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Input on pension benefit cuts sought

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Kenneth Feinberg, a compensation fund specialist who worked with victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and GM’s ignition defect, is coming to Detroit on Feb. 8 to host a meeting on proposed benefit cuts to one of the largest Teamster pension funds that includes 30,000 members in Michigan.

The Central States Pension Fund filed for reorganization in September and has sent letters to the members, warning that their benefits must be cut.

The meetings will allow active and retired Teamsters to voice their concerns over the cuts. Feinberg must make a recommendation to deny or allow Central States to implement the changes.

According to the grassroots organization Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a decision to allow the cuts would be followed by a vote of all Central States participants. That vote would be conducted by the U.S. Treasury Department within 30 days of Feinberg’s recommendation.

The Treasury Department is hosting the public session. The department is required to review the application and determine whether it meets the requirements set by Congress.

“This session is an opportunity for the public to provide input on the application,” a news release by the department stated.

Feinberg is a special master for the Treasury Department’s implementation of the Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014. The public session in Detroit follows similar meetings in Columbus; Milwaukee; Greensboro, North Carolina; Peoria, Illinois; and Indianapolis.

In Kline-Miller, Congress established a new process for certain multiemployer pension plans to propose a temporary or permanent reduction of pension benefits if a plan is projected to run out of money before paying all promised benefits.

According to Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a Detroit-based grassroots organization of thousands of members across North America, the proposal was submitted to the Treasury Department on Sept. 25, and individualized letters were mailed out in October to all retirees, working participants and those vested in pension plans.

Bill Scott, a Detroit retiree and a member of the Metro Detroit Committee to Protect Pensions, said Sunday that he attended a similar meeting in Columbus to hear how others would be affected by the proposed cuts.

Scott, a light-haul driver from 1983 to 2009, learned that his pension will be cut by 52.5 percent.

“It will eliminate a third of my income in retirement, said Scott, 68. “When you prepare for retirement you find out your income and adjust your lifestyle and cut out a lot of stuff. ...This will mean no car payment and no insurance. If you have any kind of medical emergency, you are in poverty.”

The meeting will be at Wayne State University, General Lectures Building Room 100, 5045 Anthony Wayne.

People are encouraged to RSVP at www.cvent.com