The old saying goes, “The truth will set you free.” If that’s the case then the recently revealed truth should do a lot for the souls of some federal bureaucrats who had been withholding long-sought information about pension benefits from salaried retirees at Delphi Corp., including 750 from the Buffalo area.
These workers have been struggling four years for the pension benefits they lost when the federal government bailed out the U.S. auto industry.
Because the parent company, General Motors, got bailed out by taxpayers, Delphi salaried retirees suddenly and unfairly found they were left with only partial pensions.
This depressing scenario played out across sectors during and after the Great Recession and continues to some degree, but it is nonetheless unacceptable. More intolerable was the lack of information given to these Delphi retirees.
A federal inspector last week confirmed that while negotiating General Motors’ structured bankruptcy in 2009, federal officials played a role in the decision to ensure that most of Delphi’s unionized retirees would receive their full pensions, but that the salaried retirees would not.
It took court orders to get the information. But there it is. The special inspector general for the Troubled Assets Relief Program said that the Treasury Department’s auto team actively negotiated and made the overall deal. Treasury wasn’t sitting on the sidelines.
What makes this worse, if that’s possible, is that Delphi’s salaried pension plan was fully funded when GM spun off the company in 1999. Delphi allowed the pension plan to fall short of funds.
The decision not to have the government correct the company’s mistake proved fatal for salaried retirees who did not have the leverage of unionized workers. Not that they had it easy, either. Union workers took a huge wage hit, up to 40 percent and pension losses, according to the president of UAW Local 686 in Lockport, who wrote an Another Voice in The Buffalo News last October.
But the salaried retirees had to fight hard to get information, or the truth. There were separate court orders issued in August that will force both the Treasury Department and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to deliver thousands of pages of auto bailout documents.
Shedding light on what the government worked so hard to keep secret may at least help these retirees get some of the compensation they worked so hard for.
It certainly should.