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Answers elude Delphi retirees



Published: Thu, June 20, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

What if for decades you worked the same job, putting money away for the future, doing everything right, taking responsibility for your retirement, only to see the government step in and take it all away? How would you feel? Unfortunately for thousands of Ohioans who were employed by a company called Delphi, that nightmare scenario came true.

Last week after a request by Congressmen Mike Turner, Dave Joyce, me and others, a special congressional hearing took place in Dayton to hear from Ohioans Tom Rose, Mary Miller and Bruce Gump. Tom, Mary and Bruce are like many Ohioans: they worked hard at their jobs for over 30 years, they put money away for their children’s future, they were paying their mortgages, and they diligently saved for retirement.

In exchange for playing by the rules with hard work and loyalty to their company, these Ohioans and 22,000 of their colleagues were to be paid a certain benefit from their pension during retirement.

Yet in the summer of 2009, as it took GM into bankruptcy, the Obama Administration chose to terminate their pension plans.

This is the sad tale of thousands of Ohio families who depended on Delphi, a company which once had vast operations throughout the Miami Valley and the Mahoning Valley. Delphi once employed over 20,000 workers in the Dayton area. Today, that number has dwindled to just 200 in the region.

Similarly, Delphi once had 16,000 employees in the Mahoning Valley, which today has fallen below 1,000.

The details of what happened are murky because the Obama Administration continues to withhold the information that would shed light on the matter. But what is not murky is that the Delphi retirees’ careful financial planning went out the window when they were suddenly told they would only be getting a fraction of what was promised to them.

About 5,000 Delphi salaried retiree families throughout Ohio, from the Mahoning Valley to Dayton, had their retirement income slashed by this decision, which came on top of the total loss of all promised health care and life insurance.

What is most troubling is that there may have been a potentially illegal political determination behind this decision. At the very same time these salaried Delphi employees had their pensions chopped, some of their hourly colleagues had their pensions “topped up” by GM to the full amount owed them by Delphi. Recall, this was at a time when the federal government controlled GM and the Obama Administration was making these decisions.

LIVING IN POVERTY

Delphi salaried retirees in Ohio are struggling to pay bills they had budgeted for under their full pensions. In too many cases, they are struggling to stave off foreclosure on their homes and to avoid declaring bankruptcy. In fact, many of these once prosperous salaried retirees are now living below the poverty level.

On top of the drastic cuts to their pension and health care benefits, these Delphi retirees have been forced to use their remaining resources to fund a multi-million dollar legal battle in an attempt to get answers from their government, and hopefully regain some of their earned benefits.

And yet down on the same Ohio streets, in the same Ohio communities, many of their hourly colleagues who worked with them are getting the full pensions they were promised.

I was proud to promote an agreement in the Senate that increased the coverage level of the Health Coverage Tax Credit, which allows American workers, including these former Delphi employees, to afford health insurance once the federal government has taken over their pension plans. They had no say in the matter, after all.

Most importantly, I have pushed the Obama Administration to provide answers about this matter. Earlier this year, I got a commitment from the new Treasury secretary to closely look into this issue. I was pleased that this resulted in a high-level meeting between impacted Ohio workers and senior Treasury Department officials in Washington last month, and I will continue to follow the outcomes closely.

Last week’s hearing brought some progress; more must be done. Tom, Mary, Bruce and the hundreds of Delphi retirees who attended the hearing need answers from this administration about what happened and why.

Rob Portman is Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator.


Comments

1parlayhenry(219 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

I cannot recall when I have read an opinion with so much double-speak, that it may have been written by George Orwell. Mr. Portman has the effrontery to blame President Obama for the Delphi retirees issues with pension and healthcare? Mr. Portman, you and your Republican brethren were aghast that Obama SAVED GM at all! You and your fellow right-wing extremists, like the Tea-Party lunatics, were all for letting the auto industry collapse in this country. Now you have the gall to ask why Obama didn't protect the Delphi retirees, when you would have not only abandoned the retirees, but all of the auto-workers and their associated industries. The collateral damage for allowing that to happen, if your Republican Party had its way, would have put millions out of work and given the Delphi employees no hope at all of ever getting their benefits restored. Amazing!! It's "Obama's fault". It wasn't his "fault", it was his actions that he stood up for the working man while you Republicans would have let them flounder. You Republicans were against the relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy for the people of New Jersey and New York. You Republicans want to do away with FEMA and now you want us to believe you are the friend of the little guy.
The reason companies are allowed to disregard earned employee benefits, like pensions and health care, is because of Republican initiatives that made it easy and legal for their masters in Big Business to do so. Mr. Portman, you have Presidential aspirations? In writing patently dishonest drivel, such as this, you show your true colors. You have all of the characteristics of the Republican Party and Tea Party candidates and you will never be President, just like them. Pretend all you want, the workers of this country are smarter than you give them credit for and that is why President Obama won re-election last November.

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2ysuwin(58 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

"You and your fellow right-wing extremists, like the Tea-Party lunatics, were all for letting the auto industry collapse in this country."

You are aware that the auto bail out was George W. Bush's idea... Right?

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3parlayhenry(219 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

Of course, ysuwin!!! I forgot that!!! Yeah, Obama was Bush's puppet; Bush's lap dog. Obama PROMISED Bush that he would do whatever Bush told him to do. Give me a break. Obama had to fight the Republicans and the Tea Party tooth and nail over the auto bailout.
Bush was the one who told Obama to get Bin Laden, too. Bush said that his eight years wasn't quite long enough. ysuwin, check your trailer for a gas leak, because you ain't right, boy. Your post is nonsensical. You can't rewrite history, son, no matter how much you right-wingers want to.

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4ysuwin(58 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

You are what I like to call... stupid. The auto bail out was unquestionably George Bush's idea. There is no debating this, unless you are stupid like yourself. And you are stupid.

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5parlayhenry(219 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

ysuwin, I can't have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. "The auto bail out was unquestionably George Bush's idea. There is no debating this." What exactly does that mean to you? Try to read this and try to comprehend as well. I'm not betting you can.
"In late 2008, Chrysler and General Motors told America that they were in danger of folding. George W. Bush agreed to a temporary bailout, but handed the auto companies' long-term future over to his successor, President-Elect Barack Obama. Obama then shepherded a comprehensive bailout of the two companies that allowed them to stay in business but imposed numerous conditions that, it was hoped, would secure their viability and allow the companies to eventually return to profitability.
How you saw this series of events depended a lot on where you stood politically. If you were a progressive, you saw that Obama selected the best of unattractive options. If you're a conservative, on the other hand, the auto bailout was part of Obama's government power grab. Eager to amass power and increase the federal government's control of the economy, he took the opportunity to take over the auto industry, serving his thirst for centralized control."
I don't see George Bush's name anywhere but the first line. Do you? You can't rewrite history. As Bugs Bunny would say, "What a maroon!" Typical right wing-nut.

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