Monday, April 17, 2017

Retired Teamsters Protest in Omaha Over Possible Pension Cuts

Retired Teamsters see a disturbing personal connection to the movie “Going in Style,” a fictional comedy about three friends driven to desperation after losing their pensions.

The Teamsters’ pensions are threatened with steep cuts because their fund has been determined to be insolvent, so on Sunday they used the movie to make a point as they demonstrated outside a theater near North 72nd Street and Crown Point Avenue.

About a dozen demonstrators, mostly retirees, lined Crown Point Avenue from about 5 to 6 p.m. holding signs protesting possible pension cuts and linking their cause to the movie.

A series of two signs read “GOING IN STYLE” and “IS NOT FICTION,” with the word “NOT” underlined.

“This isn’t fiction for people,” said Mary Packett, director of Protect Our Pensions of Iowa and Nebraska, a nonprofit group organized to help about 175 area Teamsters. “This isn’t funny to these guys because it’s their reality.”

Packett and her father, Freddie Lowry, 77, demonstrated Sunday. He is a retired Teamster who drove semitrailer trucks for 29 years and paid into his pension. He took occasional rest breaks Sunday during the demonstration, while others continued to stand along the street with their signs.

Last year hundreds of thousands of retirees with the pension fund faced benefit cuts — some by 50 percent or more. The proposal by the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund was intended to put the struggling fund back on a path to solvency. The plan was rejected by the U.S. Treasury Department, and retirees have been spared — for now.

The government’s rejection of the plan was only a temporary move, however, and the long-term future of the Teamsters’ benefits remains in doubt.

“This is about as unfair as you get,” said demonstrator Bob Bossung, “taking money away from retired old people” who budgeted based on pensions they thought they would receive throughout retirement. Bossung said he retired almost two years ago after driving trucks for 36 years, 22 of those for Roberts Dairy.

Teamsters “have stepped up and fought and won” in the past, Packett said, and they will continue to fight. About 20 members of the local Protect Our Pensions group will travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby lawmakers in June and push for an investigation and possibly an audit of the fund, she said.

“They’re good people,” Packett said of the Teamsters demonstrating Sunday, “and they deserve more than this.”

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