Letter: Central States Pension Fund’s Shortfall

This Letter to the Editor appears in the Oct. 12 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Central States Pension Fund’s Shortfall

I am a 40-year transportation manager who has worked with unions, company employees, independent contractors, contract companies and any variation of these that you can think of. I have been involved in every type of “union avoidance” training, union contract negotiations, employee labor relations, legal work-rule discussions and all other human resource and management training invented. I have worked as a dock supervisor, dispatcher, terminal manager, director and executive in all cases.

The best way I know to add perspective to the Central States Pension Fund’s shortfall is to look as far back as the 1980s, when every time the union got a raise, management got a “compression raise” in addition to performance and cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, raises. This was good for the economy, the companies and the employees. Then came deregulation.

I watch in complete amazement as legislators wrestle with the law to reform CSPF and how to manage the plight of retirees who will be affected — about 400,000 was the estimate I saw. The part that completely baffles me is our “revisionist history” that has become a dirty secret and is not being discussed. Specifically, the Teamsters and their leadership, the lawmakers, the government (both state and federal) and other “business interests” are all complicit in this issue — dating to the early 1900s.

The Teamsters were formed in 1903 because of improper and illegal labor business practices, substandard wages and other abuses, such as profiteering by the business community leaders. Management, Teamsters leadership and legislators then allowed themselves to become corrupted. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters “loaned” organized crime the seed money from CSPF for the start-up of the casino industry in Las Vegas. The payoffs for Hoffa and others from the casino skim went into their pockets, not back into the fund.

The FBI ignored it, Teamsters members allowed restrictive work rules to overtake common sense and all are to blame for the current situation escalating to this point.

Additionally, poor corporate decisions on the resultant work rules that could not be managed and bad pricing decisions led to the demise of many of these businesses. Union members had no control over all of this but continued to contribute to the fund. Who can estimate the billions of dollars in profits and waste that was generated on the backs of mostly good and hardworking people?

Anybody who thinks that all of this did not contribute to the current situation has forgotten how we got here. Somehow, a law will have to be written to stop the bleeding.

I suggest that the Las Vegas business community contribute 80% to the current fund shortfall, and the other 20% should come from the Feds due to their history of “poor management.”

There has to be a penalty for mismanagement. We find ways to bail out the bankers for the same kind of behavior. I cannot imagine that we cannot find a spare “billion” to do the right thing, own up to our past transgressions and invest the money in a way that allows the CSPF to be self-funded going forward.

It would be a travesty to not fix this and hang these people out to dry.

Mike Hickman

Retired from trucking management

Shelbyville, Kentucky