The Green Bay Area Teamsters held their annual meeting on Sunday, August 6, 2017, attended by Mike Mullane, the director of the Central States Pension Fund.
In 2015 and 2016, the Green Bay Area Teamsters urged the U.S. Treasury to oppose the Central States Pension Fund’s request to cut payouts to 250,000 Midwest retirees in an effort to avoid insolvency. But the Treasury rejected the plan.
The fight to protect pensions goes back to 2014 when the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act was passed. Congress allowed pension funds that were bleeding money to cut retiree pensions by at least 40%.
The Central States Pension Fund looks after pensions for around 25,000 retired Teamsters in Wisconsin and 270,000 across the Midwest. The pension fund was hit hard during the 2009 recession and has not yet fully recovered. In fact, financial projections suggest the fund could be insolvent in less than 10 years. The pension cuts were a way to keep the fund going.
That’s not the end of the story. Support for Wisconsin union workers looking to protect their pensions continues to gain momentum.
Mullane attended the annual meeting of the Green Bay Area Teamsters to answer questions and provide updates on efforts to protect their pensions.
The Teamsters have been bending the ear of Washington, D.C. In July, a group of 25 Teamsters pensioners, including three from Missouri and Kansas, met in Washington with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about failing pension plans. Mnuchin is backing the Teamsters in their fight to protect $2.0 billion in pension fund money that could disappear if a solution is not found.
“We need the help, and Congress to listen in to us, which a lot of them are, but we need to get to the finish line to get a fix. The Treasury Secretary, his last words to us was keep doing what you’re doing because Congress is listening, well we need that to a final conclusion,” said Bernie Anderson, co-chair, Teamsters Milwaukee.
The Green Bay Area Teamsters have shifted focus from opposing the pension cuts to working with employers and the Wisconsin congressional delegation to create legislation that would help Central States and other multi-employer pensions avoid cuts or insolvency.
Despite efforts to reverse the 2014 bill signed into law under former President Barack Obama, it appears as though some of the pension cuts are coming. The Treasury Department approved a plan by the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund, requesting permission to implement the cuts. The reduction would start on October 1.
Fund participants in New York will now vote on the plan. But even if participants vote “no,” the Treasury Department could allow the Teamsters to implement the reductions anyway.
Under the plan, Teamsters in New York State that are 80 or older will not see any change to their pensions. Those aged 75 to 79 would have their pensions cut by lesser amounts, depending on their age. Teamsters that receive disability benefit from the fund will not see a reduction either.
Active participants’ monthly benefits would be cut by 18% and benefits for the rest of retirees will be cut by 29%.
The Green Bay Area Teamsters are looking for ways to avoid the same cuts.
“Green Bay Area Teamsters hold annual meeting,” wbay.com, August 7, 2017.
“Teamsters Local 662,” Wisconsin Teamsters, last accessed August 7, 2017.
“Teamsters’ pension cuts are a step closer to happening,” The Buffalo News, August 5, 2017.