Monday, January 29, 2018
The initial meetings focused primarily on language issues but ABF raised claims that its employee costs and operating costs are too high. TNFINC, however, made it clear that members were not interested in a concessionary contract.
“Rather than get bogged down right off the bat in what could have easily resulted in a collision, we spent the initial meetings trying to resolve some of the less controversial issues and made progress in those areas,” said Ernie Soehl, Director of the Teamsters National Freight Division and Co-Chairman of TNFINC.
The current ABF National Master Freight Agreement runs through March 31, 2018 and covers more than 8,000 members.
But that promise of a monthly check, once considered ironclad, is now in doubt for more than a million retirees and older workers nationwide, including tens of thousands in Massachusetts and neighboring states. Their underfunded pension plans are creeping toward insolvency, putting benefits they earned over the course of a career at risk of being cut or even eliminated.
For people like Bob Connors, 64, who spent decades unloading cases of beer at the Anheuser Busch warehouse in Medford, that’s brought uncertainty at a stage of life he had figured would be less stressful.
“I’m trying to be frugal, less travel and eating out, because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Connors, a Medford resident and Teamsters union member who retired two years ago. He’s collecting a pension that’s enabled him to delay taking Social Security. “If it gets cut, I might have to go back to work or sell my house.”
Beyond the pensions of local Teamsters, hundreds of other retirement plans offered by large US companies or groups of smaller ones are struggling. Some have frozen contributions for veteran employees and stopped offering the retirement benefit to new hires.
“We’re looking at the death rattle of pensions in the private sector,” said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, who cowrote a recent report on the decline of a little-known class of benefits called multiemployer pension plans, which have been particularly hard hit. “These plans are going to run out of money. Employers have decided they’re cumbersome, and they don’t want to assume the risk.”
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