Diary

Teamsters: Brother (Taxpayers) Can You Spare A Dime?

The Teamster Central States Pension Fund is broke & this problem has been festering for quite some time – not just over the last few months. And you will be made to pay for it.

I’ve known about this issue for several years. In my professional & personal life, I have the opportunity to talk with many Teamster union car haulers thereby I’ve had plenty of opportunities to hear the dirt on what is happening within the car hauling industry & the union.

Union car haulers used to be the 1%ers off the trucking industry & many of them carried the ego to go with it. They believed they were the best of the best of the trucking world. “30 & out” was the goal in order to sit back & collect their rich pension.

For the longest time, the Teamster union car hauler had it great. They got paid much higher than the average trucker, had much better healthcare which they paid very little for & had a great pension once they retired. Then things started to change…

The recession of 2007-2008 really hit the car hauling industry hard. Allied went  out of business after the Allied Teamsters begged the UAW during the auto bailout for help & were rejected. Fenton, Mo. saw their Chrysler plant close – along with it 400 Cassens car haulers. There were layoffs & terminal closings all over the Midwest. Some former Allied drivers found new jobs with Jack Cooper or Cassens. Other Jack Cooper or Cassens drivers switched companies to each other’s companies depending on which company shut down terminals. All in all, there was a dramatic reduction in the number of car haulers on the road after the recession took hold. To complicate their situation, some car factories were (and still are) utilizing the railroad much more to transport their vehicles across country or region.

The union car haulers are not the kings of the road that they used to be. Their egos have taken a hit & quite a few of them who were driving during the Golden Years of the 1990s – mid-2000s have chips on their shoulders remembering when they were buying pools, buying large houses & had girlfriends in every port.

Each new round of contracts within the car haulers brought a change to how the current drivers could retire, healthcare or other changes in seniority/back-haul pay, etc.

About 2009/2010, I saw a good deal of my long time car hauler friends retire. They didn’t retire because they wanted to but if they retired under their current contract they wouldn’t see any reduction in their benefits that they knew were coming with the new contract(s).

Fast forward to today. The US Treasury has turned down the Teamsters for a bailout which means it’s now up to Congress to fork over the money. I want that to sink in. A sitting Democrat US President’s administration turned down one of the largest unions for a bailout during a Presidential election year.

It wasn’t 2 weeks ago I & a few others were sitting at local watering hole enjoying some adult beverages while talking with some union car haulers. The irony was one particular car hauler was a rabid Trump supporter griping about government unions bankrupting cities & states. When we brought up their own situation with the Teamster pension, things got really interesting. Some of the highlights – echoed by every driver in the room at the time & which we have heard time & again discussing the issue with other drivers over the last few years:

– One car hauler when we pressed him on pending death of the Teamster pension, “I pay $50 a week out of my check for my pension. I expect to get the $3500/mo I was promised when I retire”. Think about this for a moment. Just based on a 4 week month, this driver paid into the pension $200 but expects a yield of $3500/mo!! There are fewer drivers paying into the system as it is now but to expect that kind of Hillary Clinton commodity investment growth?!

– Another car hauler when asked about the “30 & out” that he supposedly thought he would get when he first started the job, “It’s bullsh*t! They’re telling me I can’t retire until I’m 60 now”. To make a long story short, this driver will retire “37 & out” instead of “30 & out”.

– Nobody likes Jimmy Hoffa Jr.. Nobody. When I asked the drivers about why Hoffa Jr. hasn’t done more for them, every single one of the drivers had harsh words about Hoffa Jr. & decorum prevents me from typing out what they actually said verbatim but it did involve wishes of Jr. joining his dad under 3rd base at Shea Stadium.

The biggest revelation of the night of informal interviews & brews was the deeply held belief by these Teamster car haulers that the government – meaning you the tax payer – will bail out their pensions. They honestly believe that if the banks & the auto industry got their bailouts, then they too were entitled to a bailout. I cannot understate this enough. A Teamster pension bailout is hoped for but is expected & they want you to pay for it. In full disclosure, my very politically astute girlfriend called this outcome years ago as she has known some of these guys much longer than I have. She warned these drivers to invest their money instead of relying solely on their pensions. They laughed. They scorned. Now they’re crying bloody murder.

You can surely bet that this will play out as an issue later this year in the Presidential campaigns. Donald Trump does have some supporters in the union ranks – not as many as Hillary mind you – but still enough to where The Donald could make a serious play for some of their votes using this issue. Of course promising unions bailouts will definitely alienate conservatives even more from his campaign while his faithful Trumpkins will brush it off as The Orange One just being pragmatic but it’s all that we have come to expect from Trump at this point.