Feb 26 2016
Heitkamp Urges a Top U.S. Treasury Official to Better Protect ND Workers & Retirees from Pension Cuts
Senator Meets with Treasury Official Overseeing Proposed Central States Pension Plan Restructuring which Would Hurt Benefits of Thousands of North Dakotans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp pressed the official at the U.S. Treasury Department overseeing the proposed restructuring of the Central States Pension Plan about the need to better protect the pensions of the thousands of North Dakota workers, retirees, and their families who rely on these benefits.
During her meeting with Kenneth Feinberg -- the lead official at the U.S. Treasury Department mediating the proposed cuts -- Heitkamp urged the department to take into account the serious concerns of North Dakota workers and retirees, provide more time to hear from them, and explore ways to better protect them from harsh cuts. The Central States Pension Plan is a multiemployer fund that covers a range of fields, including thousands of North Dakota workers and retirees in the trucking, UPS package delivery, and grocery supply industries. It is trying to cut retirees’ benefits and remain financially viable.
Under the proposal, many North Dakota retirees could see up to a 60 percent cut to their benefits, which would have a particularly devastating effect on families who depend on their pensions for retirement. More than 2,000 North Dakota families will be impacted by Treasury’s decisions, many of whom will see their benefits reduced, despite a lifetime of contributing to their pensions and playing by the rules.
“Thousands of North Dakota workers go to their jobs every day – often involving intensive manual labor – knowing that these jobs will be tough on their bodies, but that after years, if not decades, of hard work, they will get solid retirement benefits for themselves and their families,” said Heitkamp. “Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, many of their retirement plans are now in jeopardy. During a meeting with the top U.S. Treasury official overseeing the potential restructuring of the pension plan, I pressed him to better protect these workers and retirees from such severe cuts while also helping the pension plan become financially viable. The only option can’t be putting these workers, retirees, and their families out in the cold as many of them face health challenges from working in fields that took physical tolls on their bodies.”
Heitkamp’s meeting with Feinberg follows months of work with the Teamsters and North Dakota workers and retirees who are participants in the Central States Pension Plan to press for options from the U.S. Treasury Department that don’t include unnecessary cuts to benefits. In January, Heitkamp called for Feinberg to visit North Dakota and hear from the retirees and their families who will be impacted. Last December, she pressed U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to thoroughly consider workers and retirees as the department reviews proposed cuts to the pension plan.