Thursday, September 17, 2015
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), retiree advocates and hundreds of retirees on Capitol Hill today to call on Congress to protect the earned retirement benefits of millions of American retirees and workers.
The “Keep Our Pension Promises Act” (KOPPA), sponsored by Sen. Sanders and Rep. Kaptur, would protect workers and retirees from cuts to their earned retirement benefits. The legislation would roll back provisions that were slipped into the fiscal 2015 spending bill approved by Congress last year that made earned pension benefits vulnerable to cuts.
“We’re here to protect pensions. We have retirees here from all across America and this is just the beginning of our fight,” Hoffa said. “Hardworking Americans have earned the right to retire with dignity.”
“We have to send a loud and clear message—when a promise is made to working people, that promise must be kept. We can’t slash pensions in this country,” Sen. Sanders said. “If we stand together, if all Americans stand together, we can win this fight.”
“Your pension benefits are your earned benefits and you have a right to them,” Rep. Kaptur told retirees. “I am proud to stand with you.”
Today, the U.S. Treasury Department held a hearing in Washington, D.C., on finalizing a rule that will open the door to pension cuts for retirees. This rule flies in the face of a long-standing prohibition against cuts for current retirees. If the rule is finalized, it would be the first time that pension retirement security has been compromised since President Gerald Ford signed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) into law 41 years ago.
Teamsters International Vice President John Murphy spoke at the hearing about the urgency of protecting pensions, and Teamster retirees joined Teamster leaders outside the hearing and at the press conference on Capitol Hill in support of KOPPA.
KOPPA would restore anti-cutback rules so that retirees in financially troubled multi-employer pension plans would be protected from having their earned benefits cut. It ensures that the safety net system supported mostly by employers does not shift to one funded entirely by taxpayers.
In order to shore up the long-term sustainability of the existing federal pension insurance program, KOPPA creates a $30 billion legacy fund over 10 years, paid for by closing two tax loopholes used almost exclusively by the super-rich to avoid paying taxes.
More than 10 million Americans rely on multi-employer pension plans for their retirement security. If action is not taken to protect pensions, some 1.5 million workers in 200 retirement plans nationwide are at risk.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” Hoffa said. “We must work together to protect our retirees and stop these cuts now.”
The Teamsters Safety and Health Department has been awarded a $4.6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to establish apprenticeship programs for workers in the trucking industry. The grant will be awarded over a five-year funding cycle.
The DOL published a Notice of Funding Opportunity in the fall of 2014 in an effort to develop a trained workforce in industries that are deemed critical to the U.S. economy and have significant demand for or shortages of qualified workers. It stipulated that lead applicants must qualify as 501(c)5 non-profit organizations and have partners including at least three employers, from the following companies:
ABC Moving Services is a regional corporate moving company;
ABF Freight is a national freight trucking company;
DiSilva Transportation, Inc. is a regional logistics company;
National Retail Systems, Inc. is a national retail delivery trucking company.
ABC Moving Services, DiSilva Transportation and National Retail Systems are signatory to collective bargaining agreements with Teamsters Local Union 25, located in Boston, Mass.
"The Teamsters are at the forefront of worker training and this new grant from the Labor Department will enable workers to get the skills that employers seek," said James P. Hoffa, Teamsters General President.
In addition to creating certified apprenticeship programs, the grant funding must be used to develop qualified instructors and provide training to recent high school graduates, incumbent Teamster members who are transitioning from non-driving transportation jobs to jobs that require Class A or Class B Commercial Driver's Licenses, and military personnel who are transitioning to civilian life. Student recruitment will be conducted at high schools and vocational schools, community-based organizations that support underserved communities, Teamster Local Unions, and select military bases.
"We are honored to accept this grant from the Department of Labor," said Lamont Byrd, Director of the Teamsters Safety and Health Department. "We have wanted to focus on training of apprentices for some time and this award will allow us to do just that. Many young people just starting their careers need professional training and guidance – both of which will be available through the qualified Teamster instructors who will implement the program."
