Mr. Secretary, you are cordially invited to meet with Missouri’s retired Teamsters about their disappearing pensions.
So said a letter Monday from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri to recently sworn in Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The invitation is for Mnuchin to sit down with retired Missouri Teamsters whose nest eggs are going bad thanks to the flagging Central States Pension Fund.
In January, McCaskill extracted a promise from Mnuchin to meet with Missouri truckers during his confirmation hearing for the Treasury post. Now that he’s been sworn in, McCaskill extended the formal invitation on Monday.
Mnuchin is in “a unique position” to oversee and “help us find comprehensive solutions” to troubled pensions such as Central States, McCaskill said in the letter. He is one of three trustees for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. The PBGC backs pensions like Central States that cover workers from many different employers.
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The Central States Pension Fund is so large and its problems so deep that its failure would wipe out the resources the PBGC has for covering all multiple-employer plans.
As Treasury secretary, Mnuchin also oversees a controversial 2014 law that allows severely troubled pension plans like Central States to seek cuts to current retirees’ benefits to prevent a failure of the fund.
Last year, Central States’ managers had sought Treasury permission to cut current retirees’ monthly checks, many by half or more, in an effort to prevent the fund’s collapse. Then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had appointed noted mediator Kenneth Feinberg to review the proposal, and Feinberg rejected it.
The letter from McCaskill to Mnuchin lacks details such as a date or place for a meeting. Details to be worked out, should he accept.
“I think you’ll find that meeting these workers and hearing their stories will help you to put this problem into perspective,” McCaskill’s letter said.
Hundreds of local retired Teamsters had met with Feinberg at Bartle Hall in February 2016 to share their stories and ask him questions about the proposed cuts to their monthly checks. One of those organizers said they’re eager to fill Bartle Hall for Mnuchin, if given the chance.