Teamsters Local 41 members rally against pension cuts

A plan to cut Teamster pension benefits drew opposition Saturday at a rally at Local 41 headquarters.
A plan to cut Teamster pension benefits drew opposition Saturday at a rally at Local 41 headquarters. Special to the Star

Retirees opposed to cuts in one of the nation’s largest union pension funds rallied supporters Saturday morning at Teamsters Local 41 headquarters in Kansas City.

A plan to cut benefits in half for some retired workers, announced in a letter earlier this month to more than 400,000 members of the decades-old Central States Pension Fund, remains in the works.

In Kansas City, union members began planning opposition to the cuts. At the same time, retirees sought to learn more about the proposed changes.

“There’s still a lot of questions about how the cuts were formulated,” said Wes Epperson, a retired member of Teamsters Local 41.

Epperson said the cuts will reduce some retirees to poverty.

“It’s a horrible plan.”

Retirees opposed to the cuts plan to stage another rally Oct. 17 at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain as they lobby their elected representatives in Washington, D.C.

The Central States fund recently filed for reorganization under a new federal law, but the changes would take months to complete amid disputes between workers, retirees, union leaders and employers, all seeking to protect competing interests.

Cutting retirees’ pensions has generally been illegal, except under the most dire circumstances.

Leaders of the pension fund said the cuts were necessary to prevent a collapse brought on by outside forces such as deregulation of the trucking industry, declining union membership, two stock crashes and the aging of the population. The fund was paying out $3.46 in pension benefits to retirees for every dollar it received in employer contributions.

The Treasury Department is expected to decide whether to approve the proposal by May. If it does, Central States’ roughly 407,000 members will vote on it.

The proposed cuts are scheduled to take effect July 1.