Teamsters union pension fund for more than 400,000 workers facin - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Teamsters union pension fund for more than 400,000 workers facing major cuts

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The stage is set for a brutal battle between workers, retirees and Teamsters union leaders. At stake: a union pension fund for more than 400,000 people now facing deep cuts.

"We transported the vehicles for ford to be shipped," recalls Angelyne Fleming.

After 10 years of retirement, Fleming says she's considering a return to work -- not by choice, but by necessity.

"This is just a nightmare," Fleming said.

The retirement she paid into for more than 25 years as a subcontractor for Ford is critically failing. Letters went to more than 400,000 Central States Pension fund members warning benefits must be cut. 

"Over half of my pension is what they want to take," Fleming said.

That amounts to $1,400 less every month. 

"Upset, ready to cry, ready to just...you know, I just can't take any more...I just don't..." she sobbed. "What can I do besides get rid of everything I got?"

Leaders for the pension fund foretold of the failure while trying to get a bailout from Congress in 2013. 

"The truth of the matter is there is no funding source anywhere on the horizon that deals with shortfalls of this magnitude," said Thomas Nyhan, Executive Director and General Counsel of Central States Pension Fund, during testimony on Capitol Hill.  

It is backed primarily by the Teamsters Union. Contractors, truck drivers, factory workers -- the heart of middle America pays into the fund. But deregulation of the trucking industry, declining union membership, two recessions and an aging population created a perfect storm. Today, only one person pays into the fund for every five people who collect from it -- and there's a $2 billion shortfall every year. If nothing changes projections show the pension will be broke by 2026. 

"Anybody who thinks we took pleasure in doing this is delusional," said Nyhan this afternoon. "This is the most difficult, complicated, gut-wrenching process that we've went through, and our only objective is to maintain the benefit security of our members."

Congress didn't approve a bailout, but late last year, it did pass a law that allows these multi-employer pension funds to cut benefits to survive. Central States' so-called "rescue plan" is now before the Treasury Department. The government has nine months to respond. 

"My faith is going to keep me strong," Fleming said.

And 400,000 people like Angelyne Fleming are waiting for the answer.

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