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ILWU Longshore union, shippers see slow progress in U.S. West Coast port talks

Current News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 13:42

ILWU Longshore union, shippers see slow progress in U.S. West Coast port talks
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/15/us-usa-ports-westcoast-idUSKBN...
BY STEVE GORMAN
LOS ANGELES Mon Dec 15, 2014 2:35pm EST
(Reuters) - The union for 20,000 dockworkers and a group of their employers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports say they are making slow but steady progress in months-long contract talks seen by the shipping industry as a contributing factor in chronic cargo backups.

However, neither side has ventured to say how much longer it might take to reach a settlement, and both parties continued to abide by a news blackout on the details of their talks and the issues that divide them.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, representing terminal operators and shipping lines at the ports, opened their talks in May and mutually agreed to keep negotiating after their old contract expired June 30.

The parties said in August they had reached a tentative deal on healthcare benefits, "but apart from that everything else remains on the table," association spokesman Steve Getzug said.

Since resuming talks after a hiatus in November, negotiators have met on a fairly regular basis, they said.

"Both sides are working hard, and every day they get a little more done, and every day they get closer to a settlement," union spokesman Craig Merrilees said.

"Any time you're meeting and talking, that's progress," Getzug said.

Ninety union delegates from all 29 ports were expected to review the status of talks when they convened on Monday in San Francisco for a caucus, Merrilees said, adding that the session may be adjourned early to allow negotiations to resume.

DELAYS AND DIVERSIONS

Management sees an eventual settlement as key to easing severe cargo delays that began in mid-October at several container ports that account for nearly half of U.S. maritime trade and over 70 percent of imports from Asia.

The congestion has been most pronounced at Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's two busiest shipping hubs, which together handle 43 percent of all container cargo entering the United States.

The number of freighters stuck waiting at anchor for berths to open in Los Angeles and Long Beach has ranged from about a half dozen to 18 on any given day since backups began. Seven ships were waiting at anchor on Monday, down from 13 on Friday, port officials said.

Management has accused the union of orchestrating some slowdowns to bolster leverage at the bargaining table. Union officials deny organizing delays but acknowledge some dockworkers may be acting on their own out of frustration over the pace of contract talks.

They point to other factors that port officials cite as the main causes of gridlock. Chief among them is a shortage of tractor-trailer chassis used for hauling cargo from the ports to warehouses, a situation created when shippers decided to sell off their chassis to third-party equipment-leasing companies.

Union and port officials also point to record import levels, rail service delays and the advent of super-sized container vessels delivering greater cargo volumes all at once.

The port slowdowns, coming just after the peak holiday shipping season, have nevertheless rippled through the commercial supply chain, with prolonged days in the delivery of goods ranging from apparel to apples and grain.

Cargo that normally takes two to three days to clear the ports now faces lag times of up to two weeks, and shipments of some goods, such as coffee, are being diverted from the West Coast to other ports, like Houston.

Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said congestion was starting to ease and that the backlog hopefully will be cleared before the next heavy cargo season in February.

Insisting that labor tensions are distracting from efforts to ease the cargo crunch and could lead to a worsening situation, the National Retail Federation has urged the White House to appoint a federal mediator to help settle the talks.

The union has opposed mediation, Merrilees said, because the two sides are still making headway. Getzug said management was open to the idea.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Eric Beech)

Tags: ILWU Coast Contractlabor tensions
Categories: Labor News

ILWU Longshore union, shippers see slow progress in U.S. West Coast port talks

Current News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 13:42

ILWU Longshore union, shippers see slow progress in U.S. West Coast port talks
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/15/us-usa-ports-westcoast-idUSKBN...
BY STEVE GORMAN
LOS ANGELES Mon Dec 15, 2014 2:35pm EST
(Reuters) - The union for 20,000 dockworkers and a group of their employers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports say they are making slow but steady progress in months-long contract talks seen by the shipping industry as a contributing factor in chronic cargo backups.

However, neither side has ventured to say how much longer it might take to reach a settlement, and both parties continued to abide by a news blackout on the details of their talks and the issues that divide them.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, representing terminal operators and shipping lines at the ports, opened their talks in May and mutually agreed to keep negotiating after their old contract expired June 30.

The parties said in August they had reached a tentative deal on healthcare benefits, "but apart from that everything else remains on the table," association spokesman Steve Getzug said.

Since resuming talks after a hiatus in November, negotiators have met on a fairly regular basis, they said.

"Both sides are working hard, and every day they get a little more done, and every day they get closer to a settlement," union spokesman Craig Merrilees said.

"Any time you're meeting and talking, that's progress," Getzug said.

Ninety union delegates from all 29 ports were expected to review the status of talks when they convened on Monday in San Francisco for a caucus, Merrilees said, adding that the session may be adjourned early to allow negotiations to resume.

