A long-time Teamster stood up for his fellow members during a House Budget Committee hearing yesterday when he told lawmakers that a pension fix is desperately needed to ensure the retirements of some 1.5 million hardworking Americans who have paid into the system.
Dale Hanner, a retired Local 391 member who now serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina Committee to Protect Pensions, testified on Capitol Hill that multi-employer plans like the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund are facing significant cuts that will hit retirees hard unless legislation is passed soon to boost them.
While some have downplayed the slashing of these retirement nest eggs, Hanner said many workers and retirees would be devastated by the reductions.
“The cost of living keeps going up,” he told committee members. “Once we retire, there is no cost of living income increase. Stories have circulated on Capitol Hill that one of the conditions for a pension fix is the retirees must have some skin in the game. Truthfully, some retirees are being skinned alive.”
The Teamsters support H.R. 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act. The bipartisan bill, offered by Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.), is badly needed. As it stands, there are more than 300 multiemployer plans that are in danger of failing. The Teamsters have been fighting for years for a legislative solution and are working with members of both parties to guarantee that a solution passes congressional muster.
The measure would boost financially troubled multiemployer pensions so they don’t fail. It would create a new agency under the U.S. Treasury Department that would sell bonds in the open market to large investors such as financial firms. The agency, the Pension Rehabilitation Administration, would then lend money from the sale of the bonds to the financially troubled pension plans.
Hanner, a 36-year Teamster who worked at four trucking companies as a journeyman mechanic until retiring in 2013, said time is of the essence to pass a legislative fix. As it stands, Central States is only 27 percent funded and soon would not qualify for a loan under H.R. 397. If that were to happen, the plan would go insolvent and would be turned over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to be paid out at just pennies on the dollar of its value.
House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) agreed there is a real need to address the issue. “I’ve met with truck drivers from my district whose pensions will be cut by 60 percent or more if Congress doesn’t step in,” he said. “These are all American workers who planned for their retirement and contributed to their pensions instead of taking home more pay. Now, after working for decades, their planned retirements may vanish.”
Hanner concurred. “These are deferred wages they are not getting back, and there is a big feeling that you are being stolen from,” he said.