Teamsters’ pension fund insolvent; local retirees in jeopardy

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Michael Jablon ran freight out of an often-changing yard for decades before he retired in 2007.

Working for the Teamsters, Jablon, now 63, along with hundreds of other western New York drivers, assumed they’d be taken care of when they retired.

But that assumption came crashing down when the Teamsters told them their pensions, their livelihoods, were in jeopardy.

As the country was facing a government shutdown in 2014, an 11th-hour amendment to the omnibus bill made the guarantee for pensions for a quarter million retirees nothing more than an empty promise. The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 essentially weakened federal protections that kept pensions afloat.

“That MPR bill took 40 years of promises on our pensions, and wiped it out in four days,” Jablon said. “In four days, they took away 40 years of promises that, do this, and you’ll be OK.”

The father of four spent more than 30 years on the road — hard work with an all-but-guaranteed payoff at the end.

“Typical week for us was 50, 60, 70 hours,” he said. “We stayed on the road. It was six days a week. It was a lot of work. I missed just about everything my kids were doing. I missed it all, cause you were on the road working.”

After being injured in 2007, Michael put the truck the in park.

At 55, he was beginning the retirement he was promised, and that he was looking forward to for all those years.

“The tough thing that kept you at the job, you thought, eventually I’m going to be able to retire, take a pension, take it easy, see my kids, my grandkids and everything then,” he said.

Then, the unthinkable.

“You get to that point, you’re retired, you’re collecting, and you think, finally, after all the struggle,” he said. “And now they want to take it away.”

New York’s Teamsters Pension Fund said in a Feb. 5 letter to retirees the “critical” status of their pension fund means it doesn’t have enough money to pay all benefits, and it’s headed toward insolvency.

That means, retirees’ pensions could be suspended or eliminated to avoid running out of money.

Thanks to protests in Washington, some U.S. Senators have jumped on board, urging the U.S. Treasury to get involved — a decision that could come in May.

Jablon warns it’s a decision not just for Teamsters.

“the pension system has to be looked at and adjusted for people in the future to have it,” he said. “Anyone that’s in there, and there’s funding trouble in their pension, these cuts could happen, whether they’re union or non union.”

While retirees like Jablon are approaching an imminent deadline, thousands of other Teamster’s across NY are dealing with different schedules of cuts. Federal stipulations start a 225-day clock after someone receives the notification of a change in their benefits.

They’ll all face the same fate, unless something drastic happens at the federal level. But Jablon is running out of time. He could see his pension slashed by 60 percent on July 1.

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