DELAYS AND DIVERSIONS

Management sees an eventual settlement as key to easing severe cargo delays that began in mid-October at several container ports that account for nearly half of U.S. maritime trade and over 70 percent of imports from Asia.

The congestion has been most pronounced at Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's two busiest shipping hubs, which together handle 43 percent of all container cargo entering the United States.

The number of freighters stuck waiting at anchor for berths to open in Los Angeles and Long Beach has ranged from about a half dozen to 18 on any given day since backups began. Seven ships were waiting at anchor on Monday, down from 13 on Friday, port officials said.

Management has accused the union of orchestrating some slowdowns to bolster leverage at the bargaining table. Union officials deny organizing delays but acknowledge some dockworkers may be acting on their own out of frustration over the pace of contract talks.

They point to other factors that port officials cite as the main causes of gridlock. Chief among them is a shortage of tractor-trailer chassis used for hauling cargo from the ports to warehouses, a situation created when shippers decided to sell off their chassis to third-party equipment-leasing companies.

Union and port officials also point to record import levels, rail service delays and the advent of super-sized container vessels delivering greater cargo volumes all at once.

The port slowdowns, coming just after the peak holiday shipping season, have nevertheless rippled through the commercial supply chain, with prolonged days in the delivery of goods ranging from apparel to apples and grain.

Cargo that normally takes two to three days to clear the ports now faces lag times of up to two weeks, and shipments of some goods, such as coffee, are being diverted from the West Coast to other ports, like Houston.

Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said congestion was starting to ease and that the backlog hopefully will be cleared before the next heavy cargo season in February.

Insisting that labor tensions are distracting from efforts to ease the cargo crunch and could lead to a worsening situation, the National Retail Federation has urged the White House to appoint a federal mediator to help settle the talks.

The union has opposed mediation, Merrilees said, because the two sides are still making headway. Getzug said management was open to the idea.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Eric Beech)

Tags: ILWU Coast Contractlabor tensions
Categories: Labor News

ILWU Longshore union, shippers see slow progress in U.S. West Coast port talks

Current News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 13:42

ILWU Longshore union, shippers see slow progress in U.S. West Coast port talks
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/15/us-usa-ports-westcoast-idUSKBN...
BY STEVE GORMAN
LOS ANGELES Mon Dec 15, 2014 2:35pm EST
(Reuters) - The union for 20,000 dockworkers and a group of their employers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports say they are making slow but steady progress in months-long contract talks seen by the shipping industry as a contributing factor in chronic cargo backups.

However, neither side has ventured to say how much longer it might take to reach a settlement, and both parties continued to abide by a news blackout on the details of their talks and the issues that divide them.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, representing terminal operators and shipping lines at the ports, opened their talks in May and mutually agreed to keep negotiating after their old contract expired June 30.

The parties said in August they had reached a tentative deal on healthcare benefits, "but apart from that everything else remains on the table," association spokesman Steve Getzug said.

Since resuming talks after a hiatus in November, negotiators have met on a fairly regular basis, they said.

"Both sides are working hard, and every day they get a little more done, and every day they get closer to a settlement," union spokesman Craig Merrilees said.

"Any time you're meeting and talking, that's progress," Getzug said.

Ninety union delegates from all 29 ports were expected to review the status of talks when they convened on Monday in San Francisco for a caucus, Merrilees said, adding that the session may be adjourned early to allow negotiations to resume.

DELAYS AND DIVERSIONS

Management sees an eventual settlement as key to easing severe cargo delays that began in mid-October at several container ports that account for nearly half of U.S. maritime trade and over 70 percent of imports from Asia.

The congestion has been most pronounced at Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's two busiest shipping hubs, which together handle 43 percent of all container cargo entering the United States.

The number of freighters stuck waiting at anchor for berths to open in Los Angeles and Long Beach has ranged from about a half dozen to 18 on any given day since backups began. Seven ships were waiting at anchor on Monday, down from 13 on Friday, port officials said.

Management has accused the union of orchestrating some slowdowns to bolster leverage at the bargaining table. Union officials deny organizing delays but acknowledge some dockworkers may be acting on their own out of frustration over the pace of contract talks.

They point to other factors that port officials cite as the main causes of gridlock. Chief among them is a shortage of tractor-trailer chassis used for hauling cargo from the ports to warehouses, a situation created when shippers decided to sell off their chassis to third-party equipment-leasing companies.

Union and port officials also point to record import levels, rail service delays and the advent of super-sized container vessels delivering greater cargo volumes all at once.

The port slowdowns, coming just after the peak holiday shipping season, have nevertheless rippled through the commercial supply chain, with prolonged days in the delivery of goods ranging from apparel to apples and grain.

