Teamsters Pension Bust Leaves 4000 Retirees ‘on the Edge of Financial Disaster’

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Tim Chmil (far left, seen here with several other retired members of Teamsters union Local 707): “I had a union job for 30 years. We had collectively bargained contracts that promised us a pension. I paid into it with every paycheck. Everyone told us, ‘Don’t worry, you have a union job, your pension is guaranteed.’ Well, so much for that.” Photo: Susan Watts/New York Daily News

In an ongoing series of articles for the New York Daily News, two of which are linked below, reporter Ginger Adams Otis has examined the financial and human impact of the downfall of the New York Teamsters Local 707 pension fund, which officially ran out of cash last month.

In a February 28 report, Ms. Otis noted that, in addition to the roughly 4000 retired Teamsters who are now “on the edge of financial disaster,” trying to figure out how they will get by on dramatically reduced pensions, nearly a million other “working and retired Americans are currently covered by [union] pension plans that are in  imminent danger of insolvency . . . .” (Her source is the Washington, D.C.-based Pension Rights Center.)

“These union pension funds,” Ms. Otis continued, “have been designated as being in ‘critical and declining status’ — which means trustees are eligible to apply for cuts on their payouts.”

An Otis report filed two days earlier drew on her interviews with several of the retired Local 707 workers who have been hit hard.

71-year-old ex-trucker Tim Chmil told her: “I had a union job for 30 years. We had collectively bargained contracts that promised us a pension. I paid into it with every paycheck. Everyone told us, ‘Don’t worry, you have a union job, your pension is guaranteed.’ Well, so much for that.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Otis failed to notice that one key reason why many Teamster union boss-controlled retirement funds are in terrible shape is that Big Labor-impaired transportation firms have been unable to compete effectively with their union-free counterparts. Virtually all of this competition has occurred, of course, in the domestic market.

Over the past 20 years, according to data collected and published by the Bureau of National Affairs, nationwide union-free trucking industry employment has held steady at roughly 1.4 million. Meanwhile, the number of unionized trucking jobs plummeted from more than 440,000 in 1995-96 to fewer than 160,000 in 2015!

Because so many Teamsters-controlled businesses have gone broke or shrunk dramatically, employer contributions to Teamsters retiree funds have also fallen.

A second reason Teamsters and other Big Labor-dominated plans are frequently underfunded is that union officials never even try to get a sufficiently high share of employees’ compensation packages set aside for pensions to make the promised benefits a reality.

Countless unionized employees like Tim Chmil were forced throughout their careers to pay dues to Big Labor bosses to keep their jobs, whether they wanted to or not.

And one of the handful of tasks that Teamsters, iron workers, plumbers, and other union bosses are supposed to accomplish in exchange for the vast sums of conscripted money they take in is to ensure that the pensions workers are promised are there when workers need them.

As Ms. Otis’ reporting confirms, union bigwigs and their handpicked agents have failed again and again to fulfill their pension obligations towards employees.

This is another distressing illustration of just how little union bosses deserve their forced-dues privileges.

Federal insurance company low on funds to cover union pensions …

N.Y. retirees struggle to survive after pension fund bottoms out – NY …

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