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A Response to GP Dean of the Ironworkers and Unfunded Pensions –

Here is a link to the recent President’s Page by Eric Dean, General President of the Ironworkers, so you can see what was written and compare it to what may be said in our own trades case. Most of the trades GPs may find themselves in a position to write this type of letter to both Locals and their own respective entire U.S. membership. Only the International Union of Elevator Constructors are pretty much exempt from our comments, mostly because their current IP ceased control of their International years ago, to change the course of the underfunded and insolvent pension. https://1drv.ms/b/s!AmKOi71GyLcgvwu9aIwUFbflwpb1

One of the highlights or lowlights on the Presidents Page is that “Pension obligations are a promise – one that our union intends to keep – to everyone who has worked to earn credit in the plan, retired or not.”

Are the IW’s or any of the Internationals going to write checks for the difference between the unfunded amounts and the earned amount of the participants? In this case IW Local 17. Probably not! So how can it be implied that EVERYONE will be made whole? They are not. Also, the members of that local did not rescue the plan. They had to decide between 2 horrible choices presented. Case closed! Either choice has terrible ramifications. Here is a link to a blog Labor Rising wrote in October of 2015 on dealing with unfunded and insolvent pension funds. BLOG 127 https://1drv.ms/w/s!AmKOi71GyLcgrzFekvC4BV7FteTi

This looming disaster of unfunded liabilities has been on the radar screen since the late 90’s. Just check the sessions that the IFEBP had back then at the Trustee Education Conferences. I ran the New Trustees Institute for years, and can attest to the lack of attention paid to this subject back then. The Trustees were too busy playing golf and sightseeing rather than attending classes to deal with the subject. I know because before classes I would sit on the car ports of the respective host hotels and watch a parade of limos, provided by the vendors, take the Trustees to fabulous venues – but not class, daily.

This Class of Trustees is comprised of almost exactly the same men that let Organizing die and have seen Value on Display fail massively and yet do NOTHING! A “good ole boy “class of men of inaction!

Almost ALL pension underfunded/insolvency issues faced today are “good ole boy” issues – then and now! For 30 years grown men said “put the money on the check” when asked what to do with new raises each year. It was almost universal across the trades. Then after 30 years of pennies going into a pension – those very same men had next to zero in their retirement accounts as they approached retirement! In the late 90’s and going into the early 2000’s most of the raises in an era of good construction went to the pension. That would have been OK – EXCEPT – these “good ole boys” put money they DID NOT HAVE into bringing up past accruals. Which simply means they took a huge benefit which was not supported by hard dollars. The members on the floor did not understand that they were digging their own hole. HOW COULD THEY? Who in their right mind as a member turns down something too good to be true? So, for greed purposes of the senior leadership intent on raising their own pensions – and to curry political favors of the membership as being great Stewards of the fund – we collectively put these funds in a hole, many cannot get out of.  Here is a link to the current list by the DOL. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/public-disclosure/critical-status-notices

Reverse engineer any plan in trouble today and see if this is not the case in most of them. Massive amounts of past benefit accruals with next to zero dollars to support them for the sake of greed and politics.

As a Trustee of our plans, we had to have a massive floor fight to undo this “good ole boy” feel good BS! In the mid 90’s we went to a system of paying/using new money on prospective benefit improvements almost exclusively. Had we not – we would be on the insolvent list too! Also, the members had to pony up some money to shore up liabilities that accrued to that time.

Most of the reason that I tell you this is because I lived it, and continue to bring transparency to this self-imposed crisis. While market loses in 2001 and 2008 did not help – all they did was expose how bad and extensive the underfunding was. Organizing is also a self-inflicted wound contributing to this underfunding. IP Dean, and the other IPs will not fight the moneyed interests in construction. Their “plan” is to talk to them. 20 years of failure with Value on Display and they are appalled that some of us in Organizing want to put the anti-union down. Gotta agree with Mike Tyson when he said, “Everyone has a ‘plan’ – till they get punched in the face!”

The main reason I write this – is because those who put us in both the pension and organizing crises are now trying to solve it! They are either directly responsible and/or the next generation of “good ole boys”! If you think for a moment they are not passing the buck to the agencies like PBGC and MPRA 2014 – well, we are going to find out the hard way – aren’t we?

In the IW’s case, one of a few smoking guns is the LU/DC, which is the officers and agents additional pension program. A slush fund of “good ole boys” and their cronies to the max. If the membership ever knew the extent of the abuses of this fund, they would puke! The methods of payment and eligibility rules were just out of control to any reasoned person who isn’t a “good ole boy.” And who bailed this fund out when it was headed to insolvency years ago?  –  The membership!  Four others and I took on this issue at the agents’ meeting. No one else did at that meeting. Years later, the government imposed change.

This is replicated all over the trades landscape. So, those leaders now writing to tell you they are the ones to trust to handle this, have few/zero solutions. Reverse engineer where they were in the hierarchy when all this has been happening the past couple of decades. Many members across the trades are going to be crippled. We are not going to solve this with the same “LEADERS” that either caused it and/or looked the other way because of the political impact to their career.

Hell, right now the end-users, developers and CM’s are dictating that they will not contribute to a Defined Contribution Pension in existing and upcoming PLA’s. Dictating! So, even those healthy funds may be in a bind because of lack of contributions.

2 and only 2 solutions presently exist to change the present outcome. First – we have to Organize like our Founders did. Labor Rising/Labor Combat has the only format that is the 21st century version of that.

Those who have been to class and say “it doesn’t work” haven’t tried it. Show us the market spread and SIC analysis your Local ran and the developed Compression Zone(s). Show developed strategies and tactics. We know we win because enough locals have done this and are winning

The 2nd is to do the freaking Construction Management – the trades as Construction Managers. We win, we change construction delivery on the continent. Pensions and careers are saved. Workers join. Here is a link to our last Blog regarding this. https://1drv.ms/w/s!AmKOi71GyLcgvwFcfuvoZZhIHvCn

Senior Leadership who refuse to do this are almost certainly are either incompetent and/or owned by management.

If the shoe fits –

“if you see a good fight – get in it”

Danny L Caliendo
Organizer
Labor Rising/Labor Combat

BTW: To the membership of IW Local 17. Who paid for the testing for the MPRA? Extremely expensive and I’m confident the International is going to school on how to do this for other locals. Did the International pay for, or help pay for this testing?

Also, should the International adopt real Organizing which is imposing a CBA on the non-union and adopting the trades being the Construction Manager – YOU COULD reverse the downward spiral the Local has faced for decades.

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