Cargo that normally takes two to three days to clear the ports now faces lag times of up to two weeks, and shipments of some goods, such as coffee, are being diverted from the West Coast to other ports, like Houston.

Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said congestion was starting to ease and that the backlog hopefully will be cleared before the next heavy cargo season in February.

Insisting that labor tensions are distracting from efforts to ease the cargo crunch and could lead to a worsening situation, the National Retail Federation has urged the White House to appoint a federal mediator to help settle the talks.

The union has opposed mediation, Merrilees said, because the two sides are still making headway. Getzug said management was open to the idea.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Eric Beech)

Tags: ILWU Coast Contractlabor tensions
Categories: Labor News

Threatening America Oil Trains: Unsafe (and Unnecessary) at Any Speed

Current News - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 09:41

Threatening America
Oil Trains: Unsafe (and Unnecessary) at Any Speed
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/16/oil-trains-unsafe-and-unnecessary...
DECEMBER 16, 2014

Threatening America
Oil Trains: Unsafe (and Unnecessary) at Any Speed
by RALPH NADER
Back in 1991 the National Transportation Safety Board first identified oil trains as unsafe — the tank cars, specifically ones called DOT-111s, were too thin and punctured too easily, making transport of flammable liquids like oil unreasonably dangerous. As bad as this might sound, at the very least there was not a lot of oil being carried on the rails in 1991.

Now, in the midst of a North American oil boom, oil companies are using fracking and tar sands mining to produce crude in remote areas of the U.S. and Canada. To get the crude to refineries on the coasts the oil industry is ramping up transport by oil trains. In 2008, 9,500 crude oil tank cars moved on US rails. In 2013 the number was more than 400,000! With this rapid growth comes a looming threat to public safety and the environment. No one — not federal regulators or local firefighters — are prepared for oil train derailments, spills and explosions.

Unfortunately, the rapid increase in oil trains has already meant many more oil train disasters. Railroads spilled more oil in 2013 than in the previous 40 years combined.

Trains are the most efficient way to move freight and people. This is why train tracks run through our cities and towns. Our rail system was never designed to move hazardous materials, however; if it was, train tracks would not run next to schools and under football stadiums.

Last summer, environmental watchdog group ForestEthics released a map of North America that shows probable oil train routes. Using Google, anyone can check to see if their home or office is near an oil train route. (Try it out here.)

ForestEthics used census data to calculate that more than 25 millionAmericans live in the oil train blast zone (that being the one-mile evacuation area in the case of a derailment and fire.) This is clearly a risk not worth taking — oil trains are the Pintos of the rails. Most of these trains are a mile long, pulling 100-plus tank cars carrying more than 3 million gallons of explosive crude. Two-thirds of the tank cars used to carry crude oil today were considered a “substantial danger to life, property, and the environment” by federal rail safety officials back in 1991.

The remaining one-third of the tank cars are not much better — these more “modern” cars are tested at 14 to 15 mph, but the average derailment speed for heavy freight trains is 24 mph. And it was the most “modern” tank cars that infamously derailed, caught fire, exploded and poisoned the river in Lynchburg, West Virginia, last May. Other derailments and explosions in North Dakota and Alabama made national news in 2014.

The most alarming demonstration of the threat posed by these trains happened in Quebec in July 2013 — an oil train derailed and exploded in the City of Lac Megantic, killing 47 people and burning a quarter of the city to the ground. The fire burned uncontrollably, flowing through the city, into and then out of sewers, and into the nearby river. Firefighters from across the region responded, but an oil fire cannot be fought with water, and exceptionally few fire departments have enough foam flame retardant to control a fire from even a single 30,000 gallon tank car, much less the millions of gallons on an oil train.

Given the damage already done and the threat presented, Canada immediately banned the oldest of these rail cars and mandated a three-year phase-out of the DOT-111s. More needs to be done, but this is a solid first step. Of course, we share the North American rail network — right now those banned trains from Canada may very well be transporting oil through your home town while the Department of Transportation dallies.

The immense public risk these oil trains pose is starting to gain the attention it deserves, but not yet the response. Last summer, the U.S. federal government began the process of writing new safety regulations. Industry has weighed in heavily to protect its interest in keeping these trains rolling. The Department of Transportation, disturbingly, seems to be catering to industry’s needs.

The current draft rules are deeply flawed and would have little positive impact on safety. They leave the most dangerous cars in service for years. Worse yet, the oil industry would get to more than double its tank car fleet before being required to decommission any of the older, more dangerous DOT-111s.

