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NRLN Works to Protect Your Retirement Security

The National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN) works to enact federal legislation to protect employer-sponsored pensions, health care benefits and keep Social Security and Medicare strong.

With support from more than 2 million members and Washington, D.C. staff, the NRLN identifies and rallies support for federal legislation that will guarantee fair and equitable treatment of retirees from the private and public sectors. Learn more about the NRLN and legislation important to retirees by clicking on the "About Us" and "Legislative" links above.

The NRLN recently created the American Retirees Education Foundation (AREF) with a mission is to research, educate and inform retirees, future retirees and the general public on how best to protect and promote retirement income security and retiree health care. Contributions to AREF are tax deductible.

To learn more about the AREF, go to www.SeniorsAREF.org .

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PRESIDENT'S
 FORUM

Retirees Join Rally at U.S. Capitol to Stop Pension Cuts

As I looked out over the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on April 14 while awaiting my turn to speak, I could read placards “Why Won’t Congress Defend Retirees??”, “We Earned Our Pension – Stop The Cuts”, “Stop Pension Theft – Join the Fight Yours May Be Next”, “Steal Pensions Today, Social Security Tomorrow”, and dozens more. (photos at right.)

The placards were at a Washington, DC rally of some 4,000 Teamsters Union participants in the Central States Pension Fund who are facing severe July 1 pension benefit cuts under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) passed by Congress in late December 2014 as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 spending bill. The outrage at the rally, amid chants of “No Cuts”, focused on the seeming lack of political will from Congress to rescue a pension plan or assist the retirees in other ways.

Beneficiaries in the Central States Pension Fund, which is projected to be insolvent within a decade, are some 400,000 retirees who worked in trucking, parcel delivery and grocery supply industries. The Central States Pension Fund is administered on behalf of employers and unions in industries where workers often move between companies in the same field. The Central States Pension Fund has $18 billion in assets and $35 billion in liabilities, with yearly payouts that exceed contributions.

I was invited to speak at the rally because the NRLN had opposed the passage of MPRA because it gave trustees of severely underfunded multiemployer pension plans the authority to propose to the Treasury Department reductions in pension payments of as much as 60 percent. The NRLN has also lobbied for legislation to rectify MPRA not only because it is unfair to retirees in multiemployer pension plans, but because it nullifies the benefit anti-cutback provision of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) for multi-employer plans and sets a bad precedent that could someday negatively impact single employer pension plans and even Social Security and Medicare.

In my brief remarks, some of what I said was: “MPRA is not only setting a bad precedent for you it is setting it for the rest of the country. The suffering on your part is heard across the country in my organization. Our concern in the NRLN is this MPRA precedent will bleed into the single payer plans and disrespect every damn worker [and retiree] in this country.

“Congress ought to be sitting down and doing something for you. This so called solution is going to lead to even greater hardships than American seniors have experienced up to now. Have you heard of de-risking of pension plans? That says that companies are trying to do everything they can to get rid of pension plans in this country.

“We very much oppose MPRA. We will be with you and we will be on the Hill again lobbying our proposal to eliminate MPRA all together. Best to you and we will be supporting you.”

Until I heard the full story, I was not aware that pension benefits earned by these retirees was typically less than $3,000 a month for someone with over 25 years of service and that over 100,000 were at risk of losing up to 60% of that amount. Members of Congress talked about how named Wall Street firms that managed the Central States Fund lost far more assets than other plans did and created the failure of this very large plan.

There were at least a dozen members of Congress who spoke at the rally.

Ohio Representatives Marcy Kaptor and Tim Ryan talked about the bill they have introduced called the Keep Our Pension Promises Act (H.R. 2844) that would repeal MPRA, and would create a “legacy fund” with the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to prop up plans such as Central States that are at risk of failing. (Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, has introduced similar legislation—S.1631—in the Senate) Unfortunately, there does not seem to be sufficient support in the Republican-controlled Congress for either of these bills to move forward.

Ohio Senator Rob Portman spoke about the Pension Accountability Act (S. 2147), the legislation he has introduced that would change the voting process on any required cuts. His bill would keep the Treasury Department from overruling any vote retirees could take against potential pension cuts and require that only filled-out ballots be counted. That would keep pension trustees from sending out ballots that are never returned and counting them among the votes in favor. But Senator Portman has stopped short of calling for legislation that would immediately inject cash into the Central States Pension Fund.

Other members of Congress that I recall who spoke in support of the retirees included, Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Al Franken (MN), Chuck Grassley (IA), Heidi Heitkamp (ND) Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Elizabeth Warren (MA). Congresswoman Debbie Dingle (MI) also spoke in support.

