Another Voice: Angry workers unite to restore pension benefits - The Buffalo News

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Another Voice: Angry workers unite to restore pension benefits

By Joseph Tryzbinski

How many people in Western New York know that some of their hardest-working neighbors could have their retirement benefits ripped away?

Probably not very many, unless they read The Buffalo News’ excellent Sept. 29 article, “Local Teamsters counted on pensions. Now they’re getting cut.”

For 30 years, I worked for United Parcel Service. During those years, my employer and I contributed to my retirement fund.
It now seems as though I will not receive what was promised to me.

My retirement is tied up in a Multi-Employer Pension Plan (MEPP). In simple terms, it is a collectively bargained retirement plan where members of a single union – who work for different companies – belong to the same pension plan.

It was supposed to benefit both the employees and employers by pooling risk and allowing for economy of scale. That’s not quite how it has worked out.

Unfortunately, many MEPPs, including the one I belong to, face dire circumstances.

Many employers that once contributed to these plans have simply gone out of business, leaving the remaining employers to support the remaining employees and retirees of the companies that have closed.

As many as 100 of these plans will fail within the next few years, unless something is done. When this happens, our promised pension benefits will be cut drastically.

And the story gets worse.

The federal agency created to provide insurance for these plans doesn’t have the assets to pay their insurance guarantee.

The agency has said its trust fund will be bankrupt within the next 10 years, eliminating any chance we have to get the pension checks we earned and have been promised.

The 35,000 New Yorkers depending on benefits from the MEPPs didn’t do anything wrong. We all contributed to our retirement in good faith. What is fair about losing half – or more – of what we were counting on receiving?

How would your family handle up to a 42 percent cut in your fixed income? It’s terribly difficult.

This dire circumstance is what has led to retirees, workers and employers calling upon Congress and the president to take action to ensure American workers who played by (and continue to play by) the rules are treated fairly and receive the retirement benefits they earned.

Here in Buffalo, and across America, a coalition is working to urge the
president and Congress to do the right thing.

Protect Our Workers’ Earned Retirement (Power!) represents families like ours, who believe in fairness and keeping promises and want to become part of the solution.

Just visit powrnow.net if you want to learn more about us and what can be done.

But to start, I ask our neighbors to please contact Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer at 202-224-3121 and urge them to help us find a solution to save our pensions.

Joseph Tryzbinski of Marilla is a 30-year employee of United Parcel Service and a member of the Teamsters.

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