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Against all odds, Delphi retirees never gave up

It has taken 13 years, but finally it appears the Delphi salaried retirees who lost significant portions of their pensions are on track to seeing those retirement funds made whole.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 254-175 to approve a bill that restores lost pensions of some 20,000 salaried retirees of former auto parts supplier Delphi. With the vote, the bill now moves on to the U.S. Senate, where U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he

would move quickly to get the legislation on the floor for a vote and ultimately to the president’s desk.

The bill requires the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to make up the difference between the partial retirement benefits the retirees were given when the PBGC took control of the pensions after Delphi’s bankruptcy, and what they originally were due in one lump sum — plus 6 percent interest. The PBGC is considered the insurer of last resort for the nation’s private retirement plans.

The involuntary termination of the Delphi Salaried Pension plan came in 2009, affecting thousands from the Mahoning Valley who had retired after decades of work for Delphi Corp. The pensions they’d been promised as part of their compensation all those years first were frozen temporarily, and then they were cut significantly. Most salaried retirees lost 30 to 70 percent of their promised pensions.

Granted, it isn’t unusual to see pensions lost in bankruptcies. But this case was unique. That’s because the federal government under the Barack Obama administration and General Motors, one time owner of the Delphi parts division, worked out a deal to protect the pensions of Delphi’s unionized workers.

While we see no reason to resent the hourly workers who kept their full benefits, what was troubling and wholly unfair was that the company’s salaried retirees, who worked just as many years in the same manufacturing plants as the unionized workers, were omitted from that agreement and left out in the cold.

GM continued contributing to union-represented retirees, “topping up” their reduced pensions, while salaried retirees were left with substantially reduced benefits.

Reports and analysts have estimated that, all told, the Delphi salaried retirees will lose

some $440 million in pension benefits. That equals about $100 million in the Mahoning Valley alone.

The salaried retirees, however, never gave up hope, and fought endlessly via every means possible in attempts to recoup their losses.

Through those 13 years, the group endured lower court rulings denying arguments that the salaried retirees were victims of discrimination because they were not represented by a labor union, and appeals through several layers, until earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, effectively ending the legal battle.

Additionally, they pursued this issue politically, appealing to three presidents and multiple sessions of Congress in hopes of getting the full value of their pensions returned to them. Many legislative bills were introduced in Congress related to the Delphi salaried retirees, but none has made it far — until now.

Finally, it appears that this egregious and unfair travesty carried out against these good and hard-working people may be coming to an agreeable end.

These community-minded citizens, many from our Mahoning Valley, never have surrendered their hopes.

We are glad to see Ohio’s legislators, including both U.S. senators from Ohio, and Congressmen Tim Ryan, David Joyce and Bill Johnson, all representing our region, support the latest legislative measure.

We are hopeful the persistent efforts of these retirees pays off.

And if it does, the results should stand as a valuable lesson to anyone who may have faced a monumental challenge and considered giving up.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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