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.
Thousands of Wisconsin Teamsters are celebrating after President Joe Biden signed the coronavirus relief bill into law.
That’s because the move ensures that the workers no longer have to worry about their pensions being cut in half.
The American Rescue Plan includes the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021. The act directs the Pension Guaranty Benefit Corp. to allocate billions of dollars to avoid the drastic cuts.
Contrary to the Feb. 18 editorial “Congress needs to focus its covid relief bill — on covid relief,” multiemployer pension plans have faced significant additional challenges caused by the ongoing global pandemic. It has jeopardized these plans’ ability to deliver hard-earned benefits to more than 1 million enrolled retirees and workers and must be addressed by lawmakers now. The shutdown of the U.S. economy has greatly amplified the financial struggle of these plans. Hundreds of employers are facing bankruptcy and cannot contribute to multiemployer pension funds; employees have lost their jobs; and the sharp drop in interest rates hit plans hard. Senior citizens and essential workers are disproportionately impacted by both the effects of the coronavirus and the multiemployer pension crisis.
As the United States looks to reopen and rebuild, maintaining the solvency of the multiemployer pension system will be key to economic recovery. The National Institute on Retirement Security concluded that the $44.2 billion in private pension benefit payments paid to retirees of multiemployer plans in 2018 supported $96.6 billion in overall economic output in the national economy and an estimated $14.7 billion in total tax revenue. The country can ill-afford a reduction in these revenue streams during the recovery period.
Multiemployer pension plans eligible for the program would include plans in critical and declining status, and plans with significant underfunding that have more retirees than active workers in any plan year beginning in 2020 through 2022. Additionally, plans that have suspended benefits and certain plans that have already become insolvent would also be eligible.
The plans would have to apply for the special financial assistance, and, if approved, the payment made by PBGC would be in the form of a single, lump sum. The amount of financial assistance would be equal to the amount required for the plan to pay all benefits due during the period beginning on the date of enactment and ending on the last day of the plan year ending in 2051. Plans would also be required to invest the amounts in investment-grade bonds or other investments as permitted by PBGC.