Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Representatives Louise Slaughter, Eric Massa, Chris Lee, and Dan Maffei, have announced that they sent a personal letter to President Barack Obama asking him to assist in bringing GM to the negotiating table in efforts to reverse a decision to refer the pension plans of the Delphi Corporation’s salaried retirees to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). The members of Congress urged the Administration to insist that GM treat these workers in the same manner as all other Delphi workers absorbed by GM, and fully fund their pensions, in addition to the pensions of other Delphi employees. The members of Congress noted that these retirees have already been subjected to cuts in their health and life insurance benefits, and that any further cuts would place too great a burden on retirees, many of whom started their careers at GM, and only became Delphi employees when the two companies split. Thirty two members of Congress signed the letter to President Obama
“The way Delphi’s salaried retirees are being treated is fundamentally unfair,” said Schumer. “Many of them have been long time employees and some even began their careers, decades ago, as GM employees. They have sacrificed enough already, and to ask them to accept another burden is unfair and unreasonable. They deserve equitable treatment, and that’s why I am urging the Obama Administration to bring GM to the negotiating table and bring this saga to fair and equitable end.”
“We need to ensure that Delphi’s salaried retirees receive equitable treatment,” said Senator Gillibrand. “In the midst of these tough economic times, families in Upstate New York cannot afford to sacrifice their pension benefits. I will continue to fight for fair treatment for our Delphi retirees.”
“The workers at Delphi don’t deserve this,” said Slaughter. “The Western New York workers that built GM’s proud local tradition should not bear the brunt of this action. The idea that Delphi workers who have worked side-by-side with others at GM are not only losing their health care and life insurance benefits, but also stand to lose 70 percent of their pension is not only unwanted, it’s unjust.”
“I stand with the men and women that have spent their lives working at Delphi,” said Congressman Eric Massa. “To slash the pensions of these retirees by up to 70% just because they were salaried employees is fundamentally unfair. We hope that President Obama will join us in calling for GM to renegotiate these conditions.”
“I’m encouraged that so many of my colleagues, Democrat and Republican alike, have joined this fight to demand fairness and equity for all Delphi retirees,” said Congressman Lee. “Delphi salaried retirees are not looking for more than they have earned. They are simply looking for fair and equal treatment, just like the men and women they worked beside for so many years.”
“This is an issue about fundamental fairness,” Congressman Maffei said. “The Delphi retirees, who worked their whole lives and played by the rules, deserve the pension and retirement plans they negotiated and expected. Further cuts will be unbearable for many families.”
General Motors has already agreed to assume the pensions of Delphi’s hourly workers, and today the Senators and Representatives said that the salaried workers deserve the same treatment. The bipartisan members of Congress noted that if the pensions are transferred to the PBGC, the benefits may be cut by up to 70%. Delphi was originally spun off from General Motors in 1999 and has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since October 2005. Delphi is GM’s largest supplier and sold the company $5.5 billion in parts and services in 2008, accounting for 31 percent of Delphi’s revenue. Since Delphi declared bankruptcy in 2005, GM has taken charges of almost $11 billion to pay for the restructuring efforts of Delphi’s North American operation.
In the letter, the members of Congress wrote: “As a 60 percent shareholder in GM, the federal government is in a position to do something to restore fairness for these retirees and to minimize the economic impact of the pension loss on their communities.”
The full text of the letter is below:
February 25, 2010The Honorable Barack Obama President The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The auto industry helped build America’s middle class. Now, the very people who built GM through their labor are facing the prospect of losing the middle class retirement that they earned over a lifetime of service. Today, we write to ask for your assistance and intervention on behalf of the Delphi retirees, many of whom stand to lose a substantial portion of their pensions in the aftermath of the Delphi and GM bankruptcies.
In 1999, Delphi was created through the spinoff of the automotive components group from GM. The majority of the Delphi employees spent two-thirds of their careers as GM employees. In 2005, Delphi entered bankruptcy protection. As part of the restructuring of the company, many long-term employees were forced into early retirement. Early retirement or supplemental benefits are not guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. In February 2009, the Delphi salaried retirees lost their health care benefits for themselves and their families. On July 31, 2009, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation terminated Delphi’s pension plans and became the trustee as of August 10, 2009.
In the case of Delphi hourly employees under certain collective bargaining agreements, GM agreed to make up the difference between the PBGC benefit and what the retiree had earned. The Delphi salaried employees and some of the hourly employees such as those represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and the Machinists unions had no such agreement and are facing drastic reductions in their pension benefits. More than 20,000 salaried retirees and 100 union retirees were left with no additional pension benefit guarantee. They are looking for fair treatment.
Instead, they are receiving notification from the PBGC of the reduction in their benefits. We would like to share with you information collected by the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association on the reductions that went into effect on February 1, 2010. They will have a profoundly negative impact on the individual retirees, their families, and their communities, which are already struggling to survive the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.
As a 60 percent shareholder in GM, the federal government is in a position to do something to restore fairness for these retirees and to minimize the economic impact of the pension loss on their communities. We request that the Administration bring GM to the negotiating table to work out a fair solution for the Delphi retirees.
Sincerely,Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) Senator George Voinovich (OH) Senator Herb Kohl (WI) Senator Russell Feingold (WI) Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) Senator Charles Schumer (NY) Senator Tom Harkin (IA) Senator Roger Wicker (MS) Senator Thad Cochran (MS) Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-17) Rep. Michael Turner (OH-03) Rep. Steven La Tourette (OH-14) Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15) Rep. Betty Sutton (OH-13) Rep. Charles Wilson (OH-06) Rep. Zack Space (OH-18) Rep. Steve Austria (OH-07) Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09) Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11) Rep. John Boccieri (OH-16) Rep. Steve Driehaus (OH-01) Rep. Dale Kildee (MI-05) Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11) Rep. John Dingell (MI-15) Rep. Gary Peters (MI-09) Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY-28) Rep. Eric Massa (NY-29) Rep. Chris Lee (NY-26) Rep. Daniel Maffei (NY-25) Rep. Gregg Harper (MS-03) Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-02) Rep. Rob Andrews (NJ-01)