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MEDIA ADVISORY: Retirees coordinate statewide “March Madness” actions to protest unfair pension cuts

For Immediate ReleaseContact: Joellen Leavelle, 202-296-3776
March 10, 2016www.pensionrights.org

In a series of coordinated actions taking place from March 10-13, angry retired truck drivers, spouses and widows are taking to the streets in five states to protest unprecedented proposed cuts to their pensions. The retirees are calling on presidential candidates and members of Congress to protect their pensions and to educate other retirees that similar cuts could happen to them, if action isn’t soon taken.  

The retirees are asking Congress to repeal the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, which was passed without debate or hearings at the tail end of 2014. The law gives almost unbridled power to the trustees of severely underfunded pension plans, allowing them to cut retiree pension benefits, overturning 40 years of federal protections. The retirees are urging Congress to find a better solution to save underfunded pension plans and protect retirees.

The Central States Pension Fund was the first and largest plan to apply for cuts. The U.S. Treasury Department, which is charged with overseeing the law’s implementation, has until early May to approve the Fund’s application. If approved, hundreds of thousands of Central States Pension Fund retirees will face unprecedented cuts ranging from 40 to 70 percent beginning in July. 50 to 100 other plans that are eligible to make retiree pension cuts under the law are watching to see what happens with the Central States Pension Fund’s plan before deciding whether to move forward with retiree pension cuts.  

About the actions:

  • Kansas City, Missouri on Thursday, March 10 at 11:00 a.m. Hundreds of retirees are meeting at the Teamsters Local 41 parking lot at 4501 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd. The retirees will move to picket the YRC company headquarters in Overton Park. Retirees will be carrying coffins, calling attention to the fact that pension cuts will be “the death of the middle class.”  More than 32,000 Missouri retirees would be affected by the cuts proposed by the Central States Pension Fund. Contact person in Missouri: Dave Scheidt, (913) 568-1217.
  • Detroit, Michigan on Friday, March 11 at 1:00 p.m. 100 retirees will stage a sit-in at the McNamara Federal Building on 477 Michigan Avenue to call attention to how the proposed cuts would affect the more than 47,000 Michigan residents whose pensions would be cut under the Central States Pension Fund’s proposal. Contact person in Michigan: Bill Scott, (313) 347-3773.
  • Dunn, North Carolina on Friday, March 11th at 10:00 a.m. Retirees, hoping to gain support for a bill to stop the cuts, are protesting outside the office of Congresswoman Renee Ellmers at 406 W. Broad Street. More than 13,000 North Carolina retirees will be affected by the cuts proposed by the Central States Pension Fund. Contact person in North Carolina: Tommy Burke (910) 818-9524 or Frank Bryant at (336) 662-2072.
  • St. Paul, Minnesota on Saturday, March 12 at 1:00 p.m. Hundreds of retirees and their families will rally at the city’s Capitol building to call attention to the impact of the cuts would have on Minnesota residents. More than 21,000 Minnesota retirees would be affected by the cuts proposed by the Central States Pension Fund. Contact person in Minnesota: Jeff Brooks, (612) 729-6682.
  • Columbus, Ohio on Sunday, March 13 at 4:00 p.m. Retired truck drivers are marching outside the Ohio Democratic Party Legacy Dinner at the Columbus Convention Center (400 N High St, Columbus, Ohio 43215) to ask, “Are you supporting us or not?”. The retirees are asking all candidates to stop the cuts of their pensions. Nearly 48,000 Ohio retirees would be affected by the cuts proposed by the Central States Pension Fund. Contact person in Ohio: Fred Slaybaugh, (614) 459-0215.

“We hope these coordinated actions draw attention to the harsh reality that these cuts would impose on communities throughout the country – and compel members of Congress to take action to protect these retiree pensions,” said Karen Friedman, executive vice president and policy director of the Pension Rights Center. “These cuts are unconscionable and would devastate the lives of the more than 270,000 retirees, spouses and widows who worked hard, did everything right, and counted on these pensions to survive.” 

These statewide actions are only a first step. Thousands of affected retirees and family members will travel to Washington DC on April 14, 2016 for a rally to be held on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.