Tide turning in battle to halt pension cuts

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - More than 3,000 active and retired union workers in Northeast Wisconsin fighting to save their pensions are celebrating an important victory in Congress.

Their grassroots efforts are paying dividends.

It began with the Great Recession.

"With the 2008 market crash, we lost over $7 billion in our fund," says retired warehouse union worker Brad Vaughn from Green Bay.

By 2014, with a number of multi-employer pension funds, like the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund, on the brink of bankruptcy, Congress passed a bill allowing fund managers to slash retiree pensions by up to 60 percent.

"Mine was about 42 percent, I was going to lose about $1,500 a month, $18,000 a year, and when you're retired you just don't make that kind of income up, and we said we can't let this happen," says Terry Black from Green Bay, who spent 42 years working a union warehouse job.

Within months, the National United Committee to Protect Pensions was formed with chapters around the country.

"It was amazing that we started out with just a bunch of truck drivers and warehousemen and ended up working the halls of Congress and lobbying and having meetings with all the senators and congressmen in Washington," says Vaughn, chairman of the Green Bay Committee to Protect Pensions.

For the past four years, those carrying the torch for the 1.3 million union workers and retirees facing pension cuts have been unrelenting.

"Eighteen trips to Washington we've made, and it's been well worth it," says Vaughn.

Late last week, a major breakthrough as the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would replenish dwindling multi-employer pension funds through government loans and bonds.

Next up, the Senate.

"We're celebrating our victory through the House right now and it's just amazing and it re-energizes our people all across the country to really start putting the pressure on the Senate now, and being such a bipartisan bill that did pass, it's going to put a lot of pressure on the Senate to react and do something," says Vaughn.

On Sunday, August 18, the Green Bay Committee to Protect Pensions will holding a meeting at Stadium View Bar and Grill in Ashwaubenon to rally support and provide updates on the long-standing pension battle.

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