pensions of hundreds of thousands of workers represented by the
Central States Pension Fund are waiting for the U.S. Treasury
Department to give the go-ahead to cut pensions of workers in some
1,500 companies and leave the retirees who will be affected to find
the wherewithal to survive on their own.
the current presidential campaign, there has been little said about
this tragedy about to happen in either the debates or in campaign
commercials, with the possible exception of the rhetoric of Senator
Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the thrust of whose campaign has been to
support the 99 percent, “not the billionaires.” Even at
that, it is difficult to see a clear picture of the disaster now
forming for the estimated 270,000 retirees and workers who are about
to be cut off from their incomes and livelihood.
attitude of the powers that be were clearly expressed by Donald
Trump, the apparent nominee of the Republican Party for president of
the U.S., when he said that the minimum wage is too high in the U.S.
and that a higher minimum wage makes the country less competitive.
In so many words, Trump was saying that the people who work for wages
should be cut loose to fend for themselves in the cutthroat economy
that exists in the richest country in the world.
millions of workers are fighting to increase the nation’s
minimum wage to $15 an hour, Trump and others in the billionaire and
centimillionaire class are generally adamantly opposed to any
increase in the wage and many of them believe that any minimum is too
much for wageworkers. It should come as no surprise then that the
middle class is shrinking and the working class and the poor are left
out of the picture, altogether. When was that an issue in the
presidential primaries to date (Sanders excepted)? What about
poverty as an issue, one that looms over the entire economy?
the 1930s on, for several decades, there was much optimism in working
men and women, when they formed unions and could meet face-to-face
with their employers to reach an agreement on wages, benefits,
working conditions, and especially, pensions. In those days, much of
the labor was hard, in manufacturing, factory work, construction, and
other work that sapped the strength of those wage earners. When
they came to the end of their working lives of some 30 or 40 years,
they believed they deserved a rest and an income that provided a
dignified life in retirement. That’s why negotiations for good
pensions were such an important part of union contract talks, and
they provided for the old age of millions of workers.
the past several decades, however, the corporations which provided
some of the best pensions (mainly because they could afford them)
started to look at the pension funds as another pile of money that
they could milk for the benefit of the stockholders and the company’s
hierarchy. Many workers have lost pension benefits, if not their
entire retirement benefit, because of the greed of the corporations.
with ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) law that went
into effect in the 1970s, workers’ retirement was not secure,
although the law did help to some degree. The intervening years were
those in which Corporate America fled wholesale to low-wage
countries, leaving millions of workers to fend for themselves. And,
there was no sanction against the corporations for emptying out the
economy of the nation. As long as they were making money, and they
were, things seemed to be okay. Some of that money found its way
back into the campaign coffers of virtually all of the members of
Congress (both houses) and most of the members of state legislatures.
Tens of millions of workers found themselves outnumbered by a small
band of legislators at every level of government, who have not done
much to help those millions of families, which are now in dire need.
is no wonder, then, that the people in desperate financial and
economic need are forcing themselves to believe the nonsense that has
been spouted by Republican candidates, during the entire primary
season, especially the outlandish claims of Donald Trump, who says he
can fix everything, just like he has fixed contracts for his building
projects. Not all of his projects have turned out well, but people
are not listening to reality, rather, they are listening to the Story
of America that is being spun by their potential storyteller-in-chief
while on the stump.
a Democrat is elected, it’s possible that they might take a
stab at relieving the retirees of the Central States multi-employer
pension fund of some of their burden of debt and struggle. If a
Republican is elected, look for more of the same cuts, including
those into the programs that feed children and poor families. Don’t
look for help from that quarter, since, right at this moment, they
are busily attempting to cut food stamps and school lunches for
children in need. Considering that, expect nothing for the retirees
of Central States.
example of what’s happening is one retiree, 74-year-old Bill
Hendershot, who told CNNMoney that he is expecting a 60 percent cut
to his $3,500 monthly pension check. He told CNN that he has applied
for part-time work, and has reduced as much of his and his wife’s
household budget as possible. The couple’s income comes mainly
from his pension and their two Social Security payments each month.
They expect to lose a reported $2,104 a month, so life is going to be
tough from now on. Multiply that by 270,000 and you have a huge hit
to not only personal incomes, but to the economies of the communities
in which they live.
can be sure that the trustees of the fund and the government
officials that oversee it will not miss a penny of their pay or
benefits and will never miss a meal. This is the direction of the
country, though: The 1 percent will continue to take their profits
from workers and the poor, will continue their endless war economy
and their war on the environment, and most people will be left to
find a way to survive. Indeed, poverty is not an accident.