cindy McDaniel came to Capitol Hill today. The co-director of the Missouri Kansas City-Committee to Protect Pensions testified in front of the House Ways and Means Committee, telling members how she and others have spent the last several years shuttling between their homes and the nation’s capital advocating for change. She has been to Washington dozens of times on her own dime fighting for fairer pension reform like that being offered by House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.).
“We went from truck drivers, spouses and widows to pension protectors overnight,” she told committee members. “We didn’t set out to be lobbyists. We became them because we had to. Suddenly, the American dream we had lived for and earned fell apart around us.”
But she said more than 1 million workers and retirees falling under financially threatened multi-employer pension plans are running out of time. And she urged the lawmakers not to forget them and the challenges they face.
“So as I finish speaking today, picture not just me, but look at the hundreds of other Central States members standing behind me, along with a million more from other plans who have already been, or could be, affected,” she said. “Put yourselves in our place and feel our fear about what will happen if our income is cut.”
Chairman Neal told his fellow committee members they have an opportunity to make fixes that would help many working Americans who worked hard and played by the rules all their lives.
“These are American workers who planned for their retirement, who year after year contributed to their pensions instead of taking wage increases,” he said. “Now after working for decades, their planned retirements may be taken away from them.
“Pensions have a long history of being a bipartisan issue,” he added. “Now more than ever, it’s time to put politics aside and really work together.”