Teamster Bosses Host Biden Campaign Launch

Joe Biden kicked off his 2020 campaign at a union hall owned by Teamsters Local
Under a law backed by Mr. Biden in 2014, Local 249 retirees may soon see their
pension benefits slashed by 30%. Credit: Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

He Helped Pass Law Paving Way For Teamster Pension Benefit Cuts

Former Vice President Joe Biden, currently regarded as the frontrunner for the 2020 Democrat Party presidential nomination, announced his latest bid for the White House on April 29 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Appearing before an enthusiastic crowd of Big Labor operatives at a union hall owned by the hierarchy of Local 249 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), Mr. Biden declared, “I make no apologies; I am a union man, period.”

Even as many union strategists cheer on the “union man” they hope will oust pro-Right to Work President Donald Trump next year, roughly 17,000 rank-and-file IBT Local 249 retirees are bracing themselves for a looming 30% cut in their pension benefits.

Joe Biden ‘Telephoned Democrats to Secure the Votes Needed For Passage’

And managers of the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Employers Benefit Fund are authorized to slash unionized retirees’ benefits under a 2014 law that both Mr. Biden and then-President Barack Obama lobbied hard to push through a lame-duck Congress.

As Pittsburgh City Paper staff writer Ryan Deto explained in an April 30 news analysis, the so-called “Multi-Employer Pension Reform” Act of 2014 (MPRA) allows benefit fund managers to reduce unionized pensioners’ benefits, “to as little as $13,000 a year.”

Prior to the MPRA’s adoption, powerful union bosses lobbied Congress for years to grant “multi-employer” pensions, private retirement funds that are controlled by Big Labor in partnership with unionized companies, the power to cut benefits sharply, without ever having to file for bankruptcy.

In 2013, national plumbers union boss William Hite and Tom Nyhan, executive director of the Teamster Union’s Central States Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, were among the most enthusiastic supporters of a benefit-overhaul scheme permitting retiree benefits to be shredded.

And after the MPRA, which was based on the blueprint endorsed by Mr. Hite and Mr. Nyhan, became part of a $1.1 trillion omnibus budget measure, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden both “telephoned Democrats to secure the votes needed for passage of the package,” according to a contemporaneous Associated Press report.

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Greg Mourad commented:

“The Teamsters Central States and Western Pennsylvania pensions and numerous other multi-employer plans are grossly underfunded primarily for one reason:  The contributions going into these funds, in amounts determined through union monopoly bargaining, were never sufficient to pay for the pensions that union bosses and their agents told workers they would provide.”

Many Workers Who Now Face Steep Teamster Pension Cuts Aren’t Voluntary Members

Mr. Mourad continued:

“Big Labor politicians like Joe Biden supported the MPRA because they wanted irresponsible union bosses to be able to keep their pension funds open and promise new benefits even as they closed their huge funding gaps by cutting workers’ pensions by as much as 50%, or in some cases even more.

“As a consequence of this law, Teamster retirees in western Pennsylvania may soon have to get by with $2,000 a month from the plan rather than the $3,000 they were promised, according to a news story published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this January.

“Now that Mr. Biden is running for President, he can be expected to try to cover his tracks by endorsing a massive multiemployer pension bailout that could ultimately cost taxpayers $600 billion or more.

“Since many of the workers who now face steep pension cuts never even voluntarily joined the union whose officers are at fault for benefit-fund mismanagement, legislation to help workers and families who have counted on Big Labor-run pensions and now face grave financial hardship may be appropriate.

“But it would be unforgivably reckless for Congress and any president, current or future, to furnish such assistance without also holding union bosses and any employers who colluded with them responsible for shorting workers out of their contracted compensation.

“Unfortunately, based on his record during 36 years in the U.S. Senate and eight years as vice president, Joe Biden can be expected, if he wins the White House, to side again and again with union- boss special interests at the expense of ordinary workers, whether they are union members or union-free.”

(source: July 2019 National Right To Work Newsletter)