Among other speakers were Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa, and Mike Walden and Bob Amsden, leaders of the pension committees throughout the country who organized the rally and arranged for bus transportation to Washington, DC. Karen Friedman, the Executive Vice President and Policy Director of the Pension Rights Center, called for repealing MPRA and finding a bipartisan solution that fixes the problem of underfunded multiemployer plans and the PBGC – and protects the pension promises of retirees.

The Treasury Department is set to make the final decision to move forward or not with the cuts and plan participants then would face a vote to accept them or risk losing the plan should it be unable to pay benefits. Let’s all hope the enthusiasm exhibited by retirees and the words of support from the politicians will result in the protection of these pension benefits.

It is significant to note that only PRC and NRLN advocate representatives were singled out to speak as defenders of ERISA protection for retirees. Your company Association and Chapter presidents, NRLN board members, Regional Grassroots Vice Presidents and our Executive Director in Washington D.C. work hard to earn and maintain the respect needed to be in a national leadership position on pension issues.

Bill Kadereit, President
National Retiree Legislative Network

NRLN IS WORKING FOR YOU

The NRLN regularly informs members by email about important information. If you did not receive an email with the NRLN President’s Forum message or an Action Alert posted on this home page, possibly you mistakenly “unsubscribed” on one of our emails or you have a new email address that is not in the NRLN’s database. You will no longer hear from us unless you “re-subscribe”. To “re-subscribe”, click here.


NRLN 2016 Survey Needs Your Input

The National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN) is inviting you to participate in its 2016 online survey. Your responses will be valuable to the NRLN Board, Retiree Association and NRLN Chapter leaders in planning the 2016-2017 Legislative Agenda initiatives and setting future directions and priorities for the NRLN, and your Retiree Association or NRLN Chapter. It will also provide the NRLN with an expanded understanding of issues regarding retirement security. The last NRLN survey was in May 2014.

Click here to access the survey. When completing the survey, note that a number of the questions have multiple parts that request a response. There are only five demographic questions at the beginning of the survey that require an answer before advancing in the survey.

Results will be compiled in total and by retiree group to provide Retiree Association and NRLN Chapter leaders insights into the opinions of their members. Overall results (no individual responses) of the survey will be published in the summer edition of the NRLN FOCUS newsletter that will be posted on the NRLN website.


rally

Avaya Retirees Form NRLN’s Newest Chapter

The NRLN Avaya Retirees Chapter is the newest organization in the NRLN. The Avaya company was founded as a spin off from Lucent Technologies on October 1, 2000. Avaya is now owned by the TPG Capital and Silver Lake Partners investment group.

The Chapter is representing all Avaya Retirees—Management, and formerly Union represented. There are currently around 8,321 Management retirees and 7,161 in the Union represented pension plans.

Avaya retirees may sign up with the Chapter by clicking the sign up link at the top of this home page. After entering contact information scroll down and select the Avaya Retirees designation at the bottom of the drop down menu.


focusmast

Click here to read the SPRING 2015 issue of the NRLN FOCUS Newsletter


action alert

NRLN Action Alert – Pass Bills to Reduce Cost of Prescription Drugs

The NRLN has been advocating legislation to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. In 2015 there were 13 bills introduced in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate that the NRLN supports that, if passed, would result in savings to Americans and in some cases also to Medicare. These bill have automatically carried over into 2016, the second session of the 114th Congress. Click here to send the NRLN’s sample letters to your Representative and Senators to urge them to come together and form a consensus on which bills to pass to best address skyrocketing drug costs.


report card

NRLN Provides New “Report Card” Feature on Members of Congress

NRLN has introduced a “report card” for each state that shows whether the U.S. Representatives and Senators have supported bills in Congress advocated by the NRLN. Read all about it here.


NRLN members are saving big with the Free Health Savings Rx Card℠

The NRLN has arranged to offer you a Health Savings Rx Card™, at NO COST, that offers you and your family savings on prescription drugs, plus vision and hearing services and products.Click here to access the Rx Savings Card℠ website.If you do not already have a Health Savings Rx Card℠ you will need to create your personal login and then printout your free card. Savings information for prescription drugs, vision and hearing services and products is available through the links under the Savings Plus tab.


MEMBERS COMMENTS

Heather Ward, Canandaigua, NY...You [NRLN President Bill Kadereit] are one of our country’s most sincere and hardest working leaders. I am so impressed that you have chosen this arduous task at this time in your life. As a recent widow of a Kodak retiree, and one who has lost ALL of her husband’s Kodak Survivor benefits due to its bankruptcy, I feel that at least someone is in my corner, fighting the good fight. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Marilyn Iverson, Woodinville, WA, US West/Qwest/CenturyLink retiree...Thank you to all of you wonderful leaders at NRLN who are keeping up with retiree issues, addressing lawmakers and others, and explaining all the nuances to the retiree body. You are appreciated so very much.

more members comments here.

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