We need an immediate ban on the most dangerous tank cars. We also need to slow these trains down; slower trains mean fewer accidents, and fewer spills and explosions when they do derail. The public and local fire fighters must be notified about train routes and schedules, and every oil train needs a comprehensive emergency response plan for accidents involving explosive Bakken crude and toxic tar sands. In addition, regulations must require adequate insurance. This is the least we could expect from Secretary Anthony Foxx, who travels a lot around the country, and the Department of Transportation.

So far, Secretary Foxx is protecting the oil industry, not ordinary Americans. In fact, Secretary Foxx is meeting with Canadian officials this Thursday, December 18, to discuss oil-by-rail. It is doubtful, considering Canada’s strong first step, that he will be trying to persuade them to adopt even stronger regulations. Will Secretary Foxx ask them to weaken what they have done and put more lives at risk? Time will tell. He has the power, and the mandate, to remove the most dangerous rail cars to protect public safety but he appears to be heading in the opposite direction. Earlier this month ForestEthics and the Sierra Club, represented by EarthJustice, filed a lawsuit against the DOT to require them to fulfill this duty.

Secretary Foxx no doubt has a parade of corporate executives wooing him for lax or no oversight. But he certainly doesn’t want to have a Lac Megantic-type disaster in the U.S. on his watch. It is more possible now than ever before, given the massive increase in oil-by-rail traffic.

Pipelines, such as the Keystone XL, are not the answer either. (Keystone oil would be routed for export to other countries from Gulf ports.) Pipelines can also leak and result in massive damage to the environment as we have seen in the Kalamazoo, MI spill by the Enbridge Corporation. Three years later, $1.2 billion spent, and the “clean up” is still ongoing.

Here’s the reality — we don’t need new pipelines and we don’t need oil by rail. This is “extreme oil,” and if we can’t transport it safely, we can and must say no. Secretary Foxx needs to help make sure 25 million people living in the blastzone are safe and that means significant regulations and restrictions on potentially catastrophic oil rail cars.

Rather than choosing either of these destructive options, we are fortunate to be able to choose safe, affordable cleaner energy and more efficient energy products, such as vehicles and furnaces, instead. That is the future and it is not a distant future — it’s happening right now.

Tags: Oil Trainshealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Brief Summary of Pension Legislation

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 09:35
Segal ConsultingDecember 16, 2014

Click here to read a brief summary of the Multiemployer Pension Reform passed by Congress expected to become law.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Self-Driving Trucks Could Revolutionize Package Delivery, DHL Predicts

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 07:30
Richard WeissBloomberg NewsDecember 16, 2014View the original piece

While Google Inc. plans to someday unleash driverless cars on public streets, the logistics industry will probably be one of the first training grounds for such automated vehicles.

Shipping companies will probably adopt the technology faster than other industries as moving cargo in non-public areas like storage facilities and warehouses offers a way to test such devices with less risk to human life, according to a study published by DHL, the freight and express arm of Deutsche Post AG. Eventually vehicles might bring packages to a pick-up station where a consumer could find them, the shipper said.

DHL plans to “maintain pole position in the world of self-driving vehicles,” wrote Matthias Heutger and Markus Kueckelhaus, the authors of the study. “The question is no longer ‘if’ but rather ‘when’ autonomous vehicles will drive onto our streets and highways.”

A boom in electronic commerce is making it harder for delivery companies from DHL to UPS Inc. to satisfy consumers who expect first-attempt delivery even though they’re not home during daytime hours.

With online retailers including Amazon.com Inc. and Google developing drones to push into the delivery business, companies are contemplating new solutions, such as making deliveries to the trunk of a customer’s parked car.

Warehouses have been using robots and automated pallet movers for decades, however, the systems typically stop when they encounter obstacles to ensure safety, the study said. The robots will in the future deploy vision-guidance technologies including depth cameras and lasers to improve efficiency, and include more steps of the shipping process.

Robots will also increasingly be used outdoors at shipyards, ports and airports to automatize movement of pallets and swap containers, the study said.

On roads, existing driver assistance systems will be enhanced to ensure vehicles stay in their lanes, obey speed limits and eventually automate functions like overtaking and leaving a highway, while semi-automatic trucks will develop from being able to drive parts of a journey themselves before driverless trucks become reality, the study said.

Automation will improve road safety and fuel efficiency and increase the economics of the logistics chain, the study said.

Komatsu Ltd. is already developing driverless dump trucks and Caterpillar Inc. deploys driverless hauling vehicles to improve productivity in mines for BHP Billiton Plc. Further out, the DHL study envisaged more “futuristic” solutions such as self-driving parcels that may one day arrive through small gates in consumers’ doors, similar to a cat flap.

Deutsche Post started a pilot project of sending urgent goods to the island of Juist in Germany’s Wadden Sea, beating Amazon and Google to offer the first scheduled parcel delivery service with drones this year. The company has said it will take time before such services become a widespread possibility.

