A Victory For Freedom, A Possible Victory For Taxpayers

The Associated Press posted an article today about the Supreme Court’s decision that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining.

The article states:

A recent study by Frank Manzo of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Robert Bruno of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign estimated that public-sector unions could lose more than 700,000 members over time as a result of the ruling and that unions also could suffer a loss of political influence that could depress wages as well.

Alito acknowledged that unions could “experience unpleasant transition costs in the short term.” But he said labor’s problems pale in comparison to “the considerable windfall that unions have received…for the past 41 years.”

Billions of dollars have been taken from workers who were not union members in that time, he said.

“Those unconstitutional exactions cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely,” Alito wrote.

Kagan, reading a summary of her dissent in the courtroom, said unions only could collect money for the costs of negotiating terms of employment. “But no part of those fees could go to any of the union’s political or ideological activities,” she said.

The court’s majority said public-sector unions aren’t entitled to any money from employees without their consent.

There are two aspects of this decision that are going to make the political left very unhappy. Obviously this will severely limit the amount of money unions can contribute to Democrat political campaigns (to check union political donations, see opensecrets.org). But there is another issue here–pension funds. The other aspect of this decision is union retirement funds.

On October 19, 2012, I posted the following (here):

In a column in the Washington Examiner in April, Mark Hemingway pointed out that the average union pension plan had only enough money to cover 62 percent of its financial obligations.  Pension plans that are below 80 percent funding are considered “endangered” by the government; below 65 percent is considered “critical.”  Union membership is declining, which means that less people are paying into these funds.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) was created by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

According to Wikipedia:

The PBGC was created to encourage the continuation and maintenance of voluntary private defined benefit pension plans, provide timely and uninterrupted payment of pension benefits, and keep pension insurance premiums at the lowest level necessary to carry out its operations. Subject to other statutory limitations, PBGC’s insurance program pays pension benefits up to the maximum guaranteed benefit set by law to participants who retire at 65 ($60,136 a year as of 2016).[2] The benefits payable to insured retirees who start their benefits at ages other than 65 or elect survivor coverage are adjusted to be equivalent in value.

In fiscal year 2015, PBGC paid $5.6 billion in benefits to participants of failed single-employer pension plans. That year, 69 single-employer pension plans failed. PBGC paid $103 million in financial assistance to 57 multiemployer pension plans. The agency’s deficit increased to $76 billion. It has a total of $164 billion in obligations and $88 billion in assets.

On 03/23/2010, Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania introduced S3157.

The summary of S3157 at congress.gov states:

Create Jobs and Save Benefits Act of 2010 – Amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) permit multiemployer pension plans to merge or form alliances with other plans; (2) increase Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) guarantees for insolvent plans to increase participant benefits; and (3) increase from $8.00 to $16.00 the annual premium rate payable to the PBGC for each individual who is a participant of a multiemployer plan after December 31, 2010. (The underline is mine)

The bill was referred to committee and died there. So what is my point? The danger to the unions in this Supreme Court decision is that they will not have the money to pay their union pensions. The danger to the taxpayers in this decision is that they will be asked to pay the union pensions.

Stay tuned. This is going to get interesting.

 

Searching For The Truth About Delphi

 

The Washington Free Beacon and the Daily Caller have both posted articles about how the bailout of the automobile industry was handled in regard to Delphi, a company which supplies electronics and technology to the auto industry.

The Daily Caller posted an article stating that the decision to end the pensions of the non-union  workers at Delphi was not made independently by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the federal government agency that handles private-sector pension benefits issues, but that the decision was the result of pressure from the Treasury Department. They have uncovered a chain of e-mails that backs up this conclusion.

The Daily Caller reports:

The email chain was titled “Delphi Hourly Plan.” Delphi’s unionized hourly retirees originally saw their pension plans terminated together with the nonunion Delphi salaried retirees’ plans in a process that commenced on July 31, 2009.

Later, in September 2009, the union retirees’ plans were topped up while nonunion retirees’ plans remained terminated.

 These emails contradict July 2012 congressional testimony Feldman (Treasury official Matt Feldman) gave during an investigation by the subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs.

The treatment of Delphi employees is becoming a campaign issue in Ohio, where many of its employees were located. Paul Ryan met with nine Delphi retirees who lost their pensions, while their union coworkers pensions were untouched.

The Washington Free Beacon explains some of the details of the bailout:

Delphi was an important element of the auto-bailout. The company, one of GM’s largest parts suppliers, had been in bankruptcy since 2005 and Treasury officials recognized that it would need to be lifted from bankruptcy along with GM.

To cut costs, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), an independent federal insurer of retirement systems, terminated the nonunion plan while GM volunteered $1 billion to top-off pensions belonging to the United Autoworkers union.

The administration has contended that GM was acting on a 1999 agreement with the union to close any pension gap that emerged if Delphi declared bankruptcy.

That agreement, however, was liquidated when GM itself entered bankruptcy and emerged as a new company, according to bankruptcy expert Todd Zywicki.

General Motors’ decision to guarantee the obligations of a separate company—Delphi—was completely unjustified under established principles of bankruptcy law, and it increased the cost of the taxpayer bailout of the automotive industry by more than $1 billion with no reciprocal benefit to General Motors,” he told Congress in July.

The auto industry bailout is an example of the government interfering with the laws of bankruptcy and acting in total disregard to the law. It’s time to bring people into Washington who respect the laws of this country.

 

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Those Pesky E-Mails

Investors.com posted an article today about the latest scandal in the Obama Administration. You may not see this in the major media–they are too busy trying to distract the public with shiny objects–but it is an indication of how things work in the Obama Administration.

The article deals with GM’s Delphi auto parts unit and how its non-union employees were dealt with during the GM bailout.

The article reports:

The news site The Daily Caller has obtained internal government emails that show the U.S. Treasury Department, led by Timothy Geithner, pushed in 2009 to end the pensions of 20,000 non-union employees of GM’s Delphi auto parts unit as part of the auto bailout.

What’s truly outrageous is that, while those workers were cheated of their full pensions, union employees of the same Delphi company got their pensions paid.

This financially ruinous favoritism of union workers over nonunion workers is blatantly unfair, illegal and a violation of Constitutional guarantees of equal treatment under the law. And the reason is political.

This is one of many examples where government agencies were used for political purposes (paying back union supporters or wealthy donors) in the Obama Administration.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is responsible for overseeing private pensions. This organization is an independent, quasi-governmental insurer of private pension plans. Under law, that organization would have had the authority to determine how the pensions were handled.

The article further reports:

The email trail shows clearly that in April 2009 the Treasury Department held meetings on GM and Delphi, including “pension issues.” However, the PBGC was, in the words of one official, “disinvited.”

This was well before the decision, made in July, to stiff nonunion workers on their pensions. It suggests that the White House and Treasury were calling the shots — not the compromised, and politically bullied, PBGC.

This violates PBGC’s independence under the law as the sole agency that can terminate a private pension — not Treasury. Worse, the PBGC, based on the emails, seems to have thought it needed to clear whatever it did with the White House and Treasury. It didn’t.

There is also the question of whether or not several White House officials may have lied under oath when questioned about the decision on the pensions.

The Obama Administration has taken political cronyism to a new level. It is time to vote them out of office.

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