Moody’s Investors Service Inc. on Thursday placed its ratings for XPO’s credit rating for a possible downgrade from a current rating that is already classified as high risk. “The sheer pace and magnitude of recent acquisitions elevates forward execution risk and balance sheet leverage relative to earlier expectations, and could be exacerbated further by increasing macroeconomic weakness,” Moody’s senior credit officer Chris Wimmer wrote in a report on the action.
The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment the Moody’s review, issued late Thursday.
Investors have hit the company’s shares since the acquisition of French trucking company Norbert Dentressangle SA closed in June. XPO shares are down about 40% since hitting their 2015 high in late May, including a 11% decline on Thursday to end at a more-than one-year low of $30.24.
The Con-way acquisition announced Wednesday deal will make XPO one of the largest freight transportation providers in the U.S., advancing a plan to become an all-in-one logistics and transportation firm. Unusually in the fragmented trucking market, XPO will offer a wide array of services, including short-haul trucking at ports and freight brokering. The company is betting that diverse mix will allow it to lower costs and win bigger clients.
But success will rest largely on the ability of XPO, which generates most of its revenue in the asset-light business of matching shippers with carriers, to operate Con-way’s trucking fleet. That could be a challenge as the company is still digesting its purchase of Norbert Dentressangle in June and numerous other acquisitions in the last five years, analysts say.
Concerns about the pace of integration were heightened last week, when Hervé Montjotin, Norbert’s former chief executive, who had headed XPO’s European arm since the acquisition, resigned.
Offering so many shipping services under one roof “is a very interesting capability [that] immediately catapults XPO into a different stratosphere”, said Mike Regan, chief of relationship development at TranzAct Technologies Inc., which helps shippers negotiate freight rates. “But to what extent am I willing to bet my supply chain on their being able to seamlessly integrate their capabilities? That’s a big question.”
XPO Chief Executive Bradley Jacobs said in an interview earlier Thursday that his company would win back investors who had lost faith in the company after the latest acquisitions.
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On Thursday, Welch was in Boston giving a presentation at a transportation conference hosted by New York-based Cowen & Co. There, he gave an update on the company’s improved performance and fielded questions about YRC and his read on the industry. Here’s a quick look at his comments:
Searching for consistency
Welch, who has led the Overland Park-based company out of serious trouble since he joined in 2011, said he didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the company’s second quarter. He was focused on bringing about consistent performance for the rest of the year. YRC suffered wild swings while it tackled debt refinancing, labor negotiations and other big issues, but he said the company finally is starting to find some of that consistency.
Through half of 2015, YRC is profitable. That’s a huge accomplishment for a company that many wrote off before Welch took the CEO job. Although he couldn’t say exactly how things are going in the third quarter — YRC is expected to release those results in late October — he expects the company will start to show some of that consistent performance.
Welch attributed that to YRC's focus on moving more profitable freight and its steady reorganization of its freight network. The network was not properly integrated when predecessors Yellow and Roadway merged, he said, and lingering issues have cost the company since 2009. The summer, Welch said, was the first he’s witnessed where YRC did not suffer from some kind of network issues.
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The following is the official statement of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa in response to the announcement of the introduction of a bipartisan companion bill in the Senate to HR 2050 which would repeal an excise tax set to be charged on those enrolled in high-quality health care plans provided by the Teamsters and other organizations.
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), who introduced HR 2050 the “Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act” in April, joined Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) at a press conference today to show support for their bill.
“The Teamsters support this bipartisan effort to repeal the destructive excise tax that is set to take effect in 2018. This tax will levy a heavy burden on working families that they cannot afford. It is unacceptable that hardworking Americans are being penalized for having a quality health care plan.
“We must repeal this tax and protect middle-class Americans from additional economic hardship before it takes effect. I applaud Rep. Courtney and Sens. Heller and Heinrich for joining together to present a bipartisan effort against this ill-advised tax.”