Issues: Freight
Categories: Labor News, Unions

New labor board will keep bosses from stalling union elections

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 07:23
Laura ClawsonDaily KosDecember 16, 2014View the original piece

The National Labor Relations Board finally issued its long-in-the-works rule speeding up union representation elections. Currently, employers can drag out the election process by withholding information from organizers and with frivolous lawsuits, time they often use to intimidate and coerce workers away from union support.

The new rule, set to take effect on April 15, will cut waiting times between when an election is set and when it happens, put off litigation—often filed by businesses to drag out the election process—until after the election, allow election petitions to be filed electronically (hi there, 21st century!), require businesses to share additional worker contact information with union organizers, and consolidate the post-election appeals process.

Click here to read more at Daily Kos.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

UK: Inflation fall shows economic need for wage rises, says TUC

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: TUC
Categories: Labor News

Colombia: Ruben Montoya: workplace accident finally recognized

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL Global Union
Categories: Labor News

Nigeria: Oil workers begin strike

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: BBC
Categories: Labor News

Germany: Amazon workers strike in Germany as Christmas nears

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: BBC
Categories: Labor News

Join the Pension Justice Campaign

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 13:46

December 15, 2014: Congress has passed legislation that guts pension protections and may pave the way for benefit cuts in the Central States Pension Fund.

We’re not going to stand by and let this happen without a fight.

Yesterday, TDU held a conference call with over 400 Teamsters and retirees—and we are just getting started.

Click here to join our Campaign for Pension Justice.

Our Campaign for Pension Justice will make our voices heard from Capitol Hill to the Central States Pension Fund.

We will continue to partner with allies like the Pension Rights Center, the AARP, and unions to challenge the new law and fight for new pension protections.

We’re also organizing Teamsters and retirees to take on the Central States Pension Fund directly.

We are prepared to hold pension organizing meetings around the country to inform and mobilize Teamsters and retirees.

Click here to join our Campaign for Pension Justice.

Our pension funds have been run down by Wall Street and the Hoffa administration. Retirees shouldn’t pay the price for their failures. 

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Workers At Con-Way Freight In Miami Vote To Join Teamsters Local 769

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 10:22
International Brotherhood of TeamstersDecember 15, 2014View the original piece

A group of 74 drivers and dockworkers at Con-way Freight in Miami Lakes, Fla., voted today to join Teamsters Local 769 in North Miami, Fla.

“The Con-way workers have taken a bold step today to improve their lives and have a more secure future as Teamsters,” said Mike Scott, President of Teamsters Local 769. “As we have seen across the country, the company spent lots of money to wage a vicious anti-worker campaign, but the workers remained strong and united and didn’t let management’s bullying get to them.”

Click here to read more.

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

UPS Profits Off Pension Cuts

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:54

December 15, 2014: The lame duck Congress has attached pension cut legislation to the end-of-year spending bill that will pave the way for the worst pension cuts in Teamster history.

Leave it to UPS to find a way to make billions off this disaster.

UPS lobbyists fought for and won a special interest loophole that shifts $2 billion in the company’s pension responsibilities on to the backs of Teamster retirees in the Central States. These retirees will now face even bigger pension cuts as a result.

UPS is the one and only company that benefits from the loophole on pages 81-82. Its purpose is to ensure that the Central States Pension Fund will not reduce the pensions of UPS workers who retired after January 1, 2008.

Not reducing pensions. Isn’t that a good thing? Of course! But UPS retirees in the Central States are already protected from having their pensions reduced.

In the case of any pension cuts by Central States, Article 34, Section 1 of the UPS master agreement, requires the company to make up any lost pension benefits.

UPS’s special interest loophole means the company won’t have to make up for any pension cuts. The loophole doesn’t save UPS retirees a dime, but UPS will save a fortune.

Teamster retirees and their widows will face $2 billion more in pension cuts so UPS can get out of paying the obligations it agreed to in the contact.

What can Brown do for you? Certainly, not this.

Issues: UPSPension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Middle-class retirees deserve better from Congress

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 06:40
Editorial BoardSt. Louis Post-DispatchDecember 15, 2014View the original piece

The devastating pension reform crammed into the omnibus spending bill that will likely soon become law would allow pension trustees to slash the benefits of retired workers and cut future benefits for a shrinking pool of middle-income employees.

These people were and are the backbone of our nation’s economy. They drive trucks, mine coal, haul bricks and bag groceries. Corporations have been weaseling out of guarantees for future retirees for years, but promises to current retirees generally have been sacrosanct.

Most of these employees contributed what was expected of them over their working lifetimes and retired — or hope to — with a well-earned nest egg.

 

The plans that will be affected are know as multiemployer pension plans. They typically involve union workers who are allowed to accrue benefits while changing employers, with each employer contributing to the plan.

