Pension crisis worries mid-state retirees

Local retirees at the Union Hall at Teamsters Local 480 in Nashville discuss the looming multi-employer pension crisis and how it will impact them. (Photo: Berlin Rosen)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's a looming crisis set to impact one million American workers, including thousands in middle Tennessee: pension cuts.

This weekend local union members came together to talk about what they're going to do if or when the pension plans they've been paying into for decades run out.

"I do feel it's a betrayal, and it strikes me as particularly un-American to treat hardworking American workers this way," says Steve Nathan, a studio piano player. "I plan my retirement based on the promise of a pension."

Nathan was among the crowd of truckers, teachers, artists.... workers from all walks of life, who came out to the Union Hall of Local Teamsters 480 Saturday with a common worry about their future.

The group of retirees was eager to learn about cuts to their pensions. that could range from 53 to 94 percent.

"It's a situation here where the retirees could face drastic cuts if the multi-employer pension plan goes upside down," says Local Teamsters 480 President Lendon Grishman.

"The principle of having a retirement you would like to redeem what you have put in for so many years, and if that's not there and you're really depending on it, it can be devastating to a family," says Tyrone Moore, a Nashville area truck driver.

Most of these retirees have union negotiated pension plans that their employers can no longer pay for, thanks, in part, to the recession, which hit declining industries like manufacturing especially hard.

With more retirees reaping the benefits than active workers buying in to the plans, paying them out, could mean bankruptcy for some American businesses.

"If the pension plans fail more of the people are going to be on government assistance which is going to be a burden to the taxpayers as a whole," explains Grishman.

Union leaders are not only educating these workers on the looming impact, but also trying to inspire them to take action, and contact their lawmakers.

A bipartisan congressional committee has already been tasked with coming up with a solution to the pension problem.

They're mandated to have a fix by November.

One option being explored: funding plans through government subsidized loans.

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