Ohio ó Bill Hendershot and his wife live on his union
pension and Social Security. Hendershot, a retired
long-distance truck driver, gets around now in a
12-year-old Toyota Corolla. The couple still pay a
mortgage on their home.
heís among a huge group of union retirees nationwide
who could see their monthly private pension payments cut
as much as 60 percent under a national reform measure
signed into law in December by President Barack Obama.
could lose two-thirds of my pension," Hendershot
said. "You ask, how could I live? You talk about
drastic reductions. Ö We donít live big now."
new law, the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014,
was a bipartisan effort backed by some unions. It is
intended to save severely underfunded, private-sector,
multiemployer pensions in which different companies pay
money into one pension fund.
numerous reasons, including bankrupt employers and
increasing numbers of retirees, multiemployer funds make
up a large percentage of the nationís least
financially stable pensions. The act also is aimed at
reducing the strain on the Pension Benefit Guaranty
Corp., or PBGC, the privately funded federal backstop
for pension funds.
under the new law, keeping the financially troubled
multiemployer funds solvent so they at least continue to
pay out some money could mean dramatically lower benefit
checks for a million or more retirees across the nation,
has Hendershot, who retired in 2002 when his former
employer went out of business, and others worried about
their own well-being. Hendershotís Teamsters pension
plan is among the most sickly.
and others suspect a lot of people donít know about
the new law and will be blindsided if their pensions are
the law, retirees ages 80 and older would not get their
benefits cut. Retirees 75 and older could get smaller
cuts. Retirees younger than 75 could get their pensions
reduced by the maximum amount, subject to a vote by
active and retired workers. Cuts also need plan trustee
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a struggle to get by as it is," said Joe Mardula,
62, another former trucker. He said someone like him who
gets a $3,000-a-month pension could see it cut to as low
(ex-wife) and I would have to split that, too,"
Mardula said. "How are you going to live on that
between two people?"
Friedman, executive vice president and policy director
at the nonprofit Pension Rights Center in Washington, is
highly critical of the new law while acknowledging that
pension reforms are needed.
are not saying donít fix multiemployer (plans),"
an act that allows plans to cut retiree pensions is
"such a departure from current law," she said.
"Itís just such a buzz saw on retiree
pensions." As many as 150 pension plans nationally
may be impacted by the new act, Friedman said. The U.S.
Department of Labor keeps a list of "critical
status" multiemployer pension plans.
Pension Rights Center created a Multiemployer Retiree
Cutback Calculator for its website, ,
that allows people to get an idea of how much their
pension could be cut under the law.
many as "1.5 million people are affected by the new
law, and a small percent know it has been passed,"
Pension Rights Center is committed to appealing the
cutback provisions of the bill, she said.
committed to organizing retirees around the
country," she said.
noted that union workers gave up wages so companies
would put money into pension plans.
is a question about whether there is a social contract
anymore," Friedman said. "You are cutting
something that was inviolable. Can anyone trust
anything? Ö The highest principle is to keep promises
Walden, a retired union worker, heads the Northeast Ohio
Committee to Protect Pensions. The group, made up of
retired Teamsters in the Akron area, organized to oppose
the passage of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act as
it worked its way through Congress.
been fighting this for a year," he said.
members are working to get at least part of the act
repealed, Walden said. He has been traveling around the
nation to speak to Teamster retirees about the act.
he speaks to groups, Walden said he tells them, "Itís
about your pension, your lifestyle, your future."
said one goal is to have a rally in Washington later
ultimate aim is to either have the act repealed followed
by new hearings to draft revised legislation, or to get
part of the act repealed that cuts retiree pensions,
Walden said. There are other solutions out there that
can shore up failing pension plans before taking away
retiree money, he said.
of this is falling on the shoulders of retirees,"
he said. "We just want a fair shake."
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said it could take a year to figure out the complexities
of the legislation and longer than that before plans try
to cut retiree benefits. He expects there will be
significant challenges to the law.
Morneweck, executive secretary-treasurer of the
Tri-County Labor Council in Akron, noted that the law
affects more than Teamsters. Machinists, electricians
and others face possible cuts in their multiemployer
plans as do the Teamsters, he said.
cuts to pensions would be unprecedented," he said.
get the big picture" on the financial state of
pensions, Morneweck said. "The cut is whatís
devastating to people living on a fixed income. Ö You
donít want to start down that road. Itís a slippery
slope. The cuts keep coming. Thereís no stopping
Foshee, 73, says heís tried to keep busy in the 15
years since he retired. The Teamster retiree volunteers
and also works part time while drawing a union pension.
whole concept is, we worked hard for this," he said
of the pension.
said he is among the union retirees keeping a close eye
on multiemployer pension reform.
really want people around here to know weíre watching
it," he said. "Iím at a point now where
everything has leveled off and I want to keep it that
way, my bills and stuff. Ö If they donít cut us too
much, Iíll be all right."
Popio, 81, a retired Teamster, said he disagreed with
the new law.
pawns to make money for somebody else," he said.