About 1,400 such plans currently cover about 10 million workers, and most of the plans are solvent. Between 150 and 200 of them, covering roughly 1.5 million workers, are not. They could run out of funds within the next 20 years, according to the Pension Rights Center.

It’s those pension plans that the legislation aims to benefit. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., an agency set up 40 years ago to guarantee those pensions, says it may run out of money to pay them in 2018, and is certain to be broke by 2025.

Hence the emergency. While it is important to help prevent these plans from becoming insolvent, pension advocates say the deal Congress worked out in haste and then attached to the $1.1 trillion budget bill funding all of government is the wrong way to do it.

That politicians are willing to eviscerate labor law safeguards that have been in place since 1974 under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known by its acronym, ERISA, is a sign of what little value they place on the futures of the hard-working men and women of Main Street.

Because the plans generally benefit union members, they are not popular with congressional Republicans. Union political influence has been waning for years and some of the plans — such as the Central States Teamsters fund — have a history that includes legendary levels of corruption. Even though that was generations ago, it’s enough to give cover to grandstanding lawmakers who want to look like they have a legitimate reason to vote against older, middle-class workers.

Selling out these workers is the wrong message to send to future retirees. The baby boomers now retiring may be the last generation of Americans to leave work assured of adequate income in old age. It’s not just the 1 percent who deserve security.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

IBT Central States Funds Executive Salaries...For The Love Of Money!

Current News - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 00:33

IBT Central States Funds Executive Salaries...For The Love Of Money!
http://www.truckingboards.com/bb/threads/central-states-funds-executive-...

The "Dirty Dozen"

Tom Nyhan $662,060
Mark Angerame $430,660
James Condon $373,047
Albert Madden $371,229
Robert Coco $363,604
John J. Franczyk Jr. $362,074
Albert Nelson $305,811
Peter Priede $278,407
William Schaefer $277,391
Patrick Moroney $223,217
Ray Hale $221,155
Scott Robbins $202,269

Source: Central States Pension Fund and Central States Health & Welfare Fund (yes they double dip) Form 5500 Reports to the Department of Labor!

Tags: IBTsalariesCentral States Pension Funds
Categories: Labor News

Rincon Neigborhood Appeals Commonwealth Club Destruction Of ILA 1934 Strike HQ Building Facade

Current News - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 20:49

Rincon Neigborhood Appeals Commonwealth Club Destruction Of ILA 1934 Strike HQ Building Facade

Rincon Point Neighborhood Association
88 Howard Street Post Office Box 193015 San Francisco, CA 94119
December 13, 2014

Angela Calvillo
Clerk of the Board of Supervisors City Hall, Room 244
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place San Francisco, CA 94102

Re: Appeal of Mitigated Negative Declaration, 110 The Embarcadero (2011.1388E) Via email and USPS Priority Mail
Dear Ms Calvillo:

The Rincon Point Neighbors Association, with the support of numerous individuals and approximately 20 community groups, hereby appeals the Planning Commission’s denial of its appeal of the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the proposed project at 110 The Embarcadero. This proposal amounts to the destruction of one of the city’s most historic buildings and one of the most important union-related buildings on the west coast. The ILWU unanimously called for landmarking this building at its 34th International Convention in Seattle.

Testimony shows that this project should have received an Environmental Impact Report. Historical issues have been glossed over and ignored. The building is eligible for listing on the California Register under Criterion A, association with important events, for its direct association with the 1934 waterfront and general strikes in San Francisco. The building was the headquarters of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and its leader, Harry Bridges, during the 1934 longshoremen’s strike. It was the site of one of the slayings on “Bloody Thursday,” and was the location where the bodies of the slain men lay in state.

HISTORY IGNORED:

The Commonwealth Club and Planning
Department are attempting to re-write history by
ignoring the association of the building with the
considerable contributions of the union and the
leadership of Harry Bridges. They have the gall to
state none of the building’s occupants appear “to
have made a significant contribution to local, state
or national history” (page 25, PMND). They have
declared Harry Bridges was not present at the
1934 strike committee (which he led) or at the
union local (where his leadership was consolidated during the 1934 strike). The historic

Rincon Point Neighbors Association

evidence overwhelmingly indicates this building was Harry Bridges’ headquarters during the strike. This makes the building eligible for listing in the California Register under Criterion 2 (persons) and requires the building to be preserved. The Planning Department and Commonwealth Club do not want this historic building preserved. That is why they are re-writing history. Of course it was the city’s powerful elite (mayor, downtown business interests, and the wealthy) who opposed the union in 1934. Today, their counterparts are still downplaying the union and Mr. Bridges by supporting the Commonwealth Club’s plans.

