Teamsters Campaign Against Pension Cuts
continuedfrompageI accountability of trustees. Citing the recent economic down-
the fund's rules should be changed to After the November announcement, turn and rising health care costs, more
make the trustees more accountable to interest in the campaign among and more employers are reducing or
members. Many Teamsters are advocat- Teamster members took off. In less than even eliminating retirement benefits. A
ing direct election of pension fund three months, activists have organized recent Hewlitt-Kaiser survey finds that
trustees, as is the case for IBT officers. over 60 public pension meetings in 71 percent of employers surveyed report
Some longtime Teamster observers dozens of cities affected by the cuts. increasing retiree contributions for
note that the growing campaign has Becky Pettengill, a TDU member health coverage. One fifth of employers
revived the efforts of the reform move- and wife of a UPS driver, is one of also report that they plan to eliminate
ment inside the union. They point to many spouses leading the fight against health coverage for retirees in the next
possible setbacks to the 2006 re-election the pension cuts. After attending CSPIC three years.
campaign of Teamster President James meetings, she contacted a local pension Pension and retiree health care cuts
P. Hoffa, Jr. and others around him. attorney for information and advice. have hit other private sector unions,
Hoffa's slate ran under a "No Dues Armed with this resource, Pettengill such as airlines and steel, particularly
Increase, 25-and-Out'' slogan in the last organized what she calls "a small but hard in the last two years.
election. mighty group" of Flint, Michigan-area
Teamsters to educate local members, A PERFECT STORM?
BENEFIT CUTS,PREMIUM HIKES organize a strategy, and demand Central States lost assets in what
Central States Teamsters now face accountability from Central States. IBT officials are calling "The Perfect
penalties for early retirement and earn "We need to hold the employers and Storm": a spell of economic bad luck
pensions at a reduced rate. Many mem- the union accountable for the benefits marked by stock market declines, low
bers see this as effectively terminating we were promised," says Pettengill. interest rates, soaring health care costs,
the Teamsters' prized "30-and-out" "That's the whole point of collective and increasing numbers of retirees. The
rule. won in the 1980s. oermitting truck- - -
bargaining. That's why we pay dues."
. . cuts, the trustees say, are needed to sta-
ing industry and UPS korkers & retire bilize the fund.
after 30 years of work, regardless of age, SPOUSES INVOLVED A recent Wall Street Journal article
with a monthly pension of $3,000 and "It's a new trend for spouses to get suggests that employers may simply be
affordable health insurance. involved," says Larry Macdonald, a using the "perfect storm" as an excuse
Retirees are already hurting from the steward at Yellow Freight in Atlanta. to cut benefits. Pension funds, including
most dramatic changes-increased "We need more of that." CSPF, are showing signs of recovery.
health insurance costs and new lestric- Macdonald's own wife, Theresa, The Philadelphia Inquirerrecently report-
tions on reemployment rules. helped organize Georgia Teamsters to ed that, due to stock market recovery
Since Willie Hardy retired from sell over $2,800 in raffle tickets in a and rising interest rates, the nation's
Roadway last year, his health insurance recent CSPIC fundraiser. The money 1,000 largest pension funds gained 12
premiums have increased from $50 to will go to help fund an independent percent last year. Central States
$250 a month. The trustees say premi- actuarial study of the fmances of the improved at an even faster rate, growing
ums will increase another $100/month Central States Pension Fund and the from $15.5 billion to $17.7 billion in
this year and $100 every year until fur- causes of the pension cuts. 2003, a 14 percent gain.
ther notice. ."These are costs I hadn't Many Teamsters at CSPIC meetings Everv other Teamster pension fund
anticipated on having when I retired," support the idea-of taking legal action has managed to weather the storm bet-
says Hardy. "By placing this unfair bur- against the Central States Pension ter than Central States, and none have
den on retirees they're making it impos- Fund. In fact, CSPIC has a lawsuit over implemented such dramatic cuts.
sible for people to retire." the reemployment rules in a court of Although a few funds, like Western
Younger retirees can anticipate even appeals, with a ruling expected later this States, have recently made smaller cuts
steeper hikes. Workers who retire before year. However, CSPIC and TDU agree in the actuarial rate, most have been
age 57 will now pay up to $510 a month that lawsuits are too time-consuming, able to maintain benefits and some, like
for an individual and $1,020 with expensive, and unpredictable to rely on IBT Local 705 in Chicago, have even
spousal coverage. as a sole strategy. increased benefits.
CSPF has also changed the enforce- ''A lot of people expect to come to a "One of the hardest questions to
ment of the Teamsters' longstanding meeting, write a check, and TDU or answer is 'Where do we go from here?"'
reemployment rules. The changes pre- CSPIC will fix everything," says says Charron.
vent retirees from taking jobs in any Charron. "Teamsters must realize that Pension activists like the Pettengills
occupation that falls under the union's the7 have to take responsibility for their and the Macdonalds are pushing local
jurisdiction-which the trustees inter- own futures." , members to get involved. TDU and
pret as almost anything. Retirees found CSPF has been sending reoresenta-
~~ ~ ~~ ~~
CSPIC have organized these groups
in violation forfeit all benefits for as tives to locals to explain ;he 'cuts and into a nationwide network, making it
long as they are employed, and are answer questions. Teamsters in possible for activists to exchange ideas
forced to pay back any pension money Macdonald's local worked with TDU to and plan a comprehensive national
they collected while working. develop a list of questions Teamsters strategy with other Teamsters.
Earlier this year, CSPF relaxed some should ask Central States with the hope "This won't change overnight," says
provisions of the reemployment rules, a of clarifying some of the conflicting Charron, "but we can't afford to sit back
small victory which CSPIC attributes to information they've received. The strat- and do nothing. People need to get
a petition it circulated last year protest- egy appears to be working, and Central informed, get involved, and raise
ing the restrictions. CSPIC is circulating States has provided its representatives hell."
a new petition demanding the restora- with a list of printed responses to many [Nicolle Schaeffer is an intern for Teamsters
tion of retiree benefits and greater of these questions. for a Democratic Union in Detrot.]
PAGE 14 MARCH 2004 LABOR NOTES
. ~ ~ .~. ~ .-~ ~