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Delphi retirees get good news in the bid for pension fairness

Published: Thu, August 29, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

After years of frustration and even despair, the 22,000 salaried retirees of Delphi Corp., including 1,500 in the Mahoning Valley, have finally found a reason for optimism.

A report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program confirms what the retirees have been saying since 2009, namely, that they were sacrificial lambs in General Motors’ bankruptcy process.

The Treasury Department, which was overseeing the bankruptcy, chose not to restore the pensions of the salaried Delphi retirees because they had “no leverage” to delay GM’s bankruptcy, the report states. By contrast, Treasury pushed the company to restore the pensions of United Auto Workers retirees in hopes of pulling the giant auto maker out of bankruptcy within a 40-day period without risking a strike or other delays, according to the Dayton Daily News, which revealed the details of the inspector general’s probe.

The Obama administration was eager to address GM’s financial woes as quickly as possible because it was concerned the company could not survive a prolonged battle. Government financing was at risk if GM was unable to complete its bankruptcy in time.

Not unexpectedly, the inspector general’s report has become a rallying cry for the Delphi retirees, who have waged a four-year battle to be treated fairly.

Their persistence has resulted in legislation being introduced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-13th, to restore the retirees’ full pensions. Restoration would carry a price tag of about $440 million, which is what the Treasury Department estimated the former Delphi salaried employees lost in the GM bankruptcy process.

As we’ve said in previous editorials, it’s simply a matter of fairness to ensure all retirees are treated equally. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which took over the plans when GM and Delphi went bankrupt, restored full pensions and benefits to unionized General Motors and Delphi workers, but tossed out a few crumbs to the Delphi salaried retirees.

The upshot of this blatant mistreatment is that many retirees suffered cuts of up to 70 percent of their promised pensions.

A study by Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies has found that the economic impact of the cuts to the 1,500 Mahoning Valley retirees is about $60 million.

But the good news doesn’t end with the federal inspector general’s report nor with the legislation introduced by Sen. Brown and Rep. Ryan.

Last week, a federal magistrate judge ordered the PBGC to cooperate with the salaried retirees with regard to documents relevant to their lawsuit against the agency.

The delivery of documents must occur on or before Sept. 30, Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub ruled.

“The court has repeatedly found that the filing of boilerplate objections is tantamount to filing no objections at all,” Majzoub wrote, referring to a string of objections filed by the PBGC to the retirees’ request for 30,000 documents.

Not political

But while we remain unstinting in our support of the retirees and their battle for fair treatment, we do not buy the assertion of Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, who requested the inspector general’s report, that the Obama administration “thwarted the bankruptcy process for a politically expedient outcome.”

The fact of the matter was that GM was skating on thin ice and was being squeezed. We in the Mahoning Valley were marking time because GM’s Lordstown plant was in jeopardy.

Today, as result of the federal bailout, the company has not only invested heavily in its Lordstown facility, but has made a commitment for a stable future.


1classics(53 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

Good editorial. I believe the Brown/Ryan legislation you refer to was when GM stock was sold, which happened earlier this year. The money for the pensions sits at PBGC as a result of interest and transactions made from the bankruptcies. No taxpayer infusion is needed. They merely have to give the money back to the rightful owners. Afterall, PBGC was legally required to be acting as their fiduciary, not as a self interest.

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2woody1(1 comment)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

I very much appreciate the Vindicator's call for fair pension treatment for Delphi SALARIED retirees. I wish the Obama Administration felt that way. They did us a terrible wrong by unjustly and illegally terminating our well-funded pension plan in the first place. And they compounded the wrong by fighting us for over four years from gaining access to incriminating documents, e-mails, etc. And, worst of all, they have the power to undo this injustice at any time -- and without costing taxpayers another penny! Why don't they stop our suffering and fix this? PLEASE ask President Obama.

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3classics(53 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

We'll have to see if PBGC gives up the documents In Sept. as ordered by the court. Same for Treasury as subpoenaed by House Oversight and Government Reform and what will become of Treasury's motion to quash the retirees subpoena in the DC court. Thou doth think they protesteth too much. Must be some gems buried in there. Thanks Vindy for following the story. .

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4InterestedInAll2(11 comments)posted 2 years, 10 months ago

There is much in this article that seems to be true, the Delphi salaried retirees finally have made some progress in spite of all the roadblocks the Obama Administration has thrown in their faces. The special inspector general's report is very clear: Our government made choices between groups of citizens based on whether or not the government felt they had any "leverage." President Obama turned our government into a hedge fund just like Bain Capital he railed against in the last election. He used the power and authority of our government to assure his political supporters were deemed worthy of support from the taxpayers, but kicked those he felt were too weak to fight back in the teeth. How can that not be political? How dangerous it is to allow our government to choose between groups of citizens based on its politically biased view of "leverage." This was an evil and dangerous thing that was done and it must not be allowed to stand. ALL the citizens of our country deserve equal treatment when our government gets involved. Anything else turns it into a lawless dictatorship. Perhaps that is why the administration has worked so hard to keep their records secret from the American People! The Obama Administration needs to fix this for all the worker groups, and do so immediately. It seems I remember one story where the salaried retirees even said that no taxpayer dollars are required, so what is stopping the Obama Administration from correcting what went wrong, other than politics? The answer is nothing other than their apparent arrogance. Thanks, Vindy Editor for continuing to speak out on this issue, even if some of the opinions expressed aren't really accurate descriptions of what happened.

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