History was made on the Embarcadero, but the Commonwealth Club would remove ALL character-defining features of the building’s Embarcadero façade. The MND tries to excuse this by arbitrarily claiming “the significance of the property under Criterion 1 is most closely tied to the Steuart Street façade.” That is nonsensical and there is no basis for this proclamation. The Commonwealth Club bought one building, not two. The slain men lay in state inside the building. The building (not the façade) was headquarters of the union during the strike. On Bloody Thursday the SFPD shot gas canisters through the windows on both sides of this building. Harry Bridges obviously worked at the headquarters of the union he headed which was housed inside the building. The claim that only the Steuart Street façade is significant is absurd. This seems to be based on a photograph of preparations of the slain men’s funeral procession down Market Street. The great historic events focus on the strike, most of which took place on the Embarcadero. The personal leadership for these events emanated from this building.

In any event, the façade being proposed for the Steuart Street side would not be an accurate restoration anyway. The most visible first floor is completely different from 1934, and the newly inserted third floor would be visible and too close to the existing façade (set back only six- to eight-feet).

DESIGN CONCERNS:

This historic Classical Revival building has handsome columns flanking five large windows. It is the same design on both sides of the building. Though poorly painted at this time, the historic design needs to be maintained to stay in sync with the rest of the block.

The MND is incorrect when it states a new modern glass curtain wall “would not have a significant impact upon the existing character of the Project’s vicinity.”

2

This is the last block in the city of mostly 100-year old buildings on the waterfront. It deserves to become a historic district. It is even more important because it faces the open waterfront. One building on the block survived the earthquake and fire and still exists at the north end (the Audiffred Building). Most

maintain much of their ornamentation, such as the
YMCA. The rest of the buildings were designed with a
dignified, classic look including the streamline
moderne (a style developed in the 1930s) office
building at the south end of the block. None have the
uninteresting glass curtain wall appearance that the
club is proposing. (Most world-class cities would
protect a block of buildings on the water. For
example, London, Paris, Florence, St. Petersburg,
Amsterdam (right) and other great cities would require
them to be either preserved or designed to maintain the historic look.)

EARLIER BOARD FINDINGS:

It should be noted that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors found on March 31, 2009 that some of these same issues were significant at this location. Their motion stated the following about this existing building:

•  “There is substantial evidence that the existing building at 110 The Embarcadero, which also fronts 113-115 Steuart Street, is an historical resource.”

•  “...there is substantial evidence in the record that the building retains integrity...”

•  “...the building remains in its original location, the historic Audiffred Building remains next door and five of the buildings in the vicinity visible from a 1934

photograph still stand, resulting in a blockface the retains integrity. The massing and scale of the building, the shaped parapet with coping and the stucco cladding of the building remain the same as they were in 1934. Bradley Wiedmaier states that the second floor window opening dimension, the number of openings, the depth of the glazing from the wall surface and framing remain the same.”

•  “...alterations (already made) to the façade details mentioned by Page and Turnbull are largely reversible.”

•  “Given the substantial evidence in the record to support a determination that the building is an historical resource because it retains integrity associated with important historic events, there is a fair argument that the project, which proposed the demolition of the resource, may result in a substantial adverse change in the significance of an historical resource requiring the preparation of an EIR.”

•  “Planning Department staff found the project inconsistent with Planning Code Section 101.1(b)(2), which calls for conserving and protecting ... neighborhood character.”

•  “Written and oral testimony presented at the hearing identified the potentially significant impact on birds flying into the “mostly glass” walls....”

There is no reason demolition of the east façade of the building which faces the heavily traveled (pedestrian, bike, auto, streetcar) Embarcadero should be allowed now.

3

Members of the Rincon Point Neighbors Association and the Rincon Center Tenants Association have been actively tracking neighborhood projects since the 1990s. Residents have testified about the over-development of Rincon Park, the loss of the city’s 125-year-old transit terminal in front of the Ferry Building, the proposal for 75 Howard that would be nearly 50% over the height limit, and the rejected Hines project previously proposed for 110 The Embarcadero.

Sincerely,

David Osgood President

Cc: Environmental Review Officer Enclosures

Tags: ILAILWU 1934 General Strike
Categories: Labor News

Colombia: Demand justice for Colombian trade unionist

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: UNISON
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Ecuador: 13 workers killed at power plant site

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Categories: Labor News

Bill to Let Multiemployer Pensions Cut Benefits Passes

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 08:19
Stephen MillerSHRMDecember 14, 2014View the original piece

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

smiller [at] shrm.org (Stephen Miller), CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

Related SHRM Articles:

Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms, SHRM Online Legal Issues, December 2014

Multiemployer Pension Plan Problems Aired, SHRM Online Benefits, November 2013

FASB Issues Update on Employer Disclosures for Multiemployer Plans, SHRM Online Benefits, September 2011

