All 1,298 pages of the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund bailout application is on the SFA website but, for me, it is these two pages that tell the tale of the fall of this and many other union pension plans.
Funded ratio: 21.91%
Unfunded Liabilities as of 1/1/20: $43,878,930,013
Asset Value (Market) as of 12/31/20: $10,409,490,502
This account of the Teamsters’ drive to save retirement plans for millions of pensioners is drawn from interviews with several of the union’s officials, congressional sources and the public record. It begins with one Hoffa, the late Teamsters chief James R. Hoffa, and the Central States pension fund he started. And it ends with a yearslong campaign by his son, James P. Hoffa, to work the levers of influence in Washington to salvage the retirement money of union members.
Every Republican voted against the Covid-19 relief measure, and many of them specifically targeted the pension legislation for derision because they said it was an expensive gift from Democratic leaders to labor allies that would be funded by taxpayers.
“Americans know this bill will benefit states and unions that have been poorly mismanaged,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., said on the House floor.
Congress is working on a lengthy bill for further COVID relief. One small portion of it is modeled on the union-backed Butch Lewis Act, which passed the U.S. House in 2019 but not the U.S. Senate. Butch Lewis would provide loanscash grants to union-sponsored multiemployer pension plans that are otherwise headed toward insolvency.
About one in 10 multi-employer pension plans are in that situation thanks to stock market losses and declining numbers of active employees in the plans, and the wellbeing of up to 1.3 million union members and spouses is at stake. Butch Lewis would shore up declining pensions and restore benefits that were cut by some pensions in an effort to forestall insolvency.
If Congress does nothing, the Central States Teamster Pension is expected to run out of money in 2025. That would lead the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) itself to become insolvent. PBGC is a government insurance agency that guarantees pension benefits.