Central States Pension
I think the big question should be how did we actually get here?
A couple of issues have led to this situation at the IBT as well as other multi-employer Taft Hartley pension plans and they are mostly due to politics. Until we recognize the reality of the situation we are caught between the economic realities of the plan assets and the PBGC. Everyone needs to understand what happens if the PBGC takes over the pension. Rather than getting 50% of what was promised you will end up with even less. When a plan goes to the PBGC the only thing guaranteed is the retirees will be in poverty. I know people who were in a plan in SoCal where the management trustees made some bad decisions and invested much of the plans assets in bad real estate deals and the plan went to the PBGC. A blue collar worker who had thought he would be getting a check for $3,000 a month ended up getting a check for less than $500 a month. To even use the new legislation the retirees must get at least 10% more than they would have had the pension went to the PBGC. It’s not good but it’s better than if the Feds get their hands on it. The new legislation also does not address the core issues that got us all here, it is those issues that must be addressed.
1.) The first issue that has created this situation is the Taft Hartley Act. The Taft Hartley Act was passed in 1947 and changed the Wagner Act, (National Labor Relations Act) from a law that protected workers’ rights to organize and to collectively bargain into a management tool that stripped Unions such as the IBT and all of the Building Trades unions of their ability to engage in secondary boycotts. The IBT, like the Building Trades, organized primarily utilizing the secondary boycott. Rather than chase individual truck drivers across the United States, Union Organizers could go to loading docks or terminals. They could then organize that facility where employees came every day to the same spot. After organizing that facility the loading dock workers could simply refuse to handle any goods delivered by scab drivers and use that leverage to secure further contract. This lead a great expansion of the IBT. After 1947 this became illegal and workers were no longer allowed under the law to assist other workers involved in a labor dispute thus making organizing significantly more difficult. Anyone who drives a Concrete Truck has ran into a “two gate” situation. This is due to Taft Hartley, prior to 1947 if a scab painting company showed up on a job site the rest of the Union members regardless if they were carpenters, plumbers, plasterers, etc. would simply shut the job down so the scab shop would be forced to sign a Union contract if they wanted to work on those types of jobs. Under Taft Hartley this is illegal and now the scab Paint contractor gets their own entrance and any Union whose members refuse to work with the scab company can be sued for damages and the scab employer can get a Federal injunction against the Union. The Taft Hartley Act also created "right to work" laws, prohibited closed shops(a closed shop requires all employees be Union members and it has been illegal since 1947), Taft Hartley prohibited members from actually running their own Union free from government interference, Taft Hartley forced Union members to work alongside anti-union coworkers, Taft Hartley forced Union members to pay for services provided to anti-union free rider co-workers along with many other provision conceived to destroy organized labor over several decades. The Taft Hartley Act was also expanded in 1959 and prohibited employers from engaging in "hot cargo" action. Hot Cargo was a practice where an employer of a Union shop could refuse to do business with a non-union business. Taft Hartley also required that the Union allow management equal say on all multi-employer trust funds including pensions and healthcare plans. In all of these discussions about the Pension you will never hear anyone talk about the employers responsibilities to the participants, all you hear is what the IBT or some other Union isn't doing. It was after the Federal Government demanded that employers be given a seat at our table that we started to see these types of issues. It would be as if the Federal Government forced draft dodgers with no military experience and who didn’t like veterans to have control of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, why did they do this? To weaken the Labor movement, that’s why.
Since 1947 and the introduction of the Taft Hartley Act the Democratic Party has had the Executive and Legislative branches of government with veto proof majorities 6 times. Not once has the Democratic Party leadership moved to repeal the Taft Hartley Act, NOT ONCE. In fact, the last time there was a real push on labor law reform was when LBJ was President, it was the Democratic Party Committee Chair that refused to let the legislation out of Committee for a vote. But what is it that the Democratic Party has done for the American blue collar worker since 47? Deregulation of the transportation sector, allowed for the misclassification of workers as independent contractors which exempted them from being able to organize, suspension of Davis Bacon, Federal Injunctions against Unions who did strike, and so called "free trade" deals that provide for things like non-union Mexican cartage on U.S. Highways and shipped manufacturing overseas.
2.) The other thing that took a toll on our pensions was the Democratic Party changing the rules witch we created to keep our pensions healthy like changing our vesting period from 10 years to 5 years. When we had 10 year vesting versus 5 year vesting. When we had 10 year vesting most multi-employer pensions had a surplus of funds and at that time a pension could not build up reserves for a rainy day and that is why our retirees would see 13 checks in a year vs 12, our multipliers would increase and our retirement age would lower. With 5 year vesting people who were only in the industry for a short period would get the same benefits as someone who drove a truck his/her entire life. The Union wasn't forcing anyone out of the industry before they worked and contributed for 10 years but the Democratic Party decided that they knew better and changed the rules. Once again the Feds believed they knew better how to run a Union than the membership did. Had the membership wanted 5 year vesting there was nothing prohibiting it but it was up to the membership, not the employers, and not the government. You used to have to earn that pension. Everyone knew we were tied to each other. The members before us built the Union and the pension, we helped pay for their retirement along with our own pension and the new guys would help pay our pension as well as theirs. With 5 year vesting all that matters is getting 5 years in and drawing a check, no commitment to the organization at all, no commitment to your fellow member. And remember the Feds said our pensions couldn't save for a downturn in the economy, even when management would agree to put some funds aside in case the stock market tanked it was the Feds who said no. All contributions to the fund had to be spent annually. This has now changed and the Feds have decided that our pension can have 130% of what's needed but it's a day late and a dollar short.
WHAT’S NEEDED TO FIX OUR MULTI-EMPLOYER PENSIONS? Repeal Taft Hartley so Unions can once again grow and thrive and then we need to change the vesting period to 10 years rather than 5, THE Feds should be required to have just cause before they come into our organizations and tell us how to run things. Why is it they can do this to a workers organization but not a business? By doing this we can once again protect our retirees, grow our union, secure better deals at the bargaining table, and create true power for the working man. It is clear that we cannot count on the Democratic Party to help us but we must hold them responsible. When we talk to our Representatives we must send them a clear message to repeal Taft Hartley and stop messing with our Unions. Our membership has dropped from the day Taft Hartley was made law and if we are to survive WE MUST STRIVE TO REPEAL THE TAFT HARTLEY ACT AND TAKE CONTROL OF OUR UNIONS WITHOUT GOVERNMENT AND MANAGEMENT INTERFERENCE.