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dpuf

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

smiller [at] shrm.org (Stephen Miller), CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

Related SHRM Articles:

Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms, SHRM Online Legal Issues, December 2014

Multiemployer Pension Plan Problems Aired, SHRM Online Benefits, November 2013

FASB Issues Update on Employer Disclosures for Multiemployer Plans, SHRM Online Benefits, September 2011

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dp

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dpuf

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dpuf
 

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

- See more at: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/multiemployer-...(SHRM+Online+Compensation+%26+Benefits+News)#sthash.iJfhUlGV.dpuf

Severely distressed multiemployer pensions will be able to reduce benefits paid to retirees under an amendment to the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 13, two days after House passage. The bill now goes to the White House for an expected presidential signature.

The pension measure, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders but opposed by some retiree advocates and their congressional allies, is intended to let deeply underfunded multiemployer plans avoid bankruptcy and termination, and by doing so to keep solvent the multiemployer pension insurance fund overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal pension insurance program.

The provisions apply only to multiemployer pensions and not to single-sponsor corporate pensions, which are subject to a different set of regulations and higher funding-level requirements. The PBGC maintains a separate insurance fund for single-sponsor pensions. Multiemployer or "Taft-Hartley" pension plans commonly are administered by labor unions on behalf of their members and funded by multiple employers in a common industry, subject to collective bargaining contracts with the union.

As SHRM Online recently reported (see Multiemployer Pension Funding Crisis Looms), in November 2014 the PBGC issued a report indicating its multiemployer insurance program was almost certain to become insolvent in 10 years. Of the 1,400 multiemployer plans nationwide, 200 plans covering a total of 1 million participants are at risk of termination.

Cutback Provisions

The measure passed by the House would allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pensions to cut retiree benefits to prevent plan insolvency. Financially troubled plans are those that are expected to not have enough money to pay 100 percent of benefits in 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the cuts could exceed 60 percent of a participant’s benefits.

Under the measure:

Retirees who are age 80 or over, or are receiving a disability pension, are not subject to benefit cuts. Retirees ages 75-79 are subject to smaller cuts than retirees under age 75.

Plan trustees have discretion in deciding how to allocate the cuts. For example, they can cut retirees’ benefits more than those of active workers, and decide whether to reduce survivors’ benefits.

Plan trustees are exempt from fiduciary responsibility in making cuts.

Trustees’ decisions to cut benefits can only be reversed by the Department of Treasury, and then only if the Treasury determines that the trustees’ decision to cut benefits or the extent of the benefit cuts is “clearly erroneous.”

There is no provision for automatic restoration of lost benefits if a plan’s funding status improves.

Plans with 10,000 or more participants must allow all participants to vote on cuts before they are implemented. A majority of all workers and retirees in a plan—not just a majority of the ones who vote—is required to block cuts. Ballots can be distributed by e-mail.

Even if a majority of participants vote against cuts, the Treasury Department can override the vote and uphold the trustees’ decision to make cuts, if it concludes that a plan poses a “systemic” risk to the PBGC.

The insurance premiums that multiemployer plans pay to the PBGC are increased from $13 to $26 per participant per year. (In contrast, premiums paid to the single-employer plan program are between $57 and $475 per participant per year.)

Strong Responses

“The pension provisions in the spending bill allow trustees of financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to reduce benefits of retirees by as much as 60 percent if there is a projection that plan assets might be depleted in 10 to 20 years—when many of today’s retirees will no longer be alive,” according to a critical statement by the Pension Rights Center, an advocacy group for pensioners. “Also extremely troubling is the secretive process by which these provisions were pushed through Congress, buried in a must-pass bill in the last days of a lame-duck session, without input from the pensioners whose lives could be devastated by the cutbacks authorized by the measure. The process was undemocratic and unfair.”

In a letter to House and Senate members, AARP also opposed passage, stating that “Permitting plans to break the fundamental requirement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)—that plans must honor pension promises for benefits already earned and vested—not only would hurt retirees, it would also significantly weaken ERISA and set an undesirable precedent. This precedent could have a detrimental impact on other earned pensions, and the overall retirement income security of the nation.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement, “Under this bill, for the first time, Congress will allow multiemployer plans to cut retirees’ earned pension benefits. This is unprecedented and I worry about the impact on retirees and the slippery slope we’re about to head down.”

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who along with Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., put together the coalition supporting the amendment, told the Washington Post, “We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable.”

Randy G. DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, an employer-union coalition, said in a statement that House passage of the measure “recognizes the years of work that America’s unions and employers did to develop a solution that doesn’t require a massive taxpayer bailout and instead provides a path forward for these troubled pension plans.”

Categories: Labor News, Unions

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