NRLN Fall 2010 Fly-in Report
The NRLN organized a Fall 2010 Fly-in as a grass root effort to garner support for the following legislative agenda:
Pension Asset Protection (PAP)
The NRLN advocates legislation that stops corporations from taking pension assets from defined pension plan trusts to pay for lump sum severance and early retirement incentives. The NRLN advocates that pension funds not be used to pay executive non-qualified pensions and other deferred compensation. The NRLN advocates that pension plan assets should not be transferred to or be taken over by third party financial or other institutions.
The NRLN advocates that the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation must be regulated to ensure equitable calculations of benefit payments earned by retirees.
The NRLN advocates that bankruptcy reform is needed to place retirees' pensions and benefits on a list of obligations that companies can't shed. Retirees often lose pension, health care, and other benefits and, unlike secured creditors, rarely have the ability to recover losses.
Protection and Enhancement of Retiree Health Care
Benefits: Maintenance of Cost Payment
The NRLN advocates a Maintenance of Cost† Payment (MCP) proposal that would establish a fixed monthly payment to retirees equivalent to the value an employer provided prior to the reduction or cancellation of retirement health care, prescription drugs, life insurance, long-term care or other benefits. Companies would be entitled to tax credits as an offset to MCP payments.
Medicare Buy-in for Ages 55-64
The NRLN advocates that adults age 55 to 64 be allowed to buy Medicare coverage at a cost that does not burden the Medicare system. Access could be limited to individuals without access to an employer-sponsored or other group health plan that is actuarially equivalent or superior to Medicare.
Inclusion of Catastrophic Coverage in Medicare
The NRLN advocates that Congress should extend protection against catastrophic medical costs to the Medicare population by setting a reasonable maximum limit on out-of-pocket costs.
Protect Retirees in Mergers & Acquisitions
The NRLN advocates law that clarifies what a parent foreign owner's pension plan obligations are to abide by ERISA should its U.S. subsidiary be spun off or dissolved. Clarification must include situations where foreign corporations that own U.S. subsidiaries are also acquired by a third party, foreign-owned corporation.
Reduce the Cost of Prescription Drugs
The NRLN advocates the reduction of prescription drug costs for Americans through passage of legislation that:
(1) Enables re-importation and importation of safe prescription drugs approved by the FDA;
(2) Enables Medicare to develop formularies and take competitive bids for prescription drugs;
(3) Staffs and funds the FDA to reduce the generic drug approval backlog;
(4) Prevents drug companies from colluding to control pricing or subvert free market practices.
The NRLN advocates that Congress must guard against reductions in Medicare expenditures that negatively impact the care that retirees receive from doctors, hospitals and other health care services.
Protect Social Security
The NRLN advocates legislation to make Social Security financially sound without reducing current and future retiree benefits.
Our 2010 Fly-in Results
51 participants, representing 10 National Retiree Legislative Network member associations met to lobby for retirees’ rights on Capitol Hill. NCRO had eight Directors and Officers in attendance including Jay Kuhnie, Chuck Austin, Rich Brown, Mike Cipponeri, Chris Dyrda, Stan Hurst, John Glotzback, and Dave Slates. Other organizations in attendance included retirees from GM, Delta Pilots, Lucent, Kodak, Detroit Edison, John Deere and Delta Flight attendants.
The NCRO delegation met with Congressmen Peters, Congressman Roger Miller, and Congressman Sander Levin, House Ways and Means, as well as legislative assistants from the offices of Chairman George Miller, House Labor and Education Committee, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse with Judiciary and Oversight Committee, and Congressman Bart Stupak. The meeting with Congressman Stupaks’ aides was non productive since he is a lame duck Congressman.
At the office of Congressman Levin much of the discussion centered on getting a rider in some bill ensuring Pension Asset Protection. Congressman Levin agreed to work with the NRLN to get Organized Labor to accept such a rider into law. Labor does not want to give up the ability to bargain for buy outs from pension assets and has historically opposed such legislation. Congressman Levin didn’t think that there was a chance of getting PAP into a bill until the next Congress convenes. Many of the Congressmen are returning home early to campaign.
We talked to Congressman Peters largely about Pension Asset Protection and PBGC reform. He was told about the PBGC being more interested in protecting its assets that distributing pensions. It has become a self-sustaining bureaucracy. We asked him to contact his colleagues, especially Congressman Levin, to emphasize the importance of these Issues. We reminded him that in seeking reelection this fall many of his voters in the 9th district are salaried retirees over 50 years old. He agreed to talk to his fellow legislators.
Joshua Karetny counsel to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senate Judiciary Committee was told of the injustice of retirees being excluded from bankruptcy negotiations. We asked for legislation to require mandatory 1114 committee representation to allow the hiring of Counsel at the court’s expense and the need to participate in PBGC negotiations. We asked for a Senate hearing, which we said we would support with data, testimonials and legal counsel.
Meredith Regine, Labor Associate for the Committee on Education and Labor, was told of the need for Pension Asset Protection and PBGC rules reform such as:
+ Require the PBGC to stop using an unrealistic low interest rate assumption for the investment of assets and to require the PBGC to use the same bond yield assumptions as plan sponsors for non-guaranteed benefits.
+ To revise the 5 year look back rules
+ To revise the three year eligibility rules and provide for a more gradual phase in
+ To give the PBGC authority to lien assets of foreign based companies
It was stated by the Congressional Associates that a hearing on this subject is important and likely to occur in the near future. Several members of NCRO, as well as retirees form other organizations attended a meeting at the PBGC’s offices. There the PBGC presented its methods and processes. Our attendees talked about the need for rules reform.
In attendance from the PBGC was the news head of the agency, Joshua Gotbaum. The PBGC expressed no intent to change its processes and stated that the laws have to change.
Some of the other meetings included a kick-off and dinner where retirees from many organizations got to share ideas and experiences about their circumstances and outcomes. Ellen Schultz from the Wall Street Journal attended the Fly-in events and expressed a lot of interest in our mission and was interested in our accomplishments. Jay Kuhnie and Chris Dyrda met directly with Bill Kadereit to discuss the need for the NRLN to improve the process for producing White Papers and for the need for a more focused grass root effort.
Summary and Conclusions
Attendees from the NCRO observed that this year’s event was less well attended that last year. There could have been more coordination amongst organizations when visiting the Hill. The NRLN needs to take this on for future events.
The ability to make progress with legislation is slow. We need to continue to maintain a presence and muster much more grass root support. We will have succeeded if:
+ Congressional hearings are scheduled when Congress reconvenes
+ The PBGC rule making discretionary rule making is affected
+ Progress is made to eliminate Bargaining Unit opposition to Pension Asset
Follow up and persistence is required.
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