Delphi retirees renew calls for action
By Jamison Cocklin
The four-year battle by Delphi Corp.’s salaried retirees to regain full pension benefits continued Monday at a hearing where lawmakers promised meaningful action and accountability on the matter for the first time in years.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from Dayton, and U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who both serve on the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, heard testimony from three Delphi salaried retirees, including Bruce Gump, a retired engineer from Warren, at a field hearing at Sinclair Community College.
“We’re asking the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to unleash documents,” said Mary Miller, who worked at Delphi in human resources for 31 years, during her testimony. “We need congressional representatives to be our advocates and be on our side. Not later this year, not next year, not sometime in the future, but now, so we can settle this shameful wrong while some of our retirees are still alive.”
Delphi was formed as a spinoff by General Motors Co. in 1999 as a parts supplier. In 2009, while in bankruptcy, Delphi terminated the pension plans of its workers and left a $7.2 billion shortfall. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a federal entity that ensures pensions, assumed the benefit plans and billions of dollars in losses.
A lawsuit by Delphi salaried retirees over the PBGC decision to take on those plans continues. At issue is how much liability existed before the plan was terminated.
Based on a 2009 independent actuary, salaried retirees believe the liability was $3.5 billion, while the PBGC has said it is $5.2 billion. Repeated efforts to obtain documents to determine how the PBGC determined the $5.2 billion have been met with resistance from various government agencies.
“The [Obama] administration has tried to thwart Delphi requests and congressional oversight,” said Gump at Monday’s hearing. “PBGC and the U.S. Treasury have worked tirelessly to keep records secret. ... The administration and PBGC have misrepresented actions and misled communities for four years, and now it’s time to bring this to an end.
“All we really want is what we earned,” Gump added. “People are suffering because of the government’s illegal activity.”
More than 20,000 Delphi salaried retirees, including 1,500 in the Mahoning Valley, have been without health and life insurance and had their pensions cut anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent.
Lawyers for the salaried retirees say as many as 30,000 documents have been withheld and many others have been either completely or partially redacted.
Mica, who chairs the oversight subcommittee, told the retirees Monday that he would take “any avenue” available to help the group, saying he has “likely suspects” that will be looked into, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the President’s Auto Task Force and the PBGC for their roles in failing to release important documents.
Turner continued to say Monday that the act of cutting the salaried retirees’ pensions and keeping hourly workers, represented by the United Auto Workers, was “deplorable” and nothing more than political calculus designed to uphold the administration’s auto bailout and protect against a strike at GM.
He pledged to renew the fight to regain the salaried workers’ pension plans. Monday’s hearing was the first of its kind since 2011.