North America's Strongest Union

Letter To Editor: Securing The Promised Retirement

Hoffa’s letter appeared Oct. 13, 2009 in the Washington Times.

In their zeal to attack working Americans, Jeremy Lott and F. Vincent Vernuccio misfire badly ("Pomeroy's lucre for labor," Opinion, Wednesday). They take aim at Rep. Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota Democrat, who is responding to requests from both employers and unions for help in coping with the current retirement crisis.

Many corporate-sponsored, single-employer and multiemployer funds lack the long-term funding to provide the secure retirement promised to millions of Americans. The largest U.S. pension funds had just 79 cents for every dollar owed to current and future retirees at the end of 2008.

The stock-market crash and the global economic crisis are two big reasons. A third is the Pension Protection Act of 2006. The act greatly and unnecessarily accelerated funding requirements for many plans. It hastened the crisis, threatening most private pension plans and the companies that contribute to them.

Mr. Pomeroy wants to stabilize pension plans through manageable and predictable funding rules. He proposes that the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. assume the obligations for retirees under multiemployer plans who worked for companies that went bankrupt without making sufficient contributions earned by their employees. PBGC already guarantees the obligations of single-employer plans.

Mr. Lott and Mr. Vernuccio clearly don't understand the difference between single- and multiemployer plans or the illogical disparity of current legal protections.

Multiemployer plans are not controlled by unions. They are set up as trusts and operated by management-labor boards. By law, they are independent of unions and companies, and their trustees must act solely in the participants' interest.

Many current and retired truck drivers are covered by the Central States Fund, a multiemployer plan. Trucking deregulation in 1980 weakened the fund, driving hundreds of companies out of business and leaving many employees who earned retirement credit under the plan high and dry.

The workers became the obligation of the fund and the surviving businesses. Meanwhile, the bankrupt companies paid little or nothing to cover the benefits earned by their employees.

The pension crisis isn't just about unions or certain employers. It's about living up to the responsibility to provide the retirement security promised to employees - and to which they've contributed a lifetime of work.

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