Finally: Delphi retirees break through Obama stonewall on UAW bailout
It is important to keep telling the story of their continuing legal nightmare because the White House keeps telling fables about the “success” of the pro-worker auto bailout. The Delphi workers are fighting Chicago-style collusion and corruption. And their most recent court battle exposes, once again, the fantasy of Obama’s commitments to real fairness and transparency.
The latest from the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association:
Delphi Salaried Retirees Receive 62,000 Pages of Documents from Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in Lawsuit
Emails and reports finally released 20 months after federal judge first ordered PBGC to participate in lawsuit’s discovery phase. PBGC states it will produce a second batch of documents by end of June
Retirees believe Obama’s Auto Task Force directed PBGC to unjustifiably and illegally terminate pension plan in 2009
Government officials’ refusal to disclose how decision was made ignores Obama directive that “transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
Release Date: Monday, June 11, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Twenty months after Federal U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow ordered in September 2010, that salaried retirees of auto parts maker Delphi Corp. were entitled to conduct discovery in their lawsuit against the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the PBGC on Thursday finally made its first document production, turning over approximately 62,000 pages of emails and documents. The pension agency said it would make a second production of a similar size by month’s end. The materials concern the PBGC’s 2009 termination of the pension plan of more than 20,000 current and future salaried Delphi retirees during the auto bailout, resulting in the reductions of earned pensions by as much as 70 percent.
“Given the president’s statement on his first day in office that ‘transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency, (see it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72g7qmeP1dE), why did we have to pry this information out of a government agency led by an Obama appointee?” said Dennis Black, chairman of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association (DSRA). “Our legal bills are several million dollars to get to this point. Citizens shouldn’t have to hire lawyers to fight against taxpayer-paid lawyers just to find out how and why onerous government policy decisions were made.”
Having already reviewed more than 100,000 pages of discovery from non-governmental parties involved in the matter, the retirees are confident they can prove the PBGC illegally terminated the Delphi salaried retiree pension plan in 2009 under pressure from President Obama’s Auto Task Force, which reported to the U.S. Treasury Department. The retirees’ rights under federal labor law (ERISA) and the U.S. Constitution were trampled, according to the retirees’ lawsuit.
TOPPING UP PENSIONS OF UNION-REPRESENTED DELPHI RETIREES
Union-represented Delphi retirees were treated differently than salaried retirees when the PBGC terminated the Delphi pension plan in 2009. Monies from U.S. taxpayers were provided by the Auto Task Force in its $50 billion bailout of GM so the automaker can today top-up the lower PBGC pensions being paid to union-represented Delphi retirees, making their pensions whole.
“Some say this was done because GM was contractually obligated to honor its 1999 labor agreements with labor unions,” said Charles Cunningham, chair of DSRA’s legal committee. “But GM’s bankruptcy court found in 2009 that the ‘new’ GM was not obligated to honor any of ‘old’ GM’s contracts. We want the government to re-examine its discriminatory treatment of us vs. the union-represented Delphi retirees.” We are glad that the Union workers received this “top up” and have been spared the harm and suffering the salaried workers have had to endure. All we want is equal treatment with those people, most of whom we worked side-by-side during our careers.”
Vice President Biden recently told a TV news reporter in Youngstown, Ohio, “We were able to help the hourly folks.” (See it [here]).
“Boy, that statement by Mr. Biden sure caught our attention,” said Black. “For the last three years, the Obama Administration has stated both publicly and in court that it didn’t make any decisions regarding the pension plans. Is the vice president taking credit for something they didn’t do, or is he admitting that the Administration did in fact manipulate the bankruptcy process for the benefit of only the hourly workers?”
SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL BELIEVES AUTO TASK FORCE PLAYED A ROLE
In a major recent development, Christy L. Romero, the congressionally-appointed special inspector general (SIG) of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) wrote to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Darrell Issa that “SIGTARP believes that the Auto Task Force played a role in the pension decision.” She added that three Obama Administration appointed officials of the Auto Task Force — Ron Bloom, Matthew Feldman and Harry Wilson — have refused to be interviewed. “These individuals’ failure to speak to SIGTARP on this issue poses a significant obstacle to SIGTARP’s ability to complete its audit,” said Romero.
“This statement by SIGTARP supported what we’ve believed for a long time,” said Black. The retirees also welcomed the reaction of U.S. Congressman Mike Turner (OH), who recently wrote to Chairman Issa, saying: “Because the SIGTARP does not possess testimonial subpoena authority, I am requesting that the [Committee] interview these individuals concerning the role they played in the decision to take the retirement and health benefits of these retirees.”
U.S. TREASURY ALSO REFUSING TO PROVIDE INFORMATION
The retirees also are battling in federal court the U.S. Treasury Department, to which the Auto Task Force officials reported, to gain similar information as part of the lawsuit’s discovery phase, and are hopeful that Treasury will be ordered to cooperate in discovery as well.
OBAMA RHETORIC DOESN’T MATCH ADMINISTRATION’S HANDLING OF DELPHI SALARIED PENSION PLAN
Given the retirees’ long legal fight over the past three years, they view as empty promises these remarks by President Obama in the White House on Jan. 21, 2009: “For a long time now there’s been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this Administration stands on the side, not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known … the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it … the Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my Administration to not simply live up to the letter, but also the spirit of this law.” (See this at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72g7qmeP1dE )
And Black noted that, while running for president in May of 2008, Mr. Obama told a Gresham, Oregon, audience (see it on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHJzTdCsiGk): “Pension protection is something we should put at the top of our priority list. Right now, bankruptcy laws are more focused on protecting banks than protecting pensions and I don’t think that’s fair. It’s not the America I believe in … If you work hard and play by the rules, then you’ve earned your pension. If a company goes bankrupt, then workers need to be our top priority, not an afterthought.”
“We worked hard and played by the rules,” said Black. “Fair and equitable treatment is all we ask from our federal government. We’ve shown the Administration several proposals for restoring our pensions without Congress having to appropriate any taxpayer funds, but they continue to ignore us. Many Delphi salaried retirees and their families have endured bankruptcy, foreclosure, breakups and worse. Their children, grandchildren, former business associates, friends and neighbors know that they have suffered long enough.”"
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