Union tosses cash at lobbying despite retirement shortfalls

By Jeffrey Scott Shapiro
The Washington Times
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Teamsters have begun informing retirees and current workers that their pension benefits may soon be cut, the final ironic twist to a lobbying campaign that saw the union spend its own members’ dollars to win the right to shrink their retirement pay.

The somber notifications began going out from the Teamsters Central States Health and Welfare Pension Fund this spring, a decision that could ultimately affect 410,000 current pension participants and a total of more than 10 million U.S. workers nationwide. Cuts could begin as early as next year.

The cuts were made possible after the lame-duck Congress late last year passed the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA), enabling any multiemployer pension fund to cut benefits to workers and current retirees if the plan is underfunded by at least 20 percent.

Multiemployer pension funds are commonly used by big unions and are maintained by one more or more collective bargaining agreements while operating under a board of trustees.

The Teamsters pension fund has been struggling with severe shortages for years, even as the union continued to pour millions of dollars into political election efforts and Washington lobbying.

In 2014 alone, the union and its affiliates spent nearly $5.9 million on lobbying and political contributions, and one of its main legislative targets was passage of the pension reform law that finally gave it the right to start reducing benefits, according to the lobbying reports it filed with Congress.

The union has already poured another $397,000 into Washington lobbying this year.

The letters that began going out to pensioners last month painted a bleak future for the Teamsters pension fund, suggesting Washington, and not the union, was to blame.

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