July 1, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Baltimore, MD – Predicting that its pension fund will run out of money in a little more than 15 years, Ironworkers Local 16 has asked the federal government for permission to reduce its retirement benefits.
The union says it has about 620 retirees receiving benefits from the fund, but only about 300 workers in the Baltimore area currently paying into it. Without change, “we’re going to put ourselves out of business,” Local 16 business manager Thomas Brune told the Baltimore Sun. “And then they'll get nothing for it.” A 2014 federal law lets pension funds ask permission to cut benefits if that would extend their life by 30 years, as long as they end up paying less than the amount offered by federal pension insurance and don’t reduce benefits at all for retirees over 80. Retirees in the Teamsters’ troubled Central States pension plan have criticized that law, saying it allows taking away benefits that workers already earned. Graham B. Henry, a 71-year-old Local 16 retiree who worked on the Francis Scott Key Bridge, was more fatalistic. He expects his $1,559-a-month pension to go down by about $300, if the plan is approved, but told the Sun, “If the young people working have to take a hit, so should we.” Read more