Senator's plan would aid Teamsters' pension fund

Monday, May 31, 2010
By Daniel Malloy, Post-Gazette Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- With twice as many retirees as active workers, the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters Fund, like many multi-employer pension plans, is in trouble.

A proposal by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., would help rescue the fund and one other pension plan by allowing beneficiaries of bankrupt companies to spin off into their own federally backed plans instead of dragging down the larger plan.

The rescue effort would apply only to the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters Fund -- which is in critical condition at less than 60 percent funded, according to the fund's attorney, Vincent Szeligo -- and the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund, a large plan that covers a variety of industries including trucking and construction.

Multi-employer plans are negotiated by unions but paid by employers, offering defined pension benefits for life to their employees. For decades, small businesses flocked to multi-employer plans because of the larger risk pool. But, more employers going to individual 401(k) plans rather than defined benefits -- if they offer pensions at all.

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