By DAVID SKOLNICK
Mary Ann Hudzik of Warren spent more than 30 years working for General Motors and the Delphi Corp.
When she left in 2008, she had Delphi’s assurance that she’d have her full pension and health-care coverage for life, Hudzik said.
But that was short-lived.
Along with 20,000 other Delphi salaried retirees last year, Hudzik lost her health-care coverage and saw her monthly pension drop 41 percent — from $3,050 to $1,800.
Hudzik was among three Delphi salaried retirees to testify Tuesday at a U.S. House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee field hearing at Canfield High School.
“My dedication and years of loyal service to both GM and Delphi were irrelevant to those companies,” Hudzik said. “But worse, I’m irrelevant to our government [that] agreed that I had no commercial value and therefore was not entitled to my full pension.”
The salaried retirees’ pensions were cut by 30 percent to 70 percent when the Delphi retirement obligation was turned over to the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. during the government’s restructuring of General Motors last year. Delphi had been a part of GM until it was spun off in 1999 as an independent company.
GM agreed last year to cover the pension losses of most of Delphi’s hourly workers, but no provisions were made for salaried employees.
Fighting back the tears at times, Hudzik said her husband is self-employed, and because of chronic pain, he can’t sleep and at times can’t work. No work means no income, she said.
“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to rip away pensions when people are least able to replace the income,” Hudzik said. “We did nothing to deserve to be robbed of our dreams, our hopes, our plans for a secure future and to be sent into a downward spiral of existence.”
On the four-member congressional panel were U.S. Reps. Charlie Wilson of St. Clairsville, D-6th, and Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th.
Wilson, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was instrumental in getting the field hearing in Canfield.
“Promises made to some Delphi retirees were broken entirely while benefits promised to others were reduced,” Wilson said. “Having those promises broken is just unacceptable.”
Ryan said he is “extremely disappointed by the Obama administration’s decision to not provide assistance” to the Delphi retirees. The congressman has asked President Barack Obama at least three times about helping the former Delphi workers.
Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate who testified for the retirees, also said he was “disappointed and frustrated” with the Obama administration over this issue.
“At its core, this is an issue of fairness,” he said. “We owe it to the men and women who played by the rules and worked hard to get the retirement they have earned.”
Also on Tuesday’s panel were Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Moore, a Democrat from Lenexa, Kan.; and U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, a Republican from Clarence, N.Y., a Buffalo suburb. Delphi has reduced its presence in that part of New York in recent years.
Bruce Gump, a Delphi and GM retiree who worked for the companies for 33 years, also testified Tuesday. He is the director of Delphi Salaried Retiree Association’s Warren Legislative Council.
He said the companies and the federal government treated the retirees like “a commodity to be thrown out like yesterday’s trash.”
The value of Tuesday’s hearing depends on what happens next, Gump said.
“If they put it into the [Congressional] Record, it will be a waste of time,” he said. “If they can bring [the various parties] together, it will be a success. The treasury is ignoring us. Congress is more difficult to ignore.”
Gump wants the House committee to help facilitate discussions among the treasury, the federal auto task force, the PBGC and the retiree association to reinstate full pension benefits for those who lost them.