New York, NY – Embattled labor leaders beset by a continuous onslaught of anti-union attacks from the right, struck a defiant tone at MagnaCare’s “Leading Through Challenges” event held in town on October 4.

IBT Local 810 President Mike Smith.

The focus of the event was the many challenges facing labor today, and how labor leaders and their unions are navigating through them. IBT Local 810 President Mike Smith spoke about an issue that is becoming increasingly common: declining pension funds; and what the union is doing to combat the change. 

“There are a million and a half people at risk of losing their pensions,” Smith said. The reason? Fallout from the 2008 stock market crash, along with nonunion competition from overseas, as well as other important factors.

There are a million and a half people at risk of losing their pensions. — IBT Local 810 President Mike Smith

Smith, however, also stressed that there is hope for Local 810 pension plans and other plans like them.  The proposed Butch-Lewis Act, he said, would provide a way to preserve pension plans “through emergency loan programs, which would be funded by proceeds from treasury bonds.”

MagnaCare President Michelle Zettergren.

Gary LaBarbera, head of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, called the #CountMeIn campaign’s ongoing fight against Hudson Yards developers and so-called “open shop” development, a “visceral” struggle that has sparked “a rebirth of some of the fundamental principles of what the Building Trades are.” 

Through that struggle, LaBarbara said a level of solidarity amongst the Trades has been awoken that “hasn’t seen in years.”

“The concept goes back to one word — it’s not a slogan, it’s an action–that word is solidarity,” LaBarbera said.

Magnacare President Michelle Zettergren, meanwhile, highlighted the improvements her company has made to better serve the insurance needs of clients in organized labor.  Among them, expanded coverage in New Jersey, which includes a new partnership with AmeriHealth, bringing additional discounts to members in the state.


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