Today, Teamsters joined lawmakers at a hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans to make their voices heard on the need to protect retirement security for thousands of working families. Kenny Stribling, a retiree with Teamsters Local 200 in Wisconsin, testified before the committee.
“I worked for 30 years for three different trucking companies that paid into the Central States Pension Fund,” Stribling said during his heartfelt testimony about how the pension crisis has personally impacted him. “I am married with children and grandchildren. I need this pension for my family.”
Stribling, who is Co-Chair of the Milwaukee Committee to Protect Pensions and retired from USF Holland in 2010, said the stress alone of knowing his retirement benefits could be cut is impacting the health of his family.
“My wife was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, which has spread to her liver. I was recently diagnosed with an enlarged heart. This is due to high blood pressure and stress. My heart is working overtime just to keep up,” Stribling told the committee.
Along with retirees from the United Mine Workers of America and other unions, Teamsters with the National United Committee to Protect Pensions listened to lawmakers speak about the urgency of finding a solution to the pension crisis.
“It is important for this committee to hear directly from retirees like Mr. Stribling who have the most to lose here,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Co-Chair of the Joint Select Committee, which also heard testimony this morning from two academics and a practitioner representing other stakeholders. “We cannot put a Band-Aid on this issue – we need a prospective solution.”
Wisconsin Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin introduced Stribling. Sen. Johnson described meeting Stribling and learning about the threat to the retirement security of Wisconsin Teamsters and others in troubled multiemployer plans.
Sen. Baldwin echoed Stribling’s call for the committee to seriously consider the Butch Lewis Act of 2017, a Teamster-endorsed solution to saving underfunded pension plans.
“Teamsters and other union members like Mr. Stribling did in good faith what they were supposed to do,” added Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal. “The rearview analysis about what led to this crisis might be helpful academically, but it doesn’t help us get to a solution for retirees like Mr. Stribling. The people being harmed here didn’t do anything wrong.”
Committee members took the other stakeholders to task at the hearing about why active members and retirees need to be the main priority for those looking to solve the pension crisis.
“We have come to the aid of other institutions in need. These are people’s livelihoods that are at stake,” West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said.
“The other stakeholders here, not including retirees, are not at risk of losing a pension if we don’t fix this problem. Thousands of retirees are confronting similar circumstances as Mr. Stribling. This is about having empathy for the real stakeholders – the retirees,” North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp added.
New Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross said the threats to retirees are too real for Congress to ignore.
“This is not about what retirees or unions did. It’s about workers who deferred their dreams during their working years for the promise of a better life during their golden years,” he said.
“Failure is not an option,” Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell added. “Mr. Stribling and other retirees did not make any investment decisions for multiemployer plans and they should not be the ones to suffer from those decisions.”
When asked by Senator Brown about how he would be affected if his pension was cut, Stribling said his families’ mounting medical expenses would mean he would probably lose his house.
“If Congress doesn't act, I'll be knocking on your door asking for some kind of public assistance," he said.
Following the hearing, dozens of retirees from the Teamsters and other unions told their stories at a livestream event hosted by Sen. Heitkamp.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Stribling told lawmakers. “This is an issue of fairness, of keeping promises to working Americans who did everything right. We did our part, forgoing raises and job improvements for our retirement security. And we are simply asking you to preserve what is due to us.”