Teamsters rally at UPS in Springfield to fight pension cuts

Published: Oct. 12, 2017 at 11:16 AM CDT
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Teamsters from both here in Springfield and the Kansas City area rallied this morning at the local UPS center to raise awareness about a proposed plan to cut their pensions by 20%.

Some of those who showed up for this morning's rally used to work for UPS. Wes Epperson, a retired Kansas City Teamster, says, "Some of us worked in freight; I was a UPS driver."

Burley Swift of Springfield says, "I was in the Teamsters and I worked for Consumers here in Springfield."

But they're all retired Teamsters who rely on the same pension fund. "I paid into this retirement for 27 years; nobody gave it to me," says Swift.

The pension fund is in trouble, and its trustees are looking at restructuring to avoid the fund eventually failing. UPS has proposed a 20% cut to benefits to once again make the pension plan viable.

"It will affect anybody that's in the Teamsters pension plan," says Swift.

Ralliers say a cut would hurt 400,000 Teamsters accross the country.

Epperson says, "You're talking house payments, car payments; a lot of people have high medical expenses and prescriptions, diabetes, cancer, heart disease. We're all retirees."

UPS spokesman Steve Gaut says, "UPS is troubled by the difficult and potentially life-changing impact of pension benefit reductions on current and future retirees. Allowing multiemployer plans to default likely brings far deeper cuts than addressing the funding issues today, while there is time to make a difference. Simply hoping for a full federal bailout of failing multiemployer plans is not a viable solution. The company is working to develop alternative solutions that will help address the declining health of multiemployer pension plans.”

Staff at the local Teamsters hall actually asked ralliers to leave the building because they were too loud. The local Teamsters principal officer says he would rather see retirees get 80 of their pensions than nothing in a few years.

"We oppose them unilaterally trying to implement a plan without any input from retirees. It's our pension; we earned it; we'd like to have a seat at the table," says Epperson.

So far, no plan has gone to Congress for approval. Some Teamsters are holding out hope for a plan with no cuts. UPS says some Teamsters leadership has actually supported the proposed plan.