Sunday, August 02, 2009

SEIU bosses throw union members to the wolves

The pro-business group Americans for Tax Reform provides some excellent background information for union members to chew on. Put simply, union bosses appear to be underfunding their members' pensions, deliberately and systematically, while enriching their own plans.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the large public sector union, appears to be one such group. Aside from being a major supporter of the far left Democrat agenda, it is tied to ACORN, the troubled group of community agitators. So the act of skirting ethical, legal and moral roadblocks isn't exactly virgin territory for this crew.

The Rank Hypocrisy of the SEIU

The SEIU argues on its website that 401(K) plans are bad for workers. It claims that defined benefit funds are superior tools to assure workers' pensions. It would seem reasonable that the SEIU, then, would ensure that its 2 million members would benefit from generous, well-funded pensions.

But that is not the case -- at least for rank-and-file union members. ATR reports that:

• In 2006, the average SEIU members' pension plan was only 82% funded with assets of about $19,000 per person.
• Separate funds for employees of the SEIU were 105% funded, with about $85,000 per person.
• And funds covering SEIU officers and employees were 123% funded, holding roughly $80,000 per person.

However, only ten years earlier, in 1996, the SEIU National Industry Pension Fund possessed nearly 110% of the funds it would need for all of its pension obligations.

The Reason for the Disconnect Between Union Bosses and Members

So why are the union bosses' pension plans overfunded at 123% and the rank & file union members plans are near "endangered status" at 82%?

While the union blames market conditions, actual fund performance metrics demonstrate that this is not the case. It appears, instead, that the playing field has been tilted to reward the union bosses and union employees at the expense of the rank-and-file.

The problem exists not only in the SEIU's national plans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed that 13 SEIU local pension plans were less than 80% funded. Six were less than 65% funded.

For example, the Massachusetts Service Employees Pension Fund fell from nearly 110% to 70% funded in 10 years; and the SEIU 1199 Upstate Pension Fund fell from 115% to 75% since its inception in 1999.

To regain some semblance of fiscal stability, the SEIU has wagered heavily on forcing other employees to help fund its drying pension reserves. That was the motivation behind the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a major Democrat initiative for 2009, and one on which the SEIU spent tens of millions of its members' money.

Enactment of the EFCA (also known as "Card Check") would tie the hands of employers and employees, leaving many in a dire situation:

• Government arbitrators could force workers into underfunded pensions, putting their retirement at risk
• The average union pension has resources to cover only 62% of what is owed to participants
• Less than one in every 160 union-represented workers is covered by a union pension with required assets
• Under EFCA, government arbitrators can force businesses to fund failing pensions
• The PBGC already supports upwards of 30,000 pension plans
• Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), the governmental pension insurer, will assume $86.7 billion in liabilities by 2015
• The PBGC limits the benefits in multi-employer plans to $13,000 a year per retiree, compared with roughly $52,000 for single-employer plans.
• In 2007, the PBGC reported a deficit of $955 million, a $216 million increase from the previous year
• On July 23, PBGC agreed to take on $6.2 billion in pension liabilities from bankrupt auto supplier Delphi Corp

The EFCA-slash-Card Check bill is a Democrat payoff to union bosses, who fear what will happen when the massive pension disparity between workers and bosses becomes widely known.

The bill could, quite literally, crush companies under the weight of unfunded pension liabilities, and further devastate the economy.

The Card Check bill must be opposed at all costs.

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