Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) held a "pension rally" at the North Dakota Teamsters' Union headquarters in Bismarck Tuesday (11-21).
Heitkamp said she’s helped to write a bill that would protect retirees -- mainly UPS drivers, other truckers and grocery workers -- who depend on the Central States Pension Fund for their pensions.
The fund became insolvent, and the federal government had to take it over. Pensioners may face benefit cuts. The federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation will also become insolvent, if the Central States Fund and other pension plans fail.
Heitkamp said the workers want what they were promised. She said the bill – called the “Butch Lewis Act” – would provide government financing to put the plans back on solid financial ground, prevent benefit cuts, and put safeguards in place.
"How inequitable it is to basically take away someone's pension, or dramatically cut someone's pension, when those people have done nothing wrong themselves," Heitkamp said. "Why is it that you can bail out the big banks, but when it comes to solving this problem, there can't be any government resources?"
Tony Goetzfried of Bismarck is a retired truck driver, and former North Dakota Teamsters president. He said employers have been putting money into that pension fund since the 1960s, and the employees gave up raises to put money into that fund.
"If it (Central States) goes broke, it's going to cost the taxpayers money," Goetzfried said. "We're going to have people filing for heating assistance, food stamps."
Goetzfried said this was never a gift to the workers.
"We all earned it," Goetzfried said. "We worked hard to put the money in there. Now we want to retire."
Heitkamp is hoping Congress will pass the Butch Lewis act before year’s end.