Union: Proposed Texas pension changes break promise to public employees

Members of the Texas State Employees Union CWA Local 6186 staged a mass call-in to protest the lowering of their pension and health care benefit proposed by two bills that were recently passed out of the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee and House Pension Committee.

The two bills–CSHB 1882 and CSHB 1884–increase the age at which teachers, other public school employees, state employees, and higher education employees can retire with full benefits, substantially reduce pensions for those who retire when they reach a combination of 80 years of age and service but are younger than 62 years old, raise the employee pension contribution rate, and increase the number of years used to calculate the average final salary, which will lower most people’s pension benefit.

CSHB 1884 also establishes tiered health care benefits for retirees. Only those retirees with at least 20 years of service would get full health care premium coverage. Those with less service would pay a percentage of their premium.

The bills would provide a modest cost of living raise for retirees who have been retired for at least 20 years when and if the state’s two largest pension funds–TRS for teachers, public school employees, and public higher education employees, and ERS for state employees–are deemed to be fully funded.

The two bills also increase the state’s contribution to the two pension funds.

“A cost of living increase someday, maybe for some retirees and at least some increased state contribution now are both good, but they are not worth this bill’s extreme costs that are disproportionately at the expense of current and future employees and retirees,” said Reuben Leslie, a TSEU member. “The better way would be to invest some of the state’s budget surplus to fund a sustainable system that benefits the public and those who serve it.”

In an email to members, TSEU organizing coordinator Seth Hutchinson, urged members to phone their legislators and tell them to oppose CSHB 1882 and CSHB 1884. He also said that the key to protecting pensions, health care benefits, and improving wages is to get fellow workers who aren’t union members to join TSEU and TSEU’s political action committee, COPE.

Hutchinson said that CSHB 1882 and CSHB 1884 break a promise to employees. “Up until now, current state employees believed that they enter into an agreement with the state when hired, which is that if they committed their careers to public service that the state would ensure that they receive a decent pension when they retire,” said Hutchinson. “Both these bills change all that by restructuring active state employees’ pension funds.”

Derrick Osobase, TSEU’s political director, said that since 2001, teachers and state employees have seen their benefits erode. Teachers had their pension benefit reduced in 2007; state employees had theirs reduced in 2009. In 2011, both saw their pension contributions increase. State employee health care benefits have been reduced twice, once in 2003 and again in 2010.

CSHB 1882 and CSHB 1884 both demand more sacrifices from public employees at a time when the state has a budget surplus of $8.8 billion, a surplus that does not include an estimated $11.8 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Furthermore, both pension funds are financially sound. Both are above the 80 percent funded threshold that actuaries use to determine the financial health of a pension plan, and both have assets sufficient to pay current benefits for decades to come.

But some right-wing groups have used the fact that the pensions aren’t 100 percent funded to declare them a danger to the state’s fiscal health. Bill King, a hedge fund operator who leads the so-called Texans for Public Pension Reform, in August 2011 told the Austin American Statesman that public pensions aren’t sustainable and that the goal of his group is to eliminate them.

Reports to the Legislature, however, found that the two pension funds are sound and sustainable, and one of the reports said that eliminating them as King proposes would cost the state more money or result in reduced benefits.

The reports also found that the state’s pension plans were a good deal for the public. They provide a secure retirement for hundreds of thousands of Texans at a modest cost–about 2 percent of the state budget for 2012 and 2013.

Nevertheless, Sen. Robert Duncan, who chairs the State Affairs Committee told the Austin American Statesman that the pension cuts were needed stave off criticism from public pension opponents. He also said that accounting changes required by the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) also made the pension reductions necessary.

But according to TSEU, a better way to address these challenges would be for the state to increase substantially its pension funding. ERS staff estimate that the state’s current contribution to the ERS pension is about 0.046 percent of the budget. Raising the contribution to a higher percentage that would lead toward full funding would raise the ERS pension contribution percent of budget to only 0.065 percent.

Sen. Duncan also told the Statesman that the state has under funded the pension fund over the last two decades. For much of this time, the state contributed only the 6 percent minimum required by the Texas Constitution.

TSEU members are urging lawmakers to keep their promise to public employees and provide the funds needed to make up for two decades of inadequate pension funding. “Tell your legislator that it’s unfair to cut pensions when funds are available to fund it,” said Hutchinson. “They need to keep the promise made to us when we started working for the state.”

Hong Kong dockers seek international support for their strike

Dock workers in Hong Kong called for international support for their strike against Asia’s richest billionaire. The Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD) and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions on April 22 urged working-class organizations and individuals to show their solidarity with the dock workers by organizing protests at businesses owned by Hutchinson Whampoa, Ltd the operator of the Port of Hong Kong’s Hutchison International Terminal.

Hutchison Whampoa is owned by Li Ka-Shing, a billionaire, whose business empire includes retail stores, real estate, and mobile phone service.

“If possible, we hope you can organize a protest or petition to any Hutchison Whampoa-owned or invested businesses and send us pictures of the action, to shame Hutchison and to give a strong message of international solidarity to the strikers,” said Sally Choi, organizer for the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, in a message to supporters.

Members of the UHKD walked of the job on March 28 to protest low wages, the lack of safety on the job, poor working conditions, and discrimination against workers who work for employment firms that contract with Hutchison to provide so-called temporary labor at the docks.

About 2,000 dock workers and their supporters on April 22 rallied outside the Hutchison port terminals where strikers have been camping since they walked off the job. Another rally is planned for April 26 unless Hutchison Whampoa agrees to settle the issues that sparked the strike, which has interrupted services at Asia’s largest port and caused ships to be diverted to other ports.

The strikers, contract workers who number about 400, say that since 1997 their wages have declined and that they are forced to work in unsafe working conditions.

Cho Wai-kei, a striking crane operator, said that he earns about 90 Hong Kong dollars a shift less than he was earning in 1997. He also said that crane operators are forced to remain in the operating cages of their cranes for as long as 12 hours straight without a bathroom break.

“When you get into that metal cage, there’s no difference between you and a dog,” Cho said.

The dock workers are also protesting the lower pay that contract workers receive for doing the same work as those hired directly by Hutchison Whampoa.

“As for the crane drivers, the union’s only hope is that workers with the same job can earn the same wage,” said the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) in a recent public statement about the strike. “Why is it that despite having identical jobs, workers hired directly by the company make twice as much as those hired by subcontractors and, unlike the latter, are given time to eat, go to the bathroom and rest? Why have all subcontracted workers been stripped of these basic rights?”

According to HKCTU, contract crane operators earn between 50 percent to 150 percent less than permanent crane operators and work on average 312 hours per month  while permanent crane operators work 173 hours per month.

Hutchison Whampoa and its subcontractors have broken off negotiations with the strikers and their union, but  there is mounting political pressure for them to settle the strike. According to The Standard, strikers met with Hong Kong’s Secretary of Labor and Welfare on April 22, who subsequently issued a statement indicating that the government may try to mediate that dispute.

“The government has to be impartial and seek consensus between both parties in order to help them rebuild mutual trust,” said Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, secretary of Labor and Welfare. “So we should not comment on any remarks (that the strikers made after the meeting). It is hard to predict (when the strike will be resolved), but both sides should express sincerity and restart negotiations.”

Stanley Ho Wai-hong, a spokesperson for the dockers’ union, told The Standard that at a recent meeting, workers had agreed to adjust their demands but that the adjusted wage increase they are seeking is still in the double digits.

Ho said that the strikers are prepared to continue their strike and that more protests should be expected between now and Labor Day, which in Hong Kong is May 1.

Teachers union report exposes pension double dealing by hedge funds

The American Federation of Teachers on April 19 released a report identifying hedge fund and private equity firms and their managers who appear to be working both sides of the divide between those who want to maintain and strengthen traditional public pension plans and those who want to destroy them.

These asset managers solicit business from public pensions and at the same time contribute to and actively support groups seeking to eliminate public pensions and replace them with individual savings plans such as 401(k) plans.

Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, said that the purpose of the report is to provide information to trustees of public pension plans that they can use when deciding who will assist them in making investment decisions.

“This is about transparency—a right to know,” said Weingarten. “America’s workers and pension trustees deserve to know if the asset managers with whom they are investing their hard-earned retirement savings are also aligned with organizations advocating for the elimination of those same pension plans. With transparency and disclosure,trustees can make informed decisions about the risks their plans face.”

“I have an issue with people thinking they can play both sides,” said Jay Rehak, president of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund to the Wall Street Journal. “They come to us with their hand out, and then they are stabbing us in the back.”

The report, entitled Ranking Asset Managers, lists more than 30 hedge fund and private equity firms with ties to three groups–StudentsFirst, the Show-Me Institute, and the Manhattan Institute–that advocate eliminating public pensions. It also describes the anti-public pension activity of the three named groups.

According to the report, public pension plans have been repeatedly attacked by right-wing think tanks and political committees that receive much of their funding from hedge fund and private equity managers. Some of the same asset managers actively “seek investments from the deferred wages of teachers, firefighters, and other public servants, while attacking their economic interests.”

The report also says that over the last few years, the track record of hedge fund managers has been “uneven” and quotes a passage from the New York Times DealBook blog, which notes that over the last four years, hedge funds have underperformed in relation to the market. “The average hedge fund,” reads DealBook. “gained 6.4 percent last year. . . . By comparison, the Standard & Poors 500 stock index climbed 16 percent when factoring in dividends.”

According to Ranking Asset Managers, the companies on its watch list, which will be updated regularly, have directors or executives who contribute to or sit on the boards of the three anti-pension groups.

In a recent blog post, Matt Taibbi, who writes for Rolling Stone, provides more detail on one of the hedge fund operators identified by Ranking Asset Managers. According to Taibbi, Dan Loeb, founder and CEO of Third Point Capital, is on the board of StudentsFirst New York, “one of the leading advocates pushing for states to abandon defined benefit plans–in favor of defined contribution plans, where benefits are not guaranteed.”

At the same time, Loeb currently manages assets for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, the New Jersey State Investment Council, and other public pension plans.

Loeb was scheduled to speak at a recent meeting of the Council of Institutional Investors, a non-profit association of public pension plans, endowments, employee benefit plans, and foundations, where he was presumably going to pitch his services to potential customers.

Loeb, however, canceled his engagement after the teachers union made public his relationship with the anti-public pension group in New York.

Labor, other activists rally for Robin Hood Tax

About 2,000 labor, social justice, and other activists on April 20 rallied in Washington DC urging Congress to pass HR 1579, the Inclusive Prosperity Act by Rep. Keith Ellison. The Inclusive Prosperity Act would establish a small tax on financial transactions that would generate billions of dollars in new revenue that could be invested in public projects that rebuild America and create millions of new jobs. The financial transaction tax is known the Robin Hood Tax.

“In the world beyond the Beltway, people are still hurting. What they care about is not the debt ceiling or the fiscal cliff or the budget deficit. What they care about is the job deficit, the health care deficit, the housing deficit, the retirement deficit,” said Jean Ross, co-president of National Nurses United. “What people don’t need is more austerity, like more cuts, to Social Security, and other programs that help people. That’s why nurses for two years have been campaigning across the country for more revenue for our cities, our communities, our patients with a tax on Wall Street speculation.”

“Americans are fed up with the austerity agenda that leaves corporations with record low tax rates,” said George Goehl, executive director, National People’s Action. “We know where the money is. It’s not in grandma’s Social Security check, it’s not in our children’s classroom, and it’s not in the pockets of working class families. It’s on Wall Street, and it’s time for President Obama and Secretary Lew to step up to the plate and support everyday Americans by supporting the Robin Hood Tax.”

The Robin Hood Tax proposed by HR 1579 would be a small sales tax on speculative financial trades–0.5 percent on stock trades and a lesser percentage on other speculative activity. While the amount of the tax is low, it has the potential to recapture a substantial amount of wealth that hard working people helped create in the first place.

University of Massachusetts-Amherst economist Robert  Pollin estimates that the Robin Hood Tax could generate as much as $300 billion a year in new revenue.

“Everyone shopping on Main Street today pays sales taxes when they buy things,” said Pollin.  “It’s time for Wall Street traders to face up to similar obligations.”

The bill targets the wealthiest financial speculators and exempts households whose gross adjusted income is $75,000 or less.

If enacted, the Robin Hood Tax would discourage excessive speculation, the primary cause of the 2008 worldwide economic collapse that cost millions of people around the world their jobs and livelihood.

“Wall Street speculation has become a house of cards, a game of  computer-driven bets on bets, far removed from real-world investments in real economic activity,” wrote Ralph Nader in a statement of support for Ellison’s bill.

“High-frequency trades are carried out at ‘blinding speeds,'” said  Wallace Turbeville, former Goldman Sachs investment banker and a senior  fellow at Demos. “To the point where 50, 60 or 70 percent are done by  ‘robo-traders.’ This does not give value to the economy, it damages it.”

An analysis of the bill prepared by Rep. Ellison says that the Robin Hood Tax would make Wall Street begin to repay its debt to working people who bailed out the bankers when their speculative trades cratered the economy.

“The global crisis cost Americans $19 trillion in lost wealth,” reads the analysis. “American citizens provided the money to stabilize the financial  sector. . . . The global financial crisis, along with wars, unabated and  unaddressed climate change, unsustainable tax cuts, and a continuing  unemployment crisis, if unaddressed, will deprive a generation of a  meaningful role in the larger economy.”

The European Commission has proposed a financial transaction tax similar to the one proposed by Ellison. Eleven European countries have committed to adopting the tax proposed by the commission–Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Estonia.

On Friday, George Osborne the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that he would take court action to block other European countries from implementing their financial transaction tax.

Owen Tudor, spokesperson for the Robin Hood Tax campaign in the UK, called Osborne’s action hypocritical because the UK itself has a financial transaction tax called the stamp duty that generates about $13 billion a year.

“This isn’t about defending British interests against Europe,” said Tudor to the Guardian. “It’s about defending one rather rich square mile (London’s financial district) against the wishes of people in Britain and across Europe. Not content with letting our banks off scot-free, Osborne now wants to prevent European countries from making financial sectors pay to repair the damage done by the financial crisis.”

Metropolitan organizing strategy seeks to build union power for adjunct faculty

Higher education institutions across the US are relying more on a contingent workforce of instructors; these adjunct instructors work for low pay, have few benefits, and even less job security.

Organizing adjunct instructors to win better pay and working conditions was the topic of a recent symposium in Boston sponsored by SEIU. The symposium, attended by about 100 adjunct faculty from 20 colleges in the Boston metropolitan area, kicked off a regional organizing drive called Adjunct Action to help adjunct faculty organize and win collective bargaining rights.

According to Maria Maisto, founder of the New Faculty Majority, an adjunct faculty advocacy organization, the poor working conditions that adjunct faculty labor under affects the quality of education that students are receiving. “Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions,” said Maisto, speaking at the symposium. “If faculty working conditions continue to decline, both they and students suffer.”

Today low-paid, contingent instructors do most of the teaching at America’s institutions of higher education. According to the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW), “75.5 percent of (higher education) instructional staff members (are) employed in contingent positions either as part-time or adjunct faculty members, full-time non-tenure-track faculty members, or graduate student teaching assistants.”

For the most part, institutions of higher education devote few resources to supporting these faculty members.

In 2009 at American University in Washington DC, about 50 percent of the instructional faculty were adjunct instructors, but only 4 percent of the university’s instructional budget was devoted to these faculty members. Adjunct instructors, subsequently voted in 2011 to unionize and joined SEIU Local 500.

A national survey whose results were released last year by CAW found that in 2010 median pay per three-hour course taught by adjunct instructors was $2,700 and ranged from $2,235 at two-year colleges to a high of $3,400 at four-year doctoral or research universities.

The survey also found that while adjuncts are often considered temporary workers and are thus denied the full benefits of permanent employees, most consider themselves long-term employees who are committed to the teaching profession. Of those surveyed, 80 percent had taught for three years or more; half had taught for six or more years. More than three-quarters said that they would accept a tenure track position if available.

Those attending the symposium discussed these and other problems facing adjunct faculty. They also agreed that collective action and unionization are key to overcoming these problems.

Adjunct Action is part of a new organizing model aimed at adjunct faculty that SEIU refers to as its metropolitan organizing strategy. The idea is to get community groups involved in the organizing effort and to make the organizing campaign a region-wide effort rather trying to organize one campus at a time.

“We need an approach that is bigger than any one institution,” said Wayne Langley, director of SEIU Local 615’s higher education division to the Chronicle of Higher Education. “If we continue to fight institution by institution, we will not win.”

As union density builds at the different campuses in the region and contracts are won, there will be more pressure on other campuses to agree to better pay and benefits in order to keep their adjuncts from jumping to campuses with union contracts.

SEIU has had some success with this approach in Washington DC, where Local 500 has contracts with American University, George Washington University, and Montgomery College, a public institution in the Maryland suburbs close to Washington. Adjunct faculty at Georgetown University will be voting in a union representation election in May.

Anne McLeer, Local 500 director of research and communications told the Chronicle of Higher Education that at some point the local would like to negotiate a common contract that raises pay, improves benefits, and increases job security at campuses throughout the Washington DC metropolitan area.

In Boston and Washington, the SEIU effort is mainly aimed at private institutions because most of the public universities and colleges have already been unionized.

SEIU has decided not to organize the universities and colleges in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC because Virginia is a right-to-work-for-less state.

Boston seems like the natural place for SEIU to expand its metropolitan organizing strategy because of its high concentration of private universities and colleges.

Some of these universities are quite expensive yet rely heavily on a low-paid, instructional staff to do much of the teaching.

“When a university is asking $50,000 in tuition from students, one wonders where the money is going and why it’s not going into instruction, ” said Deborah Schwartz,
an adjunct professor of English at Boston College. “There’s a systemic problem when the majority of students who walk into their first year English class are taught by adjunct faculty.”

Walmart, other US retailers decide not compensate victims of Bangladesh garment factory fire

European retailers on April 15 met with Bangladesh union leaders, staff from the Clean Clothes Campaign, and representatives of IndustriALL Global Union in Geneva Switzerland to discuss details of how much the retailers will pay into a compensation fund for the victims of last November’s fire at the Tazreen Designs garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh that killed 112 workers and injured scores more.

US retailers including Walmart, which was Tazreen’s biggest customer, were absent from the discussions. Bloomberg reports that Walmart and Sears, another Tazreen customer, are not planning to contribute to the compensation fund.

“We once again call upon Walmart and the other major companies sourcing from Tazreen to aid the families of the dead and the injured workers,” said Ineke Zeldenrust of the Clean Clothes Campaign. “Their refusal to do so indicates a shocking lack of concern for the rights and well-being of the workers who make their clothes and who, in this case, were injured or killed in the process.”

Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity said to Bloomberg that by not attending the compensation meeting, Walmart and other Western retailers are sending the wrong message. “If they’re not there, they’re totally giving the message that they are supporting these death traps and they really don’t care how many lives go to make these clothes,” said Akter.

The European retailers present at the Geneva meeting are C & A of the Netherlands, KiK of Germany, and El Corte Ingles of Spain. Piazza Italia did not attend but said that it would contribute to the compensation fund.

The retailers and the unions are still working out details of how much each company will contribute to the $5.7 million compensation fund.

“We have agreed on confirming the concrete amounts that each of these brands will contribute by the end of this month,” says Jyrki Raina general secretary of IndustriaALL  “The families and the injured have already waited far too long.”

In addition to Walmart and Sears, other Tazreen customers that did not attend the Geneva meeting are Li & Fung (Hong Kong), Teddy Smith (France), Edinborough Woolen Mills (UK), Dickies (US), and Karl Rieker (Germany).  Li & Fung has, however, agreed to pay compensation.

In January Walmart said that it was implementing a zero tolerance policy toward contractors that do not abide by its code of labor standards. The company did not reply when asked by Bloomberg for the reasons that it would not contribute to the compensation fund.

The deadly fire broke out at the Tazreen factory on November 24. About 600 people were working in the factory at the time. Workers said that fire exits in the multi-story building were locked and that the building contained a number of fire hazards including faulty wiring.

At the time of the fire, five of Tazreen’s production lines were making clothes for Walmart, but Walmart says that Tazreen was a subcontractor and that the retail giant was not aware that Tazreen was doing work for the company.

Some of the most dangerous work in the world is at the hundreds of Bangladeshi garment factories, most of which are located near Dhaka in the export processing zone controlled by the Bangladesh military.

Since 2005, more than 700 workers have died in Bangladesh garment factory fires. A report from the Clean Clothes Campaign and SOMO says that “the safety record of the Bangladesh garment industry is appalling” and that “since 2009, at least 165 workers have been killed in Bangladesh in four separate factories producing for international brands.”

Bloomberg also reports that in 2011 Walmart decided not to help pay for safety upgrades at the Bangladesh factories that make its clothes.

On April 12, Sumi Abetin, a garment worker who survived the Tazreen fire, and Akter delivered a petition signed by 112,000 consumers to Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. The petition urges Walmart to meet with Bangladeshi garment workers and commit to taking action to prevent more tragedies in the factories that make their garments.

Abetin and Akter are on a ten-city End Death Traps tour of the US that began April 8 and ends April 26.

Teamster unfair labor practices strike spreads

An ufair labor practices strike by Republic/Allied Waste landfill workers in Youngstown, Ohio spread to five other Republic facilities in Ohio cities on April 15. Meanwhile in McDonough, Georgia another group of Republic workers began their own unfair labor practices strike.

“I’m on strike because I’m sick of this $8 billion company breaking the law to intimidate and bully us,” said Darrell Zeh, a Youngstown landfill worker and member of Teamsters Local 377. “We’re the ones who work every day to make them all that money. I’ve picketed now in three other cities, and the support has been overwhelming. Everyone seems to be fed up with this corporation’s greed.”

Members of Teamster Local 377 who work at Republic’s Youngstown landfill have been on strike since March 27. The striking workers and the company failed to reach an agreement on a new contract in October, but negotiations continued until the company began unilaterally implementing more than 50 new work rules, which prompted the walkout.

The strike in Youngstown is the latest skirmish between Republic and the Teamsters as the company seeks to lower worker health care and pension benefits and worsen working conditions one local at a time..

More than 2,000 Republic workers across the country are currently working without contracts. In Evansville, Indiana, Republic locked out its workers for six weeks last summer in an attempt to force concessions. In Mobile, Alabama, the company forced a strike by refusing to honor a binding contract. Republic workers in Memphis, staged a three-day unfair labor practices strike in January to protest the company’s refusal to pay safety bonuses and other contract violations.

“Republic has been bullying its workers by locking them out of their jobs without pay, withholding paychecks, and demanding contract concessions — even though the company makes hundreds of millions in profits each year,” said Ken Hall, Teamsters international general secretary-treasurer.

Teamsters have relied on solidarity to resist company bullying.

After the Youngstown landfill workers went on strike, they set up a picket line at another Youngstown Republic facility not on strike. Drivers and mechanics at the facility, who also belong to Local  377, refused to cross the pickets and stayed off work for about a week until the strikers moved their pickets to another location.

When Local 377 members showed up at a Republic facility is Evansville, Indiana, members of Teamsters Local 215, who remembered last summer’s lockout, refused to cross the picket.

From Evansville, the strikers moved to California where solidarity strikes at seven Republic facilities temporarily disrupted services.

The company and the Youngstown landfill workers returned to the bargaining table on April 8, but little progress has been made prompting Local 377 to send pickets today to Republic hauling yards in Youngstown, Columbus, Canton, Cleveland, and Elyria.

“When I started talking to my colleagues from other cities, we realized that Republic treats workers this way everywhere,” said Paul Auxer, a Republic driver in Columbus and Teamster Local 284 member. “We’ll be out as long as we need to be. When Round 2 comes–if it comes to that–we’ll be out here again supporting our brothers and sisters however it’s needed.”

As it negotiates new contracts with different Teamster locals, one of Republic’s common goals is to force locals to withdraw from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund. In Youngstown and other locations, the company has proposed replacing the workers defined pension benefit administered by the Central States Pension Fund with a 401(k) plan that would cost the company less money.

Republic says that replacing the defined benefit plan with a 401(k) plan will be a better deal for the workers because the Central States Pension Fund is facing financial challenges. According to the Wall Street Journal, “investment losses and hard times for trucking companies that pay into the Central States Pension Fund have sapped the fund of money it uses to pay promised benefits.”

The Teamsters acknowledge that the pension fund is facing challenges, but steps have been taken to shore it up and withdrawing more employer contributions as Republic proposes